‘Public health disaster’ in Pueblo prompts 10 p.m. curfew as COVID-19 cases rise

By: - October 29, 2020 5:04 pm
Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar

Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar announced a 10 p.m. curfew, starting on Oct. 30, 2020. (Pueblo Facebook)

In an attempt to curb a sharp increase in cases of COVID-19, city of Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar announced a two-week curfew. Under the order, which applies starting Oct. 30, Pueblo residents must remain in their homes except for essential business after 10 p.m.

“What we are facing in Pueblo is a public health disaster, which threatens lives and our economy,” Gradisar said during a news conference Oct. 29.

Residents needing essential goods and services and essential workers are exempt from the mayor’s curfew order, according to a statement from the city of Pueblo.

Anyone found violating the curfew will be cited by the Pueblo Police Department, and could be charged with a class 1 municipal offense — which comes with a fine of $1,000 or a year in jail.

Pueblo County is currently in Safer at Home: Level 2 under the state’s COVID-19 dial system, which determines county-level restrictions based on the case incidence rate, test positivity rate and whether hospitalizations for COVID-19 are stable or declining.

Here’s how counties can move between COVID-19 restriction levels

But Pueblo County no longer meets the metrics for Level 2, and could move to Safer at Home: Level 3, which has stricter capacity limits for businesses, if its situation does not improve.

The county has reported more than 366 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people over the past two weeks, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. That means at least one out of every 272 people in the county has been contagious with the virus at some point between Oct. 15 and Oct. 29.

Safer at Home: Level 2 requires counties to have between 75 and 175 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people reported over two weeks. It also requires a test positivity rate between 5% and 10%, and stable or declining hospitalizations.

In Pueblo County, about 6.1% of tests have come back positive over the past two weeks, according to CDPHE data. That positivity rate meets the requirements for Level 2 but represents a sharp increase over Pueblo’s past positivity rate.

For the week of Sept. 27, the Pueblo Department of Public Health & Environment reported that 2.1% of 4,766 COVID-19 tests came back positive. The week of Oct. 18, 7.3% of 6,136 tests were positive — indicating that the county’s increase in cases is not just due to more testing. If the increase in cases was simply because of more testing, the positivity rate would have remained about the same.

Before moving counties to a new level, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment works with local leaders to implement mitigation measures to return to compliance.

Under Safer at Home: Level 2, Pueblo’s current level, a maximum of 100 people can attend indoor events regulated under the state’s Safer at Home order. Up to 175 people can attend outdoor events. (Personal gatherings were limited to 10 people from two or fewer households through a statewide order issued Oct. 23.) Restaurants can operate at up to 50% capacity with no more than 100 people.

dial system
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has launched a new ‘dial’ system for tailoring its coronavirus response to different areas of the state. (Office of Governor Jared Polis)

If Pueblo were moved to Safer at Home: Level 3, indoor events would be limited to 25 people and outdoor events to 75 people. Restaurant capacity would be slashed to 25%, with no more than 50 customers.

“We’ve got a very limited period of time to act, or we’ll have more restrictions and may have to go back to staying at home full time,” Gradisar said.

Safer at Home: Level 3 is one step above Stay at Home, the level with similar conditions to those imposed under the statewide stay-at-home order in March and April. So far, no individual counties have been moved to Stay at Home under the dial system. The state has only moved counties one level at a time, so it’s unlikely that Pueblo would move straight from Safer at Home: Level 2 to Stay at Home.

Some counties have moved to more restrictive levels of the dial system in recent days. Denver and Adams counties were ordered to move from Safer at Home: Level 2 to Safer at Home: Level 3 by Oct. 28.

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Faith Miller
Faith Miller

Faith Miller was a reporter with Colorado Newsline covering the Colorado Legislature, immigration and other stories.