Tri-County Health learns from Adams County curfew

A Q & A with the head of Tri-County Health Department about the curfew that recently expired and wider challenges with COVID-19 in Adams County

Liam Adams
ladams@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 1/11/21

An Adams County-specific public health order that had instituted a curfew expired prematurely on Jan. 4 after Gov. Jared Polis’ decision to loosen COVID-19 restrictions. Adams was one of three …

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Tri-County Health learns from Adams County curfew

A Q & A with the head of Tri-County Health Department about the curfew that recently expired and wider challenges with COVID-19 in Adams County

Posted

An Adams County-specific public health order that had instituted a curfew expired prematurely on Jan. 4 after Gov. Jared Polis’ decision to loosen COVID-19 restrictions.

Adams was one of three counties in the whole state with a curfew — the other two were Denver and Pueblo — and Adams’ lasted longer. Under the order, which also tightened restrictions on restaurants and sporting events, cases decreased. It’s uncertain, though, how much of that is related to the curfew.

Tri-County Health Department’s order went into effect on Nov. 7. The next week, the county’s 14-day case incidence rate per 100,000 people increased by 41 percent, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). In the second week, incidence rates increased by another 14 percent.

It wouldn’t be until the third week when that trend reversed. That was also around the same time, however, when CDPHE moved Adams County and others to Level Red restrictions.

Dr. John Douglas, Tri-County’s executive director, thinks the move to Level Red could have had just as much, or more, an impact on COVID-19 cases in Adams. Given that Adams County’s public health order was unique among its neighbors and a first for Tri-County, Colorado Community Media spoke with Douglas about what the health agency learned from the experience.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Colorado Community Media: Why did you initially implement the order?

Dr. John Douglas: We were interested in a curfew because we had some reason to believe that personal social gatherings were playing a role in driving the transmission. So, we felt it was plausible, but certainly not proven, that restricting movement in a certain time of the evening might reduce those gatherings. We were being hypervigilant about how we could best balance restrictive measures in the community with impacts on community life in general, but the economy in particular. It felt like an economically somewhat neutral step try to take.

Colorado Community Media: Was it effective?

Dr. John Douglas: We did see a slight difference in mobility (according to cell phone data). But it was at the same time that mobility was going down in general, which probably had to do with the weather, as it was getting colder … I suspect it slowed things down a little bit. But it didn’t slow things down very much.

Colorado Community Media: What were some of the challenges with it?

Dr. John Douglas: I think we almost didn’t have any enforcement of it. That’s a nice way of saying that we probably had almost no enforcement of it … (Also,) we didn’t have the resources to do a proactive public education campaign. A curfew that was not widely marketed and relatively and inconsistently enforced was unlikely to have contributed very much.”

Colorado Community Media: Were there other parts of the order besides the curfew that were more effective?

Dr. John Douglas: I am concerned about alcohol-related behaviors enhancing transmission. I think if I was to bet, my guess is that last call (of alcohol sales) probably made more of a difference than no spectators at sporting events. If I was to conjecture based on plausibility, it would be last call greater than sporting spectators, greater than curfew.

Colorado Community Media: Given your experience with Adams County, would Tri-County consider implementing a curfew again if it seems necessary?

Dr. John Douglas: I wouldn’t rule out doing it again if things begin to get worse. I would want to try to figure out how we could communicate even more crisply than we did before about what is it exactly we’re doing and why exactly we’re doing it.

Colorado Community Media: Recent CDPHE data shows that Adams County’s incidence and test positivity are much higher than in Arapahoe and Douglas counties. What about Adams County is particularly concerning compared to the other two counties Tri-County oversees?

Dr. John Douglas: I’m was concerned about Adams County in the fall because they’ve had more cases, more hospitalizations and certainly more deaths. Adams has a bigger essential workforce, meaning people who have to go to work in person and can’t work remotely. It has more multi-generational housing, which can enhance transmission. COVID has really shined a bright light on all the structural inequities that can contribute to a pandemic making certain people sicker than others. Taking all of those things together, Adams has certainly been a major concern for us.

Colorado Community Media: Do you feel messaging from elected officials in Adams County has been adequate? What would you like to see from them going forward?

Dr. John Douglas: I actually do think we have had really good relationships with the leaders of the county and also leaders of the cities. As well as many of the city councils. We’re looking for ways to enlist them to help us reduce some of the vaccine confusion. So, I give them a great grade and I would like to see it continue in the new year.

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