Public health officials moving to regional planning

RIO GRANDE COUNTY- According to local Public Health officials, the public health department is moving forward to the next phase of Colorado’s response to COVID-19 plan “Protect Your Neighbor.”

In the next phase of the state’s plan, there are several guidelines that have to be met in order for the Valley to move into “Protect Your Neighbor” and the hope is to do it regionally. According to sources in the local Public Health department, the goal is to move into the next phase for the six counties in the San Luis Valley in order to decrease the chances of having to backtrack and close businesses down again and to strengthen the chances of remaining open.

Protect Your Neighbor is the third phase in Colorado’s response to COVID-19 plan and is one that will allow communities to open with lesser restrictions while keeping with best practices suggested through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

According to the base description of the Protect Your Neighbor phase it states, “Protect Our Neighbors means that communities that meet certain criteria have less stringent restrictions than under Stay at Home and Safer at Home. Strong local public health and health care systems are the key to reopening the economy. Different communities will be at different phases, based on local conditions and capabilities. Local communities can also still apply for a variance from Safer at Home.”

The criteria that the Valley Public Health will need to abide by consists of strategic planning that will meet thresholds of low disease transmission levels, capacity for testing, case investigation, contact tracing and outbreak response as well as local hospitals ability to meet the needs of all patients and handle the surge in demand for intensive hospital care.

The Protect Your Neighbor phase guidelines also include, “Communities must have mitigation and containment plans approved by local elected leaders including county commissioners and mayors, the hospitals that serve the county, law enforcement, emergency management, the local public health directors and if applicable, tribal leaders.”

At this time, it is the goal of public health departments to ensure the decrease of COVID-19 cases throughout the six county region to be able to move into the third phase without the threat of having to move backward to more stringent restrictions and to strengthen the foundation of success by waiting to move into the Protect Your Neighbor phase until such a time when all six counties can meet the guidelines together as a whole.

According to sources, the increase in mask use has directly affected the decrease in COVID-19 positive cases throughout the Valley and as long as communities continue to use best practices should be able to move into phase three in a timely manner, though a specific date cannot, at this time be determined.

More about the Protect Your Neighbor phase of the state’s COVID-19 response plan can be found at


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