Teller County announced Thursday it will not set local coronavirus regulations after state rules expire this week.
County officials will step in as needed to intervene in outbreaks, but the county won't enforce capacity limits at indoor events or social distancing requirements of 6 feet, said Martha Hubbard, Teller County Public Health director. Teller and El Paso counties are considered at level yellow on the state's dial, which limits gyms and restaurants to 50% capacity. Neither county plans local rules to replace state restrictions.
Once the state lifts its mask mandate in on May 3, Teller County has no plans to replace it, according to a news release.
The county's approach is founded on "respect for each other as individuals and the importance of personal responsibility to take appropriate steps to protect ourselves at a level we feel comfortable," a news release said.
The statement said respect will also be extended to businesses that choose to enforce more restrictive measures.
All counties in the state will regain local control over most coronavirus restrictions on Friday. However, the state has said it will continue baseline protections that could include rules governing large gatherings over 500 and high risk indoor settings. No details have been released.
The state's hand-over to county control is happening as Colorado hospitalizations tied to the virus rise and the highly transmissible United Kingdom variant is suspected to be responsible for half of COVID infections statewide. At the same time, vaccination efforts to reach older, more vulnerable populations have lowered mortality rates across the state, and officials say hospital capacity is not challenged.
In Teller County, deaths of 15 people, including the mayor of Woodland Park, have been attributed to the virus, according to the release. The statement also noted that 17 Teller residents have died by suicide since the start of the pandemic and the county has seen an increase in domestic violence, child and elder abuse, and severe economic impact.
The percentage of people testing positive in Teller County is 6.9%, which is above the 5% recommended by the World Health Organization for communities to reopen.
El Paso County and Colorado Springs made a similar decision earlier this week to not adopt local restrictions once state pandemic-driven regulation expires.
Denver County is adopting some local restrictions but plans to open businesses and gyms up to 100% capacity on Friday while requiring social distancing measures.