News Bites – September 17, 2020
****The Cameron Peak fire as of Tuesday is still listed at 102,596 acres, or approximately 130 square miles, and is considered 8% contained. The activity of the fire has been increasing as was expected following the snow and precipitation that fell last week. Temperatures in the area are increasing along with stronger winds. Crews and air resources are reported to be continuing an aggressive direct attack despite the recent uptick in fire behavior. The fire is currently located 25 miles east of Walden, Colorado and 15 miles southwest of Red Feather Lakes.
With the increase in fire activity will come more smoke across the front range and in Berthoud. Air quality will be affected. Health officials recommend checking the AQI (Air Quality Index) before spending time outdoors as the air quality may become unhealthy for sensitive groups or for everyone in the coming days. Visit airnow.gov/aqi for more information.
****With a strong recommendation from the Larimer County Sheriff, the Board of Larimer County Commissioners voted 3-0 Tuesday to adopt a resolution that extends the original Aug. 18 resolution banning open fires in unincorporated Larimer County. The extended fire ban goes into effect Sept. 18, 2020, and stays in effect until noon Oct. 30, 2020.
The fire ban includes:
- No open fires, no open burning.
- No welding, or operating acetylene or other torches.
- No smoking in the open, including trails, parks and open spaces or outside of buildings.
- No Fireworks or fireworks displays produced by combustion, detonation or deflagration.
- No incendiary devices, including sky lanterns, exploding ammunition, exploding targets and tracer ammunition.
- No fires in permanently constructed outside stationary masonry or metal fireplaces.
- Charcoal and wood pellet grills.
- Propane fire pits.
Residents are still allowed to use propane grills, fires and wood stoves located inside of permanent structures and pressurized liquid or gas stoves, grills, lanterns and heaters with shut-off valves in an area at least 3 feet away from any flammable/combustible materials.
**** Berthoud has 73 confirmed cases of COVID-19, up four from the past week. Larimer County as of Sept. 16, has had 2,170 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases which represent 0.61% of the population, this is an increase of 111 cases with an additional 449 suspected cases. 48 deaths are attributed to the virus, up 4 from last week and representing 2.21% of reported cases. The risk score for Larimer County remains at a medium risk. The main reason for the ranking this week are due to the number of days in the past 14 the county has recorded more than 15 new cases per day – nine days have seen greater than 15 cases. ICU utilization is at 65% and the 14-day case rate per 100,000 is at 59. There are currently 7 patients hospitalized with the COVID-19 virus in the county. Hospital utilization is at 63%. Of those individuals who have been tested for the virus in the county, 3.4% have returned positive. 22.2% of the population has now been tested for the virus.
Weld County has had 4,377 confirmed cases which is an increase of 152 from last week. The county has seen 96 deaths associated with the virus up one from last week. There have been 2 fatalities associated with the virus since Sept. 1. There are currently 42 individuals hospitalized in the county who have tested positive for the virus.
****State lawmakers and Energy Outreach Colorado announced that $4.8 million in utility assistance for consumers is now available. HB20-1412, sponsored by Senators Tammy Story and Rachel Zenzinger and Representatives Chris Kennedy and Lisa Cutter, directed the federal CARES Act funding to Energy Outreach Colorado’s Bill Payment Assistance Program to provide critical relief to those who are facing economic hardship due to COVID-19.
“Falling behind on utility bills isn’t just stressful, it’s debilitating. And unfortunately, it’s all too common for hardworking families right now,” said Sen. Story, D-Evergreen. “People need to know that their heating isn’t just going to disappear one day because they haven’t been able to make payments. That’s why we have dedicated millions to utility assistance programs– so families aren’t forced to choose between rent and their electricity.”
In May, the General Assembly passed HB20-1412, which put $4.8 million of federal CARES Act funding toward bolstering energy assistance initiatives. Energy Outreach Colorado, a local nonprofit that leads a network of industry, state, and local partners to assist Coloradans in affording their energy needs, is working in conjunction with state officials to allocate the funds to those in need.
“People are struggling to get safely through this pandemic, and EOC is committed to providing as much support and assistance as we can to relieve some of their worries,” said Jennifer Gremmert, Executive Director of EOC.
To be eligible, residents must meet certain income qualifications and be currently facing a utility shortage or impending shut-off. People can apply at https://www.energyoutreach.org/programs or call 1-866-432-8435 for help. Applicants will then work directly with a caseworker at a corresponding partner agency, who will guide them through the process, determine eligibility and authorize bill payments.
**** At a news conference Tuesday Gov. Jared Polis and health officials expressed concerns about an uptick in cases of COVID-19 among young adults in the college-age demographic and announced a new “dial dashboard” that will be used to help guide counties to more local decision making on the COVID-19 outbreak.
The state of Colorado currently is reporting 62,099 reported COVID-19 cases and although hospitalizations and positivity rates have plateaued Dr. Rachel Herlihy with the Department of Public Health and Environment who spoke at the conference said that those numbers are a change from the declining numbers that were being indicated a few weeks ago. With substantial outbreaks being reported among students attending colleges Herlihy was not able to explain specifically why those numbers were increasing. She did note that school-aged children are not seeing a marked increase despite many students returning to in-person learning.
The dashboard Polis explained was to give county leaders and decision-makers better tools to make choices at the local level on how to proceed with mitigating the COVID-10 outbreak. The dial includes five levels that are based on data and counties will move back and forth between levels based on three metrics. Those metrics are new cases, percent positivity in the county and the impact hospitals are seeing. Larimer County has had a similar tool available on their website since the summer.
To view each county’s dial and for more information visit covid19.colorado.gov/covid-19-dial-dashboard.
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