The Southern Ute Indian Tribe slightly loosened its public health restrictions this week for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Tribal Council lifted its Stay at Home order and moved into a new phase, called Safer at Home Level 3. For tribal members, the changes mean restaurant dining, indoor exercise and other activities are allowed again.
“The Southern Ute Indian Tribe will continue to prioritize the health and safety of the tribal membership, tribal staff guests and community as we continue through the pandemic and while cautiously reopening,” a Southern Ute news release said.
The tribe’s move to Safer at Home Level 3 was prompted by the positive changes related to COVID-19 data in the Southwest region, such as the weekly average of new cases, hospitalization rates and the infection rate, also called percent positivity, said Lindsay Box, Tribal Council spokeswoman.
Some activities are still not allowed under Level 3, such as visiting family or friends while members are ill or visiting loved ones from other households while they are in the hospital or long-term care facilities.
Tribal offices are also closed until further notice, and Sky Ute Casino operations are restricted. Personal gatherings are limited to five people or fewer. Indoor capacity is restricted to 25% and 25 people maximum capacity, and outdoor capacity is restricted to 25% and 50 people maximum capacity.
The tribe requires people to wear face coverings and maintain a 6-foot distance between people in different households.
The restrictions apply to visitors on the reservation as well, Box said. More information about the tribe’s public health orders is available on its website, social media sites and in the Southern Ute Drum.
Under the new phase, the tribal government allows (or expands opportunities for): doctor and pharmacy visits, school attendance, visiting and caring for family or friends, outdoor leisure activities, indoor and outdoor exercise, veterinarian appointments, and in-person work, although remote work is still emphasized.
The tribe does not recommend in-person work for high-risk people. Activities are allowed as long as protective measures are followed.
Safer at Home Level 3 is the fourth most-restrictive phase of a five-phase reopening system created by the Tribal Council and the tribe’s incident management team.
The government will shift between phases based on different metrics, primarily the number of new cases, percent positivity and hospitalization rates in Southwest Colorado.
The tribal government reported 67 cases and two deaths among Southern Ute tribal members as of Wednesday. The Southern Ute Health Center has administered 7,971 tests.
In March, the tribe also reported the presence of two variant strains of the novel coronavirus within the reservation boundaries: B.1.427/429, first identified in California, and B.1.1.7, first reported in the United Kingdom.