Colorado will give counties the chance to ease COVID-19 restrictions on businesses that meet safety thresholds

Colorado public health officials this week unveiled a new program that allows participating counties to offer restaurants and other businesses a way to expand their capabilities beyond the limits set by their county’s color level on the COVID-19 restriction dial.

New Five Star State Certification Program “requires companies certified by the program to implement safety measures beyond what is already required by public health ordinances and guidelines,” according to a press release from the Ministry of Public Health and the ‘Colorado Environment.

“Depending on the county level and settings, certified businesses may be eligible for less restrictive capacity caps,” state health officials said.

For counties that meet the state’s requirements to participate, the program provides a framework to allow businesses that meet certain health and safety requirements to operate under less restrictive rules.

For example, one Level Red County – like Denver and the rest of the Front Range – was only able to patriciate itself after a sustained two-week drop in new infections and hospitalizations, as well as a declining positivity rate.

Then certified businesses would be allowed to operate below Level Orange’s capacity limits – meaning, in this case, that restaurants that had been forced to close indoor restaurants under Level Red could resume service there. ‘indoors at 25% of their capacity or up to 50 people.

To be considered, counties must set up committees to administer the program and determine how they will fund its implementation – and cannot use “local public health dollars” to do so, according to the plan. the state. They must also determine how they will ensure compliance and enforce the rules, according to the state’s plan.

Businesses, including restaurants and gyms that wish to be certified, should implement measures such as daily checking for symptoms and employee exposure, recording the names and contact details of their customers for use. screening for disease and, in many cases, a requirement for all guests to make reservations. .

The director of the Colorado Restaurant Association, which has branches statewide, released a statement Thursday criticizing the program, saying she was concerned the effort was not enough and that for many it was too late.

“We appreciate that the five-star program is another option to open restaurants and increase capacity,” said Sonia Riggs, CEO of the association, in a written statement. “However, we have a number of concerns: Counties must first apply to the state to be able to implement the program, and that process is cumbersome. Program requirements can be onerous for counties that are already strapped for cash and difficult to implement. We are concerned that as a result this program is not being implemented quickly enough to make a real difference in many places. Once implemented, restrictions on approved restaurants can be so onerous that they will not serve the purpose of increasing capacity. “

The program, which is voluntary, was piloted in Mesa County and is now statewide.

Eligibility and capacity levels depend on the county’s current COVID-19 numbering level:

  • Level Green Counties have an automatic capacity increase as part of Protecting our neighbors
  • Blue level counties are eligible if the incidence of cases in the county, percent positivity, and hospitalizations all meet the blue level. If approved, certified businesses can operate with an additional 50 people added to their cap.
  • Yellow level counties are eligible if the incidence of cases in the county, percent positivity, and hospitalizations all meet the yellow level. If approved, certified companies can operate within Level Blue’s capacity limits.
  • Orange level counties are eligible if the incidence of cases in the county, the percentage of positivity and hospitalizations all meet the orange level. If approved, certified companies can operate at yellow level capacity limits.
  • Counties in red level Are only eligible if the county has experienced a sustained two-week drop in case incidence, percent positivity, and hospitalizations. If approved, certified companies can operate within Level Orange capacity limits.
  • Purple level counties are not eligible for the variance program.

“If a county sees a significant increase in the number of cases or hospitalizations, the program may be suspended,” the health department said.

If a region reaches more than 90% of the ICU capacity of its hospitals, the suspension will be automatic.

The state health department received over 980 public comments and engaged in multiple stakeholder meetings with local governments, local public health officials and the business community in formulating from the program.

Applications from counties will be accepted starting Friday. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced Thursday that Denver would seek to participate in the program.

Morgen Harrington, co-owner of Grimm Brothers Brewhouse in Loveland, is part of a coalition of small businesses in Larimer County that worked with local officials there to secure waivers of state-ordered COVID-19 restrictions.

“As this program is very similar to our level of programming, it makes sense in terms of policy for small businesses,” Harrington said. “It’s great that we all seem to have come to the same conclusion, we need another option to manage the pandemic and keep small businesses alive. This is a positive step. “

The Colorado Restaurant Association CEO said she found the state’s program to be lacking.

“Restaurants are on the verge of devastation, and many have already closed permanently since the red-level restrictions were put in place. We’re out of time, ”Riggs said. “The publicly available data does not show that restaurants are a major culprit in the spread of COVID-19, and we continue to ask the state for the reasoning behind its decision making. The state has to find a faster way to open these places or get enough money to survive, otherwise this industry is going to be wiped out completely – and it would have devastating effects on our national and local economies. “

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