COVID Variance Approved

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by Marissa Lorenz
Grand County received a variance to the State’s current COVID-related public health order, late on Thursday, May 28. Approval of the variance request means that Grand County is “operating under a local public health order in addition to CDPHE’s Public Health Order 20-28 and other orders of CDPHE or the Governor of Colorado.” It does not mean that all restrictions have been lifted.

Case count rising

The variance comes at a time when confirmed cases of COVID-19 are increasing in the Grand County community, with the local case count going from five to 15 between Ma 22 and June 2. Schelly Olson, Public Information Officer for Grand County’s Joint Information Center, explains that “All positive cases have been symptomatic. All surveillance testing was negative. Positive cases have permanent residences in Kremmling, Tabernash and Granby.” Surveillance testing refers to the County’s proactively testing frontline workers, such as grocery and other retail employees.

Olson further notes that, as of the granting of the variance on May 28, Grand County had five new cases diagnosed in the previous two weeks. The number is significant because, if the county were to exceed 15 new cases in any two week period (an incidence rate of 100 per 100,000), “the variance is automatically rescinded, snapping back to current State restrictions.”

Changes in restrictions

As of May 29, Grand County Public Health and Incident Management Team released an update explaining new operating permissions for short-term lodging, places of worship, and businesses such as gyms and other recreation facilities.

Short-term lodging, including vacation-style rentals like those using VRBO and Airbnb, can resume business if they follow “strict sanitation and disinfection protocols to protect public health and safety.” Owners are required to communicate current guidelines to guests, including social distancing practices and face-covering recommendations.

Places of worship can hold in-person services with 50% occupancy, up to 550 people (per state order), provided that social distancing requirements continue to be followed. Churches must implement certain safety protocols including face coverings, public health signage and environmental cleaning. They are encouraged to continue online or drive-up services if practical and make reasonable accommodations for vulnerable populations.

Gyms, health clubs, workout, and other recreation facilities can conditionally open their facilities for limited use for up to 10 people in a given room, “if strict physical distancing practices are possible, there is no sharing of equipment, and regular disinfection and cleaning occurs.”

Ongoing regulations

Many of the modifications permitted under the granted variance now fall in line with changes to the State public health order, updated June 2 and effective on June 4. Highlights of the State order are as follows.
Playground and outdoor facilities use is permitted for up to 10 people at a time. Outdoor pools and hot springs may open at 50% occupancy or have up to 50 users at a time. Organized adult and youth sports leagues may have up to 25 participants, though adult leagues can have no spectators. Outdoor recreation and outfitter services may accommodate up to 10 people at a time. Social distancing and sanitation requirements remain in place.

The list of closed activities continues to include gatherings and receptions of more than 10 people, sports tournaments, fairs, festivals, parades, rodeos, sports events other than sports leagues, and car or horse racing, unless these last can be done with no spectators and following social distancing rules.
Children’s day camps, youth sports day camps, and certain skill-building youth camps may open, with a limit of 25 participants for outdoor activities and 10 for activities indoors. Six foot distances are still required and masks must be used in any camp transportation. Other health and safety requirements are in place as well, including on-call availability of a health care professional and access of staff to personal protective equipment and sanitation resources.

As of June 4, outdoor recreation services or activities, including non-guide and guided recreation, equipment rentals, river outfitters, rafting, Jeep tours, developed hot springs, zip lines, ropes courses, and outdoor artificial climbing walls, may operate with distancing and capacity requirements. Examples include no closed-air vehicles or tours are allowed; smaller vehicles or crafts are limited to two households, up to 10 people; and operators must conduct symptom and temperature checks for employees.

All Grand County residents and visitors are “strongly urged to protect themselves and others by washing hands frequently, staying home if sick, staying six feet apart from others, wearing a face-covering if in public, and limiting gatherings to under ten people. If you have symptoms such as a fever, dry cough or shortness of breath, call your healthcare provider for guidance.”

Grand County Public Health Medical Director Dr. Darcy Selenke reminds, “If our citizens fail to comply with the public health protective measures and our case count increases, we will have no choice but to return to more restrictive orders.”

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