Good-bye to COVID restrictions?

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by Marissa Lorenz

As the State of Colorado turns public health decision-making regarding COVID-19 back to county governments, both Grand County Commissioners and the Kremmling Town Board take steps to eliminate any disease-related restrictions.

If conversations go as expected, Grand County businesses could be mostly restriction-free as early as Tuesday. However, the Colorado mask-mandate, though recently modified, remains in place statewide.

Counties opening up with new local control

On Friday, April 16, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) enacted the newest version of its COVID-19 Public Health Order, “which allows counties to implement regulations at the local level while still maintaining some limited requirements across the state.”

Many counties had anticipated the changes and had already authorized local modifications to go into effect along with the State’s order. Those strategies appear to fall into one of three categories: drop all COVID-19 related restrictions; move to less-restrictive regulations; or enter a two-phase plan, including a period of reduced restrictions and a longer period of observation.

With no more statewide order requiring such things as capacity and distancing restrictions and with no additional local public health orders of their own, individuals and businesses in counties such as Douglas, El Paso, Elbert, Mesa, and Weld are no longer restricted by anything but the State’s mask mandate and the provision that large events must still be approved by the CDPHE.

Essentially, businesses in these and similar counties are no longer operating under capacity restraints (other than those set by local building and fire codes) and do not need to enforce any expanded social distancing. (Although individual businesses still have the right to determine their own rules around COVID-19 safety.)

Neither indoor nor outdoor events are capacity-limited. The number of participants in sporting events are not limited. And bars
can be fully open, serving alcohol up until 2 a.m. once again.

Other counties, including the resort communities of Eagle, Summit, and Pitkin counties, have passed local public health ordinances that still require capacity limits and social-distancing, but at potentially more “open” levels.

For example, Eagle and Pitkin counties are operating in a manner very similar to that previously dictated in the Yellow dial phase.
Gilpin and five other rural counties will follow Green level restrictions for the time being.

Many of the Front Range counties are implementing a two-phase plan in which they will maintain some level of capacity restriction and social distancing requirement for the first 30 days of the new state order. They will then operate in an open manner for the following three months, from mid-May to mid-August, while continuing to closely monitor COVID-19-related hospital admissions.

Boulder, Broomfield, Adams, Arapahoe, and Jefferson counties are among those implementing the two-phase strategy.

Local leaders set to lift restrictions

On Tuesday, at the Grand County Board of County Commissioners’ (BOCC) regular meeting, Commissioner Kristen Manguso indicated to Grand County Public Health Director Abbie Baker that she would like to eliminate all restrictions in Grand County as well.

“I always thought we were doing just what the State was doing and nothing additional. And I’m still in favor of that personally,” expressed Manguso. “I think we are at a point where we could open up and let people make their own decisions–let towns make their own decisions.

“If a town wants to continue a mask mandate or do something with their local businesses, I have no problem with that. If people want to still wear masks, I think that’s fine. They certainly can.

But I would like us to be the least restrictive as possible.”

The Board will take up the discussion during their weekly meeting with Public Health on Monday afternoon.

Then at Wednesday’s Kremmling Town Council meeting, Council Member Dave Sammons proposed that the Town Board pass a resolution in anticipation of a County decision to lift restrictions.

“At this point in time,” declared Sammons, “I am of the mind that, as this Board, we will lift all COVID restrictions within the town limits of Kremmling, giving all businesses the ability to operate as they choose–(…) starting right now, right this second”
With minimal discussion reiterating that the Town must still meet the State’s minimum mandates, the rest of the Council agreed, unanimously resolving to “not have a COVID-19 policy in place.”

Masks still required in certain conditions

There was some confusion during the Kremmling Council meeting about the newest iteration of Colorado’s mask mandate.
Despite an assertion that the statewide mandate had been lifted “except for schools, prisons, and assisted living centers,” the actual order in place since April 3 says that masks are still required in “all counties in schools (including extracurricular activities), child care centers, indoor children’s camps, public-facing state government facilities, emergency medical and other healthcare settings, personal services and limited healthcare settings, congregate care facilities, prisons, and jails.”

Masks are also required in all indoor public spaces “where 10 or more unvaccinated individuals or individuals of unknown vaccination status are present,” in counties that have a current 7-day COVID-19 case count that is greater than 35/100,000 people.

As of Wednesday, Grand County had recorded 24 new cases in the previous week. Though the incidence rate is no longer reported on the County’s dashboard, using a population estimate of 15,500, Grand County’s current incidence rate is about 154/100,000, still too high to do away with masks, according to the state.

For more information on COVID-19 and Public Health Orders in the State of Colorado, go to https://covid19.colorado. gov.
To stay up-to-date with Grand County data and regulations, go to co.grand.co.us/covid.