County seeks to increase business capacity with new state program
Grand County is planning to apply for an upcoming state program that would allow businesses that have complied with a strict COVID-19 checklist to operate on increased capacity.
The five-star exemption program, pioneered in Mesa County, allows approved counties to loosen business restrictions by one dial level of the state’s COVID-19 dial, according to the Colorado Sun. For example, counties with cases in the Level Red zone would be able to adopt Level Orange restrictions for businesses that comply with strict health protocols.
The stricter health protocols could include things like daily symptom checks for employees, a contact tracing log for customers and site inspections. In addition, businesses cited for noncompliance wouldn’t be eligible.
The state is continuing to work out what a broader roll out of the program will look like, but Grand County officials are eager to apply.
“There’s a lot that needs to be done … but we have good bones around that right now,” said Grand County Public Health Medical Director Darcy Selenke. “We’ve got buy-in from community development, the chambers and Katie Taft of public health.”
Selenke said the program will work similar to variances the state allowed earlier in the year, in that counties that violate the terms of the program will have the privileges revoked. The five-star program also requires total commitment to the terms laid out by the state, so the county won’t be able to adopt only part of the guidelines.
In order for the county to get approval for the five-star plan, Selenke said cases need to stay on a downward trajectory with low hospitalizations.
“The community has demonstrated not only a willingness but also shown action in taking the right measures to bring down our disease, so with that momentum, I feel it’s the right time,” Selenke said.
With public health at full capacity handling the COVID-19 pandemic, the county will put together a committee to run the five-star program and ensure compliance that will include public officials, local chamber members and business owners.
On Tuesday, the Board of County Commissioners expressed support for applying for the program.
Winter Park Mayor Nick Kutrumbos also highlighted the program as the “best path forward for our small businesses.” Kutrumbos, who also owns Deno’s Mountain Bistro, will chair the committee that will submit the application, run the program and ensure compliance.
“I am very confident that we have the personnel, staff and assistance in place to get this program started as soon as possible,” he said. “This is a win for small businesses, it’s a win for resort communities and for municipalities in terms of generating sales tax revenue.”
Kutrumbos also emphasized the importance of getting cases down and noted business compliance with the program’s guidelines will be key to keeping the community healthy.
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