Criticism, confusion follow Grand County’s state-driven plan to reopen some nonessential businesses
Critics have condemned Grand County for requiring nonessential businesses to fill out a compliance form before reopening, but it seems there may be some misunderstandings about the new form.
In line with Colorado’s safer at home period unveiled by Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday, Grand County is allowing some nonessential businesses to resume in-person interactions with customers and clients this week.
Some office workers can also get back to their desks with nonessential, office-based businesses returning in a limited capacity. This is all being allowed so long as social distancing guidelines and other practices — like hand washing and customer facing employees wearing masks — remain in place.
The move to reopen comes after widespread closures mandated during Colorado’s stay at home order forced the closure of many nonessential businesses, an effort to stall the rapid spread of COVID-19 and prevent health care systems from getting overwhelmed by the sick.
Laid out by the governor, this week’s reopenings are for a series of specific types of nonessential businesses, including hair salons, tattoo parlors, daycare, dog groomers, field services and more. Other business types — operations like gyms, community pools and in-person patronage of restaurants, bars and taverns — have not yet been given reopening dates.
The state’s safer at home guidelines, which include requirements for business reopening, span more than 30 pages. One section talks about handling employees who live with vulnerable individuals. Another provides local authorities power to determine the best course of action for their communities.
With the stay at home order shifting into the governor’s safer at home period, some business owners have been left wondering where they fall in the county’s and state’s newest guidelines. Knowing exactly what they mean for each and every business can be a real chore, admitted Schelly Olson, spokesperson for Grand County’s COVID-19 response team.
Accurately described by some of its critics, the county’s order does require businesses that have been closed to submit a form with the county showing how they will comply with the requirements, best practices and guidance established by the state before they start receiving customers again.
The businesses must also display this documentation prior to their reopening. Other businesses, such as restaurants that remained operational through take-out and delivery, must also adhere to the county’s forms to ensure they’re taking steps to fight the spread of COVID-19 as they continue their operations, Olson said.
“When you walk through the verification form, it is very, very similar to an Eagle County form that is out there,” Olson said, adding that Grand County saw what Eagle County did, felt like it was “a great model” and piggybacked it with Grand County’s order, including the new compliance form.
Olson knows there has been great interest in getting local businesses up and running again, and she said over 130 Grand County businesses have already completed the form detailing how they plan to reopen in accordance with the requirements.
Still, some people have blasted the county’s mandatory compliance form, accusing the county of being far more restrictive than the state. They have also suggested occupations such as ranchers and foresters are now required to submit forms before they resume business.
“That would be a negative,” Olson said to a direct question about county officials expecting compliance forms from ranchers and foresters.
Perhaps if a rancher offers in-person retail sales, that might be different. However, many of those operations were deemed critical activities and never closed, Olson said.
Instead, she emphasized that the county’s forms are only to ensure businesses comply with the state’s requirements for preventing the spread of COVID-19 when they start interacting with their customers in person again and bring workers back into the office.
Some places in Colorado, like Denver, remain under more prohibitive stay at home orders, Olson added.
According to Olson, the form is designed to help businesses navigate the state’s newest guidelines, which speak to many different types of public operations, including everything from service industries to recreational offerings and large gatherings, like weddings and concerts.
“It’s really a great educational tool for businesses to become familiar with what is required of them without having to read 34 pages of an order,” Olson said.
If some of the language in the county’s order sounds vague, Olson said that’s because it reaches across a wide variety of business activities, including service industries, recreational offerings, gatherings and much more. By making the language “all encompassing” at the top of the order and then detailing what it means for each business type as information from the state become available, Olson said that the county won’t have to keep issuing new orders.
Further details regarding the county’s order have been posted at http://www.co.grand.co.us/1310/Safer-at-Home. The county’s form is also via a link on that web page. For specific questions, business owners should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 970-725-3808.
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