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Grand looks to reopen early

Gov. Jared Polis announced restaurants could reopen in-person dining to up to 50 people at a time starting Wednesday.
McKenna Harford / mharford@skyhinews.com

Grand County’s commissioners will seek a variance from the state to allow restaurants, lodging, recreational facilities and places of worship to reopen earlier than the state’s timeline.

With support from the towns in Grand County, the commissioners approved a variance request Tuesday outlining why an earlier reopening would be appropriate for Grand, how the county plans to reopen safely and a plan in case infections begin to increase.

“I want to reiterate that this is not an exemption,” Commissioner Merrit Linke said. “It doesn’t say turn the lights on or free-for-all. This is a variance that will allow us, in Commissioner (Kris) Manguso’s words, control our own destiny.”

The goal was to send the variance request to the state by this morning. It’s unclear how long it will take the state to respond. Grand County’s requested variance is being modeled after successful variances in Eagle and Mesa counties with the hope the state will approve it quickly.

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According to the county’s request, a variance is appropriate for Grand because case numbers have remained steady since April 21, testing capacity has increased and county agencies are prepared for a potential surge at hospitals with overflow facilities lined up and resources available.

Surveillance testing was conducted Friday at businesses around the county, and all of the tests returned have come back negative. More surveillance testing is expected this week.

“We’ll do another testing round … to get more data,” said Schelly Olson, spokesperson for the Grand County COVID-19 response team. “Folks who have businesses who weren’t contacted, but are interested (in participating in surveillance testing) can reach out to us.”

If approved, one key precaution outlined in the county’s requested variance is the requirement of masks for employees and guests of reopened businesses, including restaurants, gyms, lodging and worship centers.

Guests would also be required to wear masks inside restaurants, except when sitting at their tables, and in the common areas of lodging, worship centers and gyms. Employees should be wearing masks at all times when they’re around guests or other employees.

“For the safety of your employees and your guests, we’re asking for adherence to the face covering requirement, so voluntary compliance is always what we want first — education and voluntary compliance,” Olson said.

The request includes several appendices laying out the safety measures each type of business should take to reopen, including increasing sanitation and implementing social distancing.

For restaurants, that means spacing tables out and keeping diners six feet apart unless they’re from the same households, as well as adhering to a 40% maximum capacity limit.

Diners are also requested to limit their time inside restaurants to just long enough to finish their food. Waiting areas and self-serve areas will be closed, and single-use condiments and hand sanitizer should be provided.

Bar areas in restaurants would remain closed. Bars, breweries, wine tasting rooms and distilleries should also remain closed to in-person dining.

Lodging businesses will be allowed to open at full capacity, but would be required to have a 72-hour waiting period between lodging guests in the same room or rental. The businesses must still maintain social distancing and mask wearing in common areas.

Communal amenities, except the gym, should be closed to the public, while partitions should be installed at close-contact areas, like check-in. Housekeeping will not occur during a guest’s stay, but increased cleaning in between stays would be required.

The county also outlined several metrics it will track, including number of new cases, available tests and number of people reporting respiratory illness through the symptom tracker, to ensure the reopening is occurring safely.

The request also says the county has the ability to investigate new cases within 24 hours and enough personal protection equipment. The request also identifies when the county should transition back to more restrictive rules if necessary.


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