County to enforce orange level COVID-19 dial standards for businesses with proper signage

Businesses must post signage displaying the restriction level they choose for operations

PRESS RELEASE 12.16.20

Under a new resolution, Garfield County is enforcing orange level regulations, plus existing variances, on the state’s COVID-19 dial and allowing local businesses to decide what level of restrictions they determine is best to operate under. The state of Colorado has moved the county to the red, or “severe risk” level, but the county is continuing to recognize orange or “high risk” for its businesses, which would otherwise need to invoke more restrictive measures under red, as long as they display proper signage.

Garfield County’s COVID-19 metrics for incidence rate are at the red level as determined by the state, but its test positivity and hospitalization rates are in orange and yellow, respectively, making the orange level a more accurate representation of the current situation in the county.

The Board of County Commissioners view the red level as unfairly punitive against select businesses, especially restaurants and fitness centers, which would be devastated under the level red restrictions. No outbreaks have been reported at movie theatres or gyms and fitness centers, and very few cases (15 total) have come from restaurants – those cases involved staff, not patrons.

“The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has provided no epidemiological evidence to justify the disparate treatment between restaurants, movie theatres and gyms and these other business sectors,” the resolution notes. “Without that evidence, there is no way to reconcile these decisions that effectively put restaurants and gyms alone out of business.”

Garfield County Attorney Tari Williams said the county is allowing businesses to decide for themselves whether level orange with variance standards or level red most closely aligns with their interests, and urged each to carefully consider the potential consequences associated with each decision.

“We will be asking businesses that do not want to follow the red level as currently written to post signage that Garfield County Public Health will assist with, out in front of the businesses,” she said. “This allows citizens to know whether the businesses are applying the level red or level orange standards.”

All businesses that want to continue operating under orange may follow the county’s resolution, but must place signage in a prominent location near the entrance informing customers that it has opted to follow level orange restrictions.

The signage is required to operate at the orange level. The resolution notes that businesses not posting signage could face enforcement if they do not follow the state’s level red restrictions. Customers can then determine what stores they’d like to patronize and will know before entering the level at which that establishment is operating.

“It is the Board of County Commissioners’ (BOCC) desire to protect as many small businesses as possible from economic ruin, while recognizing that its local health care workers, Public Health Department, and related services have been pressured to a critical level by balancing the serious need to contain various virus spread with the need to ensure small businesses survive,” the resolution notes.

“The Board of County Commissioners, sitting as both the BOCC and the Garfield County Board of Health, hereby directs the Garfield County Public Health agency to continue to enforce all state executive orders and public health orders but only to level orange,” it continues.

The resolution passed unanimously, 3-0, and can be read in its entirety at garfield-county.com/public-health/executive-orders. Flyers representing each businesses’ choice are also available on that page, and businesses can contact Garfield County Public Health at (970) 625-5200, ext. 8120, or by email at publichealthinfo@garfield-county.com.

“This explains why the board of county commissioners believe we should still be at the level orange,” said Commissioner Tom Jankovsky of the resolution. “This resolution gives businesses the ability to operate under level orange and they need to make the choice of what’s best for them. I hope that if the state has issues with this, they come back and talk to the county and not try and enforce this on individual businesses. I’d want the county to carry as much of the burden on this as possible.”

“As a plea to the state, please work with us so we can keep our businesses thriving and open,” added Commissioner Mike Samson.

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Flyer options for businesses to post

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