Garfield County deems numerous services essential

Designation helps keep businesses open as state moves county COVID dial to red


The Garfield County Commissioners have categorized numerous local industries and services essential, allowing them to remain open at a greater capacity in light of the state of Colorado moving the county to the red category on its COVID-19 dial.

The state sent a letter informing the county of its decision on Wednesday. The Board of County Commissioners met on Thursday afternoon to discuss the state’s change.

“I’m shocked and disappointed by the state of Colorado,” said Commissioner Tom Jankovsky. “This really hurts gyms and restaurants. From my perspective, it’s discriminatory against these businesses and those who work for them. It’s a shutdown through the holidays.”

The board unanimously passed a resolution deeming noncritical retail, restaurants, gyms and fitness centers as essential, bolstering them into the “critical” category and allowing them to remain in operation at 50 percent capacity. The resolution also included that last call for alcoholic beverages would be at 10 p.m. This covers Garfield County, and municipalities may enact stricter policies if they desire.

Commissioner Mike Samson said he’s heard from many in the public and especially people in the restaurant industry that are adamantly opposed to the change to red.

“The state is the one that wants to put us here,” he said. “We can’t stop them, but there are things we can do as county commissioners to try and alleviate this burden. It’s unfair to hammer these people in this way. I do not want to lose more businesses in Garfield County.”

Jankovsky added that restaurants provide a more supervised and controlled environment with social distancing, disinfection of dining areas and staff and customers wearing masks, unless they’re eating.

“I’m really proud of how restaurants have operated here in Garfield County,” Jankovsky said.

Factors that qualify a county for red include test positivity rate of more than 15 percent; a two-week incidence of more than 350 cases per 100,000 people; and stable hospitalizations or no more than two new COVID-19 hospital admissions per day. The county’s positivity rate is currently 12.9 percent and there have been 700 new cases between Nov. 26 and Dec. 9, or 1,057 per 100,000. Eight of the last 14 days had stable or declining hospitalizations.

Commissioner John Martin said the county is looking to stay exactly where it is, orange on the COVID dial with existing variances, and prioritizing the people, businesses and maintaining local control of regulations. He stressed personal responsibility in protecting our community from COVID-19.

“The government cannot shield you from this virus no matter how hard we try,” he said. “This virus will be with us for likely many years, and if you don’t protect yourself, you’re at high risk and you’re not taking care of your neighbor. But we should not shut down the entire county for this. These policies have not worked for a year, and we need to try our own approach.”

“What it amounts to is we need to have some common sense. What is the goal here? It’s to keep people safe, but also to have those people again in control of themselves and the risks,” Martin said. “We are not going to put a red blanket over everything.”

View the December 10, 2020 – Public Health Order 20-36, as Amended and Dial Distinctions between Orange, Red, and Purple with Variances on the Garfield County website.