All lodging now allowed in Routt County, including short-term rentals
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As of Monday, all types of lodging have reopened in Routt County, including short-term rentals.
This comes following the end to a countywide lodging ban, which expired May 31, and updates from the state government on the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, Gov. Jared Polis announced the extension of the state’s safer-at-home order, which now is in effect until July 1. The order maintains certain restrictions, such as not allowing gatherings of more than 10 people, but takes gradual steps toward more normalized conditions. Under the transitional phase, restaurants and shops have reopened to customers but at reduced capacity and with strict mitigation protocols in place.
The new rules surrounding lodging allow short-term rental owners to accept guests but require similar mitigation measures. For example, owners must thoroughly clean rental units between guests and provide cleaning products, such as hand sanitizer and disinfectants. Guests also must follow certain protocols, including canceling their reservation if they are sick or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 symptoms in the two weeks prior to their stay.
In previous meetings, the Routt County Board of Commissioners voiced their support for lodging operations to resume by June, considering the county’s relatively low number of COVID-19 cases and the effectiveness of public health measures.
Lifting the ban on all lodging comes as welcome news to Barbara Robinson, chair of the Steamboat Springs Lodging Association. As she explained, Routt County has a varied hospitality industry, with short-term rentals comprising a large proportion of the local market.
“Having that all cleared was very helpful so people can move forward,” Robinson said.
Challenges still remain for local lodging companies that are struggling to fill rooms with many summer events canceled or on hold. Occupancy rates are in the single digits for June, according to Robinson, compared to last year’s rate of about 40%. If restrictions, particularly the gathering limit, loosen in the days and weeks ahead, more events could occur that would draw more visitors.
“Until the state changes their rules, there is nothing we can do about it,” Robinson said.
Lodging companies have made several changes to their operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to more frequent cleaning of spaces, companies are increasing the visibility of their cleaning services as a way to put their guests more at ease.
“People want to see that vigilance,” Robinson said.
At the local Holiday Inn where she is a general manager, Robinson said the indoor pool has been closed as a safety precaution. A larger outdoor pool remains open. To deal with the decrease in guests, the hotel also has had to cut its staff, Robinson said.
“That is unfortunately the only way we can compensate for this,” she said.
Moving forward, Robinson said Holiday Inn and other local lodging properties are confident they can accommodate guests while maintaining public health guidelines. They are following state protocols and stricter standards from the American Hotel Association. They also send notices to all guests prior to their stay that include information on local health guidelines and urge guests to stay home if they feel sick.
- Provide hand sanitizer and/or soap and water that is easily accessible to guests upon arrival and during their stay.
- Provide cleaning and/or disinfecting products for guests to use, along with instructions.
- In alignment with the CDC guidelines, wait 24 hours before entering the property for cleaning. If 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible.
- Remove shared soft objects that are difficult to regularly clean if possible (i.e. extra throw blankets, decorative pillows or other soft objects).
- Guests are encouraged to take their shoes off when entering the property.
- Guests should wash their hands frequently with soap and water and/or use hand sanitizer.
- Guests should wear cloth face coverings in public throughout Colorado. It may be required in some communities.
- Guests should maintain physical distancing of at least 6 feet from people not in their group or household while in Colorado.
- Guests must cancel their stay if they are sick or have been in close contact with someone who is sick with COVID-19 symptoms in the 14 days before their stay.
Robin Craigen, who oversees about 100 vacation rental properties in the area through his company, Moving Mountains, called the lifting of the short-term rental restriction “a breath of fresh air.”
While he acknowledged much of the summer will be an uphill struggle for business due to the lack of events, Craigen said many people want to visit Routt County for its vast offering of outdoor activities that inherently allow for social distancing.
“I think what Steamboat has as a place is still an incredible draw,” he said. “It’s still an incredibly beautiful place to come visit.”
In his updates on Monday, Polis encouraged outdoor recreation as long as people follow health guidelines, such as maintaining social distance and wearing masks in businesses and congested areas.
“While we are all still safer at home, we are also able to practice greater social distancing in our great outdoors than in confined indoor spaces,” Polis said in a news release. “It may feel like we are getting back to normal, but the virus is still here, and it could surge back the moment we let our guard down. We are still far from normal.”
To that end, the governor relaxed restrictions on vulnerable populations, who previously were required to stay at home except for essential activities. Vulnerable populations include people 65 and older and those with underlying health conditions.
Under the amended safer-at-home order, vulnerable people may leave to recreate outside, as long as they wear face coverings and remain 6 feet away from others.
The order continues to protect vulnerable populations from being penalized for not returning to work or being required to return in-person to work
The state is seeking input from Colorado residents about the further loosening of restrictions, specifically for guidelines surrounding places of worship, the outdoor industry and personal recreation, such as fitness centers and gyms. For more information and to submit feedback, visit covid19.colorado.gov/press-release/state-provides-latest-modeling-data-on-pandemic-and-seeks-input-on-draft-guidelines.
The deadline for providing feedback is noon Wednesday. The state will announce further updates on restrictions Thursday.
To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email dmaiolo@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.
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