Local restaurants now open to in-person dining after state grants Routt County variance
Editor’s note: This story was edited to reflect that servers at restaurants do not have to wear gloves but they are required to wear masks.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The state has approved Routt County’s request for a variance to loosen stay-at-home restrictions and allow restaurants to open up for in-person dining.
Under the variance, restaurants are now permitted to serve customers under strict mitigation guidelines. To achieve 6-foot social distancing, restaurants can open at 50% of occupancy code limits to ensure a minimum 28-square-feet per customer. Larger restaurants cannot have more than 175 people being served at one time.
“Restaurants being able to open with a strict mitigation plan in place is an example of a win-win of incremental reopening and continued community vigilance with COVID-19 virus suppression efforts,” said Routt County Public Health Director Kari Ladrow in a news release.
Restaurants also will be required to implement an online reservations system to keep people from gathering on-site to wait for a table. Seating at tables will be limited to eight people or less, and bar seating will not be allowed. All employees will be required to wear food-grade masks, and customers will be required to wear a mask when they are not seated at a table.
Public health officials are urging restaurants to utilize outside dining as much as possible to take advantage of better ventilation. Restaurants must also have a protocol in place to monitor their employees’ health on a daily basis.
And for contract tracing purposes, restaurants are required to keep records of table assignments with seating and departure times noted. These records must be made available to the Routt County Health Department upon request. After 21 days, these records can be destroyed to protect diners’ privacy.
“We are grateful that the state approved our restaurant variance request,” Commissioners Beth Melton, Tim Corrigan and Doug Monger said in a joint statement Sunday. “Now, we all need to support our local restaurants and continue this phased approach of getting back to normal and reviving our local economy.”
In approving the variance, Jill Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, noted the fact that Routt County has only 59 positive COVID-19 cases and only one new case in the last two weeks. If the county were to exceed 26 new cases in one week, the variance would automatically be rescinded, Ryan said.
Local board of action tackles question of face masks
The Routt County Board of Health met Friday and amended the county’s third public health order to allow restaurants to reopen immediately if the state approved the county’s variance requests. With that action taken, restaurants were given permission to open under the new mitigation protocols as quickly as Sunday.
The order, which was extended to June 22, requires a site mitigation plan for all businesses and also includes a requirement that customers wear face coverings indoors in order to protect employees.
“We just heard from the Centers for Prevention and Disease Control that 35% of infected Americans do not have symptoms, meaning they are spreading the disease without knowing it,” Routt County Public Health Medical Director Dr. Brian Harrington said at Friday’s meeting. “Face masks have been a fixture for decades in surgery to protect patients. It is a low-cost measure to help businesses open safely. We want to promote the culture of mask wearing because it reduces the spread of disease.”
Melton said commissioners has received over 200 emails from citizens concerning mask wearing. She said 50% of those who contacted commissioners wanted the county to make mask wearing voluntary and 50% wanted it to be mandated.
“The frontline workers I have met are universally supportive of mask wearing,” Commissioner Tim Corrigan said. “They are in contact with as many as 200 to 300 people every day. The only way they can be protected is for us to wear masks.”
Corrigan and Melton voted in favor of amending and extending the public health order, and Monger voted against it.
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