Routt County amends variance request for events as state prepares restrictions to loosen Thursday
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Routt County Board of Health approved a variance request Tuesday that would allow larger gathering sizes and events in the area.
This comes two days ahead of an update from Gov. Jared Polis on the state’s safer-at-home recovery phase amid the COVID-19 pandemic. On Thursday, Polis plans to announce the further loosening of restrictions that would expand the gathering limit, allow overnight summer camps to resume and bars to reopen at 25% of their indoor capacity, according to a news conference the governor made on Monday.
Gatherings at all indoor events could accommodate 50 to 100 people, depending on the size of the venue. Gatherings at outdoor events could accommodate 50 to 175 people depending on the size of the venue.
Among the primary requests of Routt County’s variance, drafted with input from event industry representatives, was to expand the current, 10-person gathering limit. Because the governor’s update would make such a request moot, as Commissioner Tim Corrigan pointed out, he and the other commissioners comprising the Board of Health directed staff to amend the variance request.
As amended, the county would follow the state gathering limit until July 9. At that time, it would enact looser restrictions that would allow indoor venues to reach 50% capacity or up to 100 people, whichever is fewer. Outdoors gatherings could accommodate up to 175 people.
By the end of July, the county would transition to a third phase, allowing gatherings of up to 175 people indoors and 250 people outdoors.
All organizers would need to submit certification for their events before they could take place. The certification ensures the organizers can follow state health guidelines and that they have strict mitigation protocols in place.
By late June or early July, the state plans to transition from the safer-at-home phase to the protect-our-neighbors phase, which would further loosen restrictions. Under the protect-our-neighbors phase, all activities could be allowed at up to 50% capacity, with a maximum of 500 people present at any given time, according got a draft of the guidelines.
The state is accepting public feedback on the plan until Thursday. To leave a comment, visit covid19.colorado.gov/protect-our-neighbors.
Because the protect-our-neighbors phase is still in draft form and some details remain unclear, the commissioners wanted to submit the variance request to ensure the county can continue its gradual recovery.
“I feel like we have very little idea of what protect-our-neighbors is or is going to be,” Commissioner Beth Melton said during the meeting.
Part of the process to allow larger gatherings under the next phase, as Melton understands, would be evaluating counties on a case-by-case basis to ensure they can safely accommodate those crowds. That means not all counties would immediately be able to transition to the protect-our neighbors phase.
“They are still working out the details of what all that means,” Melton said.
In the news conference on Monday, Polis said residents across the state generally have been vigilant about following health guidelines, from maintaining 6 feet of distance to wearing face masks when recommended or required.
“That is why we are here with good news instead of bad news,” Polis said.
He cautioned that a resurgence of the virus is always possible, and people need to continue following guidelines to mitigate that risk. Some experts have predicted a second wave of cases in the fall, and others have worried about an overlap of the COVID-19 pandemic and flu season later in the year.
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