Questions Still Persist About State’s New Reopening Plans
~ by Trevor Phipps ~
Locally, the confirmed cases of COVID-19 have slowed down in the past few weeks, with Teller County now recording 26 coronavirus cases of the virus and two related deaths.
But on a statewide basis, the numbers are rising as Colorado now has more than 12,000 confirmed cases and about 700 deaths.
However, Colorado Governor Jared Polis said that even though the number of cases went up statewide, that does not translate into a recent surge in cases. “I want to note that those numbers are not a spike,” Polis said. “They are numbers that are being retroactively adjusted for cases and cases of death of folks who had coronavirus as their source of death on their death certificate that weren’t previously included in our data that are now being caught up. These are from the last four or five weeks that are now being added back in. And then there is also a large number of cases because we now have private labs that have reported cases in the last week or two that are just now showing up in our data in the last couple of days.”
The governor did announce last week that he would start opening up businesses in the state slowly in phases starting at the beginning of this week. Polis said that retail businesses would be able to open up for curbside delivery starting on Monday. In addition, dental and medical offices that offer elective treatments can resume operations again this week.
The governor also said that personal services, such as hair salons and tattoo shops, would be able to open this Friday with restrictions in place. Polis said in a press conference last Friday, that more information regarding the regulations, dubbed the “safer-at-home” order, would be released early this week.
Safer-at-Home Order Raising Questions
Starting April 27, the previous stay-at-home order in Colorado officially ended. However, business owners and residents shouldn’t get too excited.
Polis has been clear that it does not want a “free for all” for the state. The new safer-at-home order still includes recommendations to reduce the spread of disease, including keeping six feet apart from others, wearing masks while in public and avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people. That means all local government meetings will continue to bar the public and will be conducted in a virtual, online style.
Polis also asked Colorado residents to stay close to their home towns and to not travel more than 10 miles away from their residences to recreate in the outdoors. “Colorado is beautiful, that’s why we live here,” the governor said. “But, our mountains, our rivers, and our forests will be here long after the coronavirus outbreak and long after any of us. So, give it a break and we look forward to having more of those recreation options available in the future.”
Locally, many businesses are preparing to open their doors next week. However, some are still concerned to start operating again because the rules have not yet been laid out clearly.
Some businesses such as the Jackalope in downtown Woodland Park will remain closed until more information comes out. When asked if the business would be open next week, the store’s owner Lyndsey Hart said, “I don’t know yet. I’m kind of sitting tight and waiting to see what is going to happen.”
Williams Log Cabin Furniture in Woodland Park is planning to open this week but the owner Jerry Good said that they are planning on strictly following all of the health and safety protocols lined out by the state’s health department.
“We wouldn’t want to do anything that would jeopardize this recovery,” Good said. “With the governor’s mandate, we can do curbside deliveries. And then there was a sentence in there that said that we can reopen with a lot of precautions, but I don’t know what that means. We are going to take it as possibly; we can have people make appointments and maybe let them in a couple at a time with masks on or something like that.”
The president of Tweeds Fine Furnishing, Tanner Coy, said that he is planning to open his business this week and that he does offer curbside delivery services. “I plan to be in the store and keep my business staffed at minimal levels during most business hours as best as possible,” Coy said. “And I will allow a business to be conducted with customers that choose to come here on a limited basis. If they don’t want to come into my business, I’m ok with that.”
The safer-at-home order, though, is still triggering many questions, with some business owners accusing state officials of coming up with vague guidelines.
Also, local governments can relax the standards listed by the state, if they can prove the epidemic is showing clear signs of a decrease in their area. But these entities must leap some definite hurdles, such as demonstrating 14 consecutive days of decline of the infection of COVID-19 in the county. They also must submit an application to the Colorado Department of Public Health that includes a written COVID-suppression plan approved by the appropriate local public health authority, all hospitals within the jurisdiction and elected leadership.
It’s unclear if Teller County or any of the local cities plan to embark on this step. But at a meeting last week of the Woodland Park Downtown Development Authority, some business operators made it clear it’s time to open things up in Woodland Park and Teller County (see related story).