COVID Restrictions End For Local Businesses; Critics Worry About Hike In Cases

Personal Responsibility Stressed In New Coronavirus Policies

Trevor Phipps

Colorado Governor Jared Polis has talked repeatedly about ending the COVID-19 restrictions, highlighted by a somewhat confusing color dial system, and giving more power to local governments when it comes to COVID regulations.

Late last week, he made his move official which allows counties and cities to make their own rules when it comes to building capacities and social distancing.

 However, the new change in restrictions does come with stipulations. Indoor events are still limited statewide to a maximum of 500 people in attempts to not overload hospitals in the event of an outbreak. And, most counties are still required to wear masks until at least May 2.

Last Friday, the governor also released the mask mandate in certain counties that have recorded less than 35 cases per week per 100,000 people. Therefore, 30 counties in Colorado no longer require masks to be worn indoors. Out of those counties, Teller’s neighbor Park County also chose to no longer require masks.

With the new rules, counties and cities are now allowed to keep the dial or create their own restrictions. But, last week over two dozen counties in the state (including El Paso and Teller) announced that they will not be putting any restrictions such as building capacity limits or social distancing rules.

This means that all businesses in Teller and El Paso counties can now operate at 100 percent capacity and businesses are not required to take steps to keep their patrons six feet apart from each other. And, last call is now back to 2 a.m. at bars in both counties. But Cripple Creek has still not decided when they will go back to serving alcohol 24/7.

The state still does require people in Teller and El Paso counties to wear masks while indoors since their case per week rate has not dropped under 35 per 100,000 people. Indoor events are also limited to 500 with the exception of worship services.

According to Teller County Commission Chairman Bob Campbell, the county is now leaving restrictions up to individual businesses and the county will only intervene in emergency situations. “We are going to respond to outbreaks when they arise,” Campbell said. “If certain locations or industries have an outbreak, we will help find solutions. We will not be putting anymore broad countywide restrictions on all businesses. What happens in Victor will no longer impact businesses in Woodland Park and vice versa.”

However, some health advocates have been critical of the recent change in restrictions due to the fact that case numbers have been on the rise across the state. Others say, that easing restrictions is appropriate because most of the elderly and vulnerable population has already been vaccinated. Plus, officials stress the economic hardships imposed by the mandates, leading to a hike in mental health concerns.

Locally, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have slightly increased with as many as 20 new cases in a day. The county’s total is now 1,540 with 15 deaths and more than 100 hospitalizations.

On the bright side, the weekly case numbers have slightly dropped from being more than 60 two weeks ago to 42 last week. The county has also been working hard with dispensing vaccinations as around 70 percent of people over 65 have been vaccinated. The county has also reported that nearly 25 percent of the county’s total population has received a vaccine.

A Return to Semi-Normality

Last week represented the first major step to things returning to normal since the pandemic struck in March 2020. The capacity limits and social distancing rules have served as a big hurdle for restaurant/bars and casinos.

However, business operators still have the option to impose these rules, such as grocery store outlets.  “It is up to the individual businesses,” said Commissioner Erik Stone.

For months, the commissioners have pushed for personal responsibility, along with common-sense business practices and resident cooperation in dealing with the pandemic.  This point is emphasized in a guest editorial in this week’s TMJ.

The last step will be when the governor releases the mask mandate and allows counties to decide whether or not people should wear masks while indoors. Some think that the governor could make that decision when the mask order expires on May 2.