Casinos May End Temperature Health Checks; Resume 24/7 Alcohol Sales
Despite a slight uptick in coronavirus activity, it’s business as usual in Teller County, with elected leaders seeking to return to the pre-COVID-19 business era.
Besides a few state restrictions, local authorities are now completely in charge of COVID-related regulations, and they are hammering at one consistent theme: If you haven’t already, get vaccinated as this will help the county attain a herd immunity situation and a safer health environment.
As a result, the control strings are loosening up somewhat with a regulatory end to mandatory health screenings at all local casinos; a resumption of 24/7 alcohol sales at most gaming establishments; more available seating opportunities at the Butte Theater, with the possibility of maybe 100 people attending a live show; and better yet, a full capacity operation at virtually all local businesses.
Public meetings, with in-person attendees at certain venues in Teller County, have returned.
The new trend has already boosted spirits, according to preliminary reports. A Woodland Park business expo and WP Chamber of Commerce After Hours gathering last week almost resembled a festive party for those who haven’t gotten together in a year.
“We are heading in the right direction, as far as local control,” said Cripple Creek Interim City Administrator Ray White. “We (local governments) have a better handle on dealing with this.”
Similar to Teller County, the Cripple Creek City Council decided last week not to issue any additional coronavirus restrictions. This signaled the green light for putting an end to health screenings, a process that costs the casino industry nearly $1 million collectively to implement, and to re-start their 24/7 alcohol sales in designated casino areas.
The state has not issued any word that it will challenge these policies. On Friday morning, the Colorado Division of Gaming issued a statement regarding the health screenings, a process that did raise some concerns, prompting a variety of opinions.
“After further clarification from the city of Cripple Creek, they are not requiring temperature checks for Cripple Creek casinos and are not deferring to gaming on that requirement. With that clarification the (Colorado) Division of Gaming will not be requiring temperature and health checks for Cripple Creek casinos. During this time, please stay diligent with all other health and distance requirements and stay safe as we all move forward,” stated Dan Hartman, director of the Colorado Division of Gaming.
That’s a financial relief to the casinos, as it reportedly cost the gaming establishments more than $600,000 collectively to implement the health screenings, required at every establishment, since they reopened last June. Plus, even with this hefty personnel cost, not a single person was ever turned away due to these requirements.
This was a regulatory process that was heavily scrutinized by the current board of county commissioners. They noted that Colorado casinos became the only private industry to face such a mandatory public screening.
The good news continues for those favoring fewer COVID business regulations.
Erin Smith, the attorney for the city of Cripple Creek, also issued an opinion that signaled a further green light for casinos to resume the 24/7 alcohol sales in the same way they did in the pre-COVID-19 era (see related story).
And according to White, the less restrictive state policies, reduced from 70-plus pages to less than 10, now may permit the Butte Theater to host more patrons that initially expected.
These are signs that life may get back to a semi-normal basis in Teller County, with businesses returning to a full capacity mode. The main restrictions still on the books are the mask mandates, the social distancing rules and the health mitigation and sanitation efforts for operating businesses and public facilities.
Keep It Local
Local control is now the name of the game, in the COVID-19 arena.
This was the central theme of a coronavirus discussion at last week’s Teller County commissioners meeting, as once again, the elected board mentioned personal responsibility and common-sense business practices as the real answer towards grappling with the epidemic. They believe local government authorities can handle the COVID restrictions better than state officials.
But the commissioners stressed last week this is not a free-for-all regarding the coronavirus scenario, but they can now address specific problem areas or parts of the county, where COVID infections are occurring. “It gives us the opportunity to react,” said Commissioner Erik Stone.
Similar views were expressed by all three commissioners. Board Vice-chairman Dan Williams stressed the importance of respecting “each other’s choice.” While some may choose not to get vaccinated due to personal reasons, he noted that certain businesses or places may take the opposite position, such as requiring a COVID-19-like vaccination passport or proof of taking these shots or related COVID restrictions. “We have to respect that,” said Williams.
According to some reports, individuals may not be able to attend certain events in the future or travel out-of-state unless they are vaccinated.
Elected leaders and officials, while sometimes outlining different opinions of COVID regulations, are 100 percent behind the need to get vaccinated. It is the hope that Teller can achieve a nearly 70 or 80 percent level of compliance.
“The vaccines are working,” said Teller County Administrator Sheryl Decker. At last week’s meeting, she reported that nearly 16,000 COVID vaccine shots have been delivered to Teller residents. More importantly, more than 30 percent of eligible residents have received their shots, noted Decker. Plus, the statistics are quite good for people 65 years of age and older, with the county recording a nearly 65 percent rate of older folks receiving both shots.
The county is also hosting several large vaccination clinics, with ample opportunities for people who haven’t been vaccinated, to now take this opportunity. For more information visit Teller County’s vaccination website at tellercovid.com to arrange your appointment.
“It is critically important for people who want to be vaccinated to get vaccinated,” said White. “We really want to promote that message.” In fact, the city of Cripple Creek has initiated an incentive program that gives all employees, who get properly vaccinated, to earn an extra day off. “We see this as a benefit,” said the city administrator.
Cases on the rise
But even with an aggressive vaccination program, the county is still getting hit with more infections. The positive infection rate of those tested hit an 8.11 percent level, which is definitely on the high side.
The county now has recorded more than 1,600 cases, as of last weekend, and had a fairly high seven-day COVID infliction rate recently that climbed over the 60-case level. As of press deadline, the county was recording 42 cases over the most recent seven-day period, equivalent to 168 per 100,000.
“We are concerned,” said White, who notes that southern Teller is experiencing more cases and is now tracking at 7 percent of the county’s total case load, representing a slight increase.
But on the upside, officials say those who are getting infected locally are generally not part of the older at-risk population. “This is part of a national trend,” said Decker.
Again, as far as the solution to the problem, the county administrator had two words of advice: Get vaccinated.