Colorado leaders provide guidance to businesses in new phase of pandemic
Topics included required paid leave related to COVID-19
Although COVID-19 restrictions have gone away, Summit County business owners still have much to think about when it comes to the pandemic.
On Thursday, March 10, Colorado officials hosted a webinar for business owners as they navigate their way through a more open phase of the pandemic. Since Summit County let its public health order expire Feb. 11, businesses have been able to operate without capacity restrictions or mask requirements.
Statewide, around 90% of Colorado residents are immune to the virus, either through vaccination or from natural immunity, and over 80% have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
“We find ourselves at an interesting spot, both in Colorado and the entire country, which is a place of cautious optimism, which is something we haven’t been able to feel in the past two years,” said Scott Bookman, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s incident commander for COVID-19.
Bookman said the state public health department as well as local public health departments will be stepping away from the spotlight and monitoring the pandemic from behind the scenes over the next couple of months. But that doesn’t mean public health officials aren’t ready to respond to outbreaks if they occur again.
Although the state is in the new phase of “cautious optimism,” it’s still important for employers to promote best practices when it comes to the pandemic, Bookman said. One of the most important things business owners can do is encourage the use of COVID-19 vaccines.
“Anything that we can do with our employers to ensure that employees are given the resources they need — the time that they need, the information they need — to go ahead and either get their first dose or get up to date on their vaccine, that is probably the most important thing that we would ask of our partners in the business community,” he said.
Bookman said businesses should also continue to follow public health guidance when it comes to positive COVID-19 cases. Current guidance states that employees can return to work five days after testing positive if they are asymptomatic.
The state is continuing to require that employers provide time for employees to get vaccinated through the Colorado Health and Family Workplace Act. The law, which was signed in early 2021, requires employers to offer two weeks of leave related to COVID-19.
Employees can use the time for anything related to the virus, including sickness after contracting the virus, vaccine appointments or side effects from the vaccine. They also don’t have to provide proof to use the hours.
The hours can’t be used for typical sick leave, which employees accrue over time, said Eric Yohe, an outreach program manager for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. Yohe said it’s important for employers and employees to continue to be aware of the law, which won’t expire until four weeks after the federal government ends its state of emergency for COVID-19.
The department of labor is hoping to promote compliance of the law by working with business owners to ensure they understand everything about it. Yohe said any employees who believe they are owed paid sick time under the law can visit ColoradoLaborLaw.gov.
“The bottom line is we don’t want to investigate complaints anymore than employers want to be investigated,” he said. “We want to help businesses be compliant with the law.”
Yohe and Bookman said the state will release public information when the emergency order expires or the laws change. Business owners can keep up to date with current requirements by visiting Covid19.Colorado.gov.
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