Summit County 5-star businesses could move to level yellow restrictions as soon as Saturday
Summit County’s five-star businesses could be operating under level yellow capacity restrictions as soon as Saturday, Feb. 13.
At its core, the state’s 5 Star Business Certification Program allows businesses that go above and beyond basic COVID-19 protocols to operate under looser restrictions than the county’s current dial level allows.
However, up until the state’s new dial took effect Saturday, Feb. 6, Summit County’s five-star businesses were stuck in level orange with the rest of the county. The state doesn’t allow five-star businesses to operate under looser restrictions until the county in which they operate shows at least seven days of COVID-19 metrics that fall within the current restriction level on the dial.
Under the old dial, Summit County, which has been in level orange since Jan. 4, was consistently showing a two-week average case incidence rate that fell within level red. The new dial changed the time frame for metrics from two weeks to one week, essentially cutting the county’s incidence rate in half.
The change of the time frame, coupled with loosened metrics for each level, led to the county’s incidence rate falling within level orange on the new dial. If the numbers remain there, Saturday will mark seven days of level orange numbers, allowing about 200 five-star businesses to operate under less restrictive level yellow rules.
“We need seven days of orange metrics before five-star can operate in yellow,” Summit County Environmental Health Manager Dan Hendershott said at a town hall Wednesday, Feb. 10. “That will hopefully be effective on Saturday. We will look late on Friday to see how we’re doing and communicate that shift to everybody.”
With the move to the new dial, the county also opened the local five-star program to personal service businesses, such as hair and nail salons, in addition to restaurants, gyms and fitness centers. If five-star businesses are able to open under level yellow restrictions Saturday, restaurants will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity with as many as 150 people, which ever is fewer.
Although the state allows for an 11 p.m. last call for alcohol in level yellow, the county will be keeping its current 10 p.m. last call for the sale and consumption of alcohol for five-star restaurants. Restaurants that are not part of the five-star program still must implement a 9:30 p.m. last call.
Gyms, fitness centers and personal services also will be able to move from 25% capacity to 50% with as many as 50 people indoors, whichever is fewer.
With the change, the county is looking to drum up more interest in the program, Hendershott said. Businesses must follow a number of strict public health protocols in order to qualify.
For example, five-star businesses are required to collect contact information and screen for symptoms when customers arrive. Business owners also are required to ensure that a group is not composed of more than two households or 10 people.
The policy allows the county to notify people if they were exposed to the virus while at one of the businesses.
“If there’s an infectious waitperson, hostess or busser, we would notify everyone as we feel appropriate,” Hendershott said. “Either their tables they served or, in the case of a host or hostess, it would be everybody in that facility at that time.”
Tim Applegate, who owns multiple restaurants throughout the county, said during the town hall that he uses the Yelp reservation system to gather contact information from customers. His restaurants also have a separate sheet of paper that compiles all of the information from the reservations and allows the host to gather contact information from any walk-ins.
“It takes us 15 or 20 seconds to have a conversation with one member of the party,” he said. “It’s worked out well for us, and it’s helped us achieve bumps in safety. And our customers are pretty excited about it because they understand that we care enough to give them information if we find out there is an outbreak.”
While the potential move to level yellow is exciting, Applegate said the capacity changes might not mean much because restaurants are required to maintain a 6-foot distance between parties.
“For us at Sauce on the Blue, we’ll be able to add maybe one or two additional tables, because we’ll be able to increase capacity, while still keeping that 6-foot distancing,” Applegate said.
Because customers and staff at five-star businesses are just as likely to spread the virus as those at businesses that aren’t part of the program, officials are encouraging employers to be diligent about symptom screening.
“Nearly a quarter of people that are testing positive for COVID are telling us that they had been going to work sick,” Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said. “Where you can help the most as an employer is to not let your employees be at work sick, figure out ways around that.”
Businesses that are interested in applying for the program can visit SummitCountyCo.gov/5star.
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