Summit County loosens ski area capacity, puts in stricter last call rules in level orange order
The new year means fewer restrictions as Summit County moves to level orange on the state’s COVID-19 dial on Monday, Jan. 4.
Since Nov. 22, the county has been in level red on the state’s dial, which closed indoor dining, placed further capacity restrictions on ski resorts and prohibited gatherings of more than one household. The move to level orange will allow indoor dining and gatherings as well as reduce capacity limits on ski resorts, county officials said at a Board of Health meeting on Thursday, Dec. 31.
“Our community has done such a great job getting our numbers down,” said Public Health Director Amy Wineland at the meeting. “Across the state and, of course, locally we’ve decreased our case numbers by nearly 50% since early December.”
Summit won’t be the only county in the state to move out of level red. In a tweet on Wednesday, Dec. 30, Gov. Jared Polis announced he has directed the state’s health department to move all level red counties into level orange on Monday.
With the move to level orange, the following restrictions will be effective starting at 12:01 a.m. Monday.
- Face coverings are required in buildings open to the public and outside when maintaining a 6-foot distance isn’t possible
- High risk populations are strongly advised to stay home
- Personal gatherings may occur with up to 10 people from no more than two households
- Its recommended that schools be in person. The Summit School District will have students returning to hybrid learning on Jan. 11
- Restaurants are allowed to open in person dining at 25% capacity or 50 people, whichever is fewer, with parties limited to groups of 10 from no more than two households
- Bars remain closed
- Offices can open at 25% capacity with remote work strongly encouraged
- Gyms and fitness centers can open at 25% capacity with up to 25 people, whichever is fewer
- Retail can open at 50% capacity with increased curbside pick up and delivery as well as dedicated hours for seniors and high risk groups
- Personal services, such as salons and massage parlors, can be open at 25% capacity with up to 25 people, whichever is fewer
- Indoor events, which differ from personal gatherings and are approved by the county, can occur at 25% capacity with up to 25 people
- Outdoor events can occur at 25% capacity with up to 75 people
- Outdoor guided services are allowed at 25% capacity with up to 10 people
One of the major changes in level orange will be loosened capacity restrictions for ski resorts. When the county moved into level red, officials worked with ski area leaders to determine further capacity limits, which weren’t ever shared publicly.
“We had made the statement that when we moved to orange that we would move those restrictions,” County Manager Scott Vargo said. “We as staff have talked and (Wineland) is recommending that we remove those restrictions.”
Starting on Monday, the ski areas will be using the capacity restrictions previously approved in their COVID-19 operating plans.
The new level will also give short-term lodging companies relief, as they are now able to book reservations of up to two households with a limit of 10 people.
The move comes after the county instituted its 5 Star Certification program, allowing certain restaurants and fitness centers to open with level orange restrictions. On Monday, those businesses will be joined by all the businesses that have not been certified in following level orange restrictions.
The certified businesses won’t be able to operate under level yellow restrictions, which allows restaurants to open at 50% capacity with up to 50 people, until the county shows two weeks of hosptialization, incidence rate and positivity rate data in level orange. As of Saturday, Jan. 2, the only data point to remain in level red is the county’s incidence rate at 677.8 new cases per 100,000 people.
The county would need an incidence rate of 350 new cases per 100,000 people to be in the level orange threshold.
In its public health order, the county changed the last call at restaurants from 9 to 9:30 p.m., which is earlier than the 10 p.m. last call in the state’s level orange guidelines. Last call for take-out alcohol sales will be at 10:30 p.m., according to the order.
“When we were in orange moving towards level red, we made changes specifically in this area because of some of the concerns around gatherings that were taking place at restaurants with staff and others after hours or later in the evening,” Vargo said. “We know that’s one of the challenges that exists.”
The county hopes that keeping an earlier last call will prevent restaurants from turning into a bar atmosphere.
“We need to continue to be vigilant and really target the areas where we know we have issues … and that includes gatherings and gatherings that include alcohol consumption,” Wineland said.
At the meeting, Wineland also gave an update on the county’s vaccination effort.
The county is currently in Phases 1a and 1b on the state’s vaccination plans, including health care workers, first responders and people over 70 years old.
The county hasn’t started vaccinating the rest of Phase 1b, which includes essential workers, such as teachers and grocery store workers, essential officials from legislative and judicial branches of state governments and frontline journalists.
Wineland said the county is awaiting further guidance from the state on how to prioritize people that fall within that group.
The timeline for moving into that phase also depends on how many vaccines the county gets, which varies from week to week. As of Saturday, the county had no available vaccination appointments as it awaits more shipments of the vaccine.
“It’s exciting to see that we have frontline workers in that next group, our educators our teachers,” Wineland said. “We want kids to be back in school because know that’s a huge priority for our community.”
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