Summit County to move into level green Wednesday, eliminating capacity restrictions

6-foot distancing rule eliminated, but indoor mask mandate remains

It’s official: Summit County is moving into level green Wednesday.

The move comes after the county’s cumulative incidence rate reached 100 or fewer new cases per 100,000 residents for seven consecutive days beginning Tuesday, April 27. Since that day, the county’s rate has dropped rapidly, hitting 48.4 cases per 100,000 residents Tuesday, May 4.

At the Summit Board of County Commissioners work session Tuesday morning, County Manager Scott Vargo said most restrictions would be removed and that officials from the county’s public health department were still finalizing specifics on what restrictions would remain in the new public health order.

During the meeting, Vargo confirmed that the 6-foot physical distancing rule would be removed along with all capacity restrictions. A mask mandate for indoor public spaces — like grocery stores, restaurants and retail shops — would remain, largely because vaccination rates are unknown in these environments.

“What we do want to maintain is some indoor masking at least through this month,” Vargo said. “We’re going to see what happens with the state as well in regards to the masking. … Our language does not match the state right now, and we’re not proposing that it would.”

For indoor spaces where vaccination rates likely would be known, including offices, masks would not be required.

For indoor gatherings of more than 100 but fewer than 500 people, venues can operate at 100% capacity. In these instances, the 6-foot physical distancing measure remains only between unvaccinated people or when vaccination status is unknown.

For gatherings of more than 500 people, including graduation ceremonies, venues should reach out to the county for guidance and must have the event approved by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

These requirements do not apply to places of worship and associated ceremonies, retail services or restaurants that do not have unseated areas where 100 or more people could gather, such as dance floors.

The county would not move back to a more restrictive level on the dial unless hospitalizations surge.

“Moving to level green is fantastic news for our community,” Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue wrote in a text message shortly after the discussion. “The reality of the fact that our vaccination rates are among the highest in the state means that we can do it safely, which is equally good news. I am so grateful for all of the work, collaboration and diligence that has finally gotten us to this point.”

The move to level green comes ahead of the Food and Drug Administration’s expected approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12-15. Assistant County Manager Sarah Vaine noted that, as this population becomes eligible to get vaccinated, the percentage of the county’s vaccinated population will fall.

Vaine also noted that this will not prohibit the county from moving into level green. Per the county’s public health order, level green is reached once the seven-day cumulative incidence rate falls below 100 or when 70% of the county’s population is fully vaccinated, whichever comes first.

As of Tuesday, 59.6% of the county’s population was fully vaccinated.

During the meeting, Vargo noted that while the community is opening up, the move into level green does not prohibit businesses from implementing restrictive measures within their own businesses.

While most business owners and managers are hopeful about restrictions loosening, some, like Jan Shackelford, owner of The Juniper Tree in Frisco, said she would implement measures when the county moves into level green.

“If there’s no (6-foot) distancing, I’d limit people at the door,” she said over the weekend. “We have masks. We have gloves. We have cleaning solutions. I just can’t have my store so crowded with people wandering aimlessly and kids. A whole pack of people coming in to kill time is a bit dangerous, so I would probably still limit who gets to crowd into the store.”

Others, like the Dillon Dam Brewery, are concerned with staffing and serving a larger crowd than what staff can currently handle.

“I don’t have enough managers. I don’t have enough servers. I don’t have enough bartenders,” brewery General Manager Kim Nix said Saturday, April 24.

Despite reaching level green, county officials will continue to work toward getting 70% of the population vaccinated. Those interested no longer have to preregister to get vaccinated by the county’s health department. Instead, the county is hosting walk-in clinics and neighborhood pop-ups throughout the week. Visit the county’s website for more information.

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