Summit County amends public health order to include 5 star program for restaurants |

Summit County amends public health order to include 5 star program for restaurants

The state program would allow qualifying restaurants to reopen to in-person dining at 25% capacity

Diners peruse the menu at Modis while seated in the restaurant's outdoor dining area. The restaurant has added heaters and a tent to keep customers warm while indoor dining is not allowed. The new five star program will allow indoor dining for restaurants that qualify.
Photo by Libby Stanford /

Summit County restaurants are now able to apply for the 5 Star Business Certification Program, allowing them to open with less restrictive capacity measures than are currently allowed in level red.

Although the program was included in Summit County’s amended public health order, which will go into effect Saturday, Dec. 19, the county is still in the process of applying for a variance to implement the program locally.

However, the county does anticipate that the state will grant the variance because case numbers meet the criteria. The county anticipates receiving a response to the application as soon as Monday, Dec. 21, public health spokesperson Nicole Valentine said.

“This was rolled out really, really quickly,” Assistant County Manager Sarah Vaine said at a Board of Health meeting Thursday, Dec. 17. “It’s been sort of a mad dash.”

According to the state’s framework for the program, counties in level red are eligible if they have a sustained decrease in cases for at least two weeks. Summit County’s two-week cumulative incidence rate has dropped from 1,314 new cases per 100,000 people on Dec. 3 to 858.5 new cases per 100,000 people on Thursday, Dec. 17, according to the state’s dial dashboard.

For the restaurants that qualify, the program could provide much-needed relief in advance of the holidays, allowing them to reopen to in-person dining at 25% capacity or 50 people, whichever is fewer.

The county already has posted an application for restaurants to be part of the program at Vaine added that the county has started training inspectors who will go into restaurants and check for compliance.

According to the county’s application for the program, restaurants must demonstrate an ability to do the following to qualify:

  • Have completed the county’s physical distancing protocol form with business-specific mitigation efforts that are approved by the county
  • Enforce mask-wearing for customers and employees
  • Allow at least 10 feet between tables and customers, and ensure that only one household is in each party. (Once the county is out of level red, the tables can be 6 feet apart.)
  • Regularly sanitize and disinfect high-touch surfaces
  • Check employees for symptoms and COVID-19 exposure
  • Screen customers for symptoms and gather contact information to help with contact tracing
  • Document how people from different households will remain at least 6 feet apart (for restaurants not using reservations)
  • Have business-specific plans for outbreak detection, reporting and response
  • Have improved ventilation through HVAC improvements, HEPA filters or opening windows and doors to maximize airflow
  • Promote the Exposure Notification app for employees and customers
  • Publicly display the county’s public health order complaint number: 970-668-8600
  • Have extra hours and accommodations for high-risk populations
  • Have no prior citations of noncompliance with public health orders

For now, Summit County only is allowing restaurants to apply for the program, even though the state released guidance for the program for all kinds of businesses.

Vaine said the county wants to avoid opening everything up, cases rising and then being put into level purple, which would be a total shutdown.

“We’ve been getting flooded, understandably, with pleas from all different types of businesses to consider rolling this out to other businesses in the community, which we absolutely plan to do,” she said. “Our concern is if we open up everything too quickly, that we could get pitched into purple, which would then be devastating.”

Eventually, the county plans to open the program up to fitness centers, retail stores, personal services and other businesses. However, because short-term lodging restrictions are part of the state’s gathering restrictions in level red, they will not be included in the program.

“The one-household rule is in place because we remain in level red,” County Manager Scott Vargo said. “Until we move to level orange, we really won’t have the opportunity to modify that one-household rule.”

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