Summit County officials provide clarity on level red restrictions, look to relief funding
KEYSTONE — As the Summit County community grapples with the idea of a near shutdown, local officials have been scrambling to answer many, many questions.
Summit County officials provided more clarity on the county’s move to level red on the state’s COVID-19 dial at a community town hall and a Board of Health meeting Thursday, Nov. 19.
Restrictions included in the new level, except for those imposed on restaurants, will go into effect at 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20. Restaurant restrictions will go into effect at 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22, to allow those businesses more time to prepare.
At both meetings, it was made clear that restrictions for short-term rentals and ski areas are at the top of people’s minds.
Level red, which was changed on the state’s dial Tuesday, does not expressly mention any rules for short-term rentals or ski areas. However, it does prohibit gatherings of more than one household in any situation. That prohibition applies to short-term rentals, as well, meaning all current and future reservations with more than one household group involved are going to be canceled.
“Lodging right now as it stands will be held to that one household only (rule),” Public Health Director Amy Wineland said at the town hall. “That includes only people who are currently living together. It doesn’t mean that they are all part of a family that are coming from across the nation. … That is not the intention of this.”
At the Board of Health meeting, Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence shared that she has heard of short-term lodging businesses already seeing cancellations across Summit County.
“They are hearing from a lot of people that are canceling because of the change to just one household,” she said. “In addition, people are canceling because, in the areas where they’re coming from, the virus has been spreading as well as just looking at what’s happening here.”
At the Board of Health meeting, Wineland also clarified that college students who attend school out of state but have a home base in Summit County are considered to be a part of the household in Summit County.
At both meetings, people brought up concerns about how the county will be enforcing the one household gathering rule at short-term rentals and around the community.
“I suspect that we have both locals that are not complying with our restrictions, and we also have, of course, out-of-towners, guests and visitors that are not complying with the restrictions,” County Manager Scott Vargo said at the Board of Health meeting. “We have asked, and we will continue to ask, folks to report those situations where they see a violation taking place, so that we can act upon it.”
People can report violations of the local public health order by calling 970-668-8600.
Vargo added that the county has increased its enforcement of the public health order in the past few weeks.
The county is also likely to include more restrictions on ski areas in its local public health order, which is expected to be released on Friday, Wineland said.
Officials haven’t made any indication of what those restrictions will look like aside from the fact that they will have to do with ski area capacity.
“We understand the influx of a huge amount of visitors into our community can stress our infrastructure, can have a huge impact on our hospital, as well,” Wineland said at the town hall.
No officials, at the local or state level, have indicated a desire to close ski areas completely. However, at the town hall, Wineland said she can’t promise that won’t happen.
“Right now, we don’t really know whether the ski resorts will be shutting down at this point,” she said. “We do not want that to happen. We all know the ski areas are the livelihood of our economy.”
At both meetings, officials said one of the major goals of the restrictions is to get numbers under control so the peak ski season can be saved.
“I just want to acknowledge that this is really hard on a lot of businesses, and we are all very aware that everybody’s having to sacrifice just so that we can hopefully get to a peak ski season and get out of this red zone,” Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said at the Board of Health meeting.
Vargo added that the county is working with town governments on ways to provide relief to businesses throughout the community, using the $1.8 million it received earlier this week in coronavirus funding.
“We’re talking about trying to identify a group that can get pulled together quickly and discuss very quickly the types of relief that would be most beneficial in the community (and) how we might distribute those dollars,” he said.
At both meetings, officials shared how the pain and frustration of this change is not lost on them.
“People in our community are scared, and they’re frustrated,” Assistant County Manager Sarah Vaine said. “They are scared of the virus, and they’re scared of what’s going to happen in the economy. … We hear those comments, and we care about them.”
Beginning Friday, Nov. 20, the state has a new “extreme risk” level on its COVID-19 status dial.
There have been a lot of changes to public health rules in the past few weeks. Here’s what you need to know about level red:
Going into effect at 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20:
• High risk populations: Stay at home. These people are eligible for worker benefits and mandatory prioritization for remote work, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
• Personal gatherings: None allowed. People are only allowed to gather with their own household.
• Offices: Limited to 10% capacity with remote work strongly encouraged.
• Gyms and fitness centers: Limited to 10% capacity or 10 people per room indoors and groups of less than 10 outdoors.
• All retail: Limited to 50% capacity with enhanced curbside pickup and delivery. Designated hours for seniors and high-risk populations are encouraged.
• Short-term rentals: Reservations are limited to only one household.
Going into effect at 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22:
• Restaurants: No indoor dining allowed. Limited to outdoor dining, to-go orders and delivery. Outdoor dining is limited to groups of one household. Last call is at 8 p.m.
To find out more about the different COVID-19 dial levels, visit COVID19.colorado.gov/covid-19-dial.
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