Summit County requests state variance to open short-term lodging, restaurants |

Summit County requests state variance to open short-term lodging, restaurants

Breckenridge Grand Vacations’ Grand Colorado, located on Breckenridge’s Peak 8, is pictured Nov. 6. Summit County public health officials have asked the state for permission to reopen restaurants and short-term lodging.
Liz Copan /

FRISCO — Summit County government officially requested a variance from state restrictions imposed by the Colorado public health department to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic.

In the request sent to the state Friday, May 15, county officials specifically asked for permission to open hotel and short-term rental lodging as well as restaurant interiors for dining service at reduced capacity and with adherence to various safety protocols.

More than half of the counties in Colorado have applied for variances from the state’s public health order, but so far only nine have been granted, including one for neighboring Eagle County. If granted, the variance would last until May 26, when the current stay-at-home order expires, and can be renewed on an ongoing basis.

In a letter written to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Director Jill Ryan, Summit County Public Health Director Amy Wineland noted the severe impact the closing of restaurants and short-term lodging has had on the community in terms of financial, social and emotional health.

In order to meet the threshold required for a variance approval, a county must meet certain criteria as outlined under Road Map for Reopening guidelines published by the federal and state governments. 

The criteria includes the need for a sustained decrease in cases for at least 14 days, that local hospitals are able to treat all patients without resorting to crisis standards of care, that testing can be performed for all people with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 infection, that active monitoring can be accomplished for all COVID-19 cases and contacts, and finally that clear protocols have been implemented that require physical distancing and assist with case identification.

In making its case, Summit County outlined its “suppression plan” and argued that it has met all five criteria for reopening lodging and restaurants:

  • A case tracker showing low case counts in the past few weeks
  • St. Anthony Summit Medical Center never reached capacity
  • The availability of office and mobile testing facilities
  • Increased staff to trace contacts and track cases
  • Physical distancing measures implemented for residents and businesses

The variances requested focus on short-term lodging and restaurants. In justifying both, the county provided its proposed mitigation measures.

Proposal to open lodging

If the variance is granted, Summit’s lodging businesses would need to allow a minimum of 6 feet of distance between guests, staff, vendors and employees. Protective measures, such as masks, would need to be provided to guests and employees. For indoor spaces, or any situation where 6 feet of distance could not be safely maintained, all people would need to wear masks or facial coverings. Employees also would be required to undergo health screenings and self-certification of no signs of illness.

Hotels and short-term rentals would be required to lock all central public lobbies or common areas, including workout facilities, saunas, swimming pools, common hot tubs and spas, meeting rooms and other general public gathering areas.

Other requirements would include discontinuing housekeeping services while guests are in their room to prevent transmission between rooms and reduce risk to staff. Lodging businesses also would be required to provide an extra change of towels, linens, pillows and other consumables. All hard surfaces and high-touch areas would be required to be properly disinfected when cleaning guests rooms, and it would be recommended that businesses keep 72 hours between bookings to allow for proper cleaning and disinfection between rentals.

Proposal to open restaurants

The proposed guidelines for opening restaurants are restrictive and more detailed than those for lodging. Along with many of the requirements that would be imposed on lodging businesses, including capacity restrictions, restaurants would need to undergo a thorough interior cleaning process, get stocked with hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies, and ensure proper function and sanitizing of equipment.

All restaurant staff with symptoms of COVID-19 would not be allowed to enter the restaurant premises. Staff would be surveyed daily for symptoms and would be required to wear facial coverings at all times indoors. Customers would be required to wear masks when not seated or when talking to staff.

A minimum of 6-8 feet of space or physical barriers would be required between tables. Self-service — including buffets, beverage dispensers and condiments — would not be allowed. If a restaurant has a bar, it would be closed with bar stools removed and signage telling customers that no walk-up ordering service is available. Group sizes would be restricted to eight, and reservations would be strongly recommended. Line markers at ordering points and other areas where guests might congregate would be required to help guests maintain 6 feet of separation. Technology that helps with minimizing contact, including contactless payment, should be deployed.

The opening requirements also call for frequent, thorough and scheduled cleaning and proper disinfecting of all high-touch areas, cleaning and disinfecting reusable menus or using single-use menus, and table setups to be removed and refreshed between customers.

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