Summit County under amended public health order starting on Monday

A view of Summit County from the Summit Recpath on Friday, April 24.
Liz Copan /

Summit County will be under an amended public health order starting Monday, April 27, that will ease some of the restrictions put in place to combat COVID-19. 

Public Health Director Amy Wineland signed the amended public health order Saturday. According to a FAQ sheet accompanying the order, the goal of the new safer-at-home phase is to maintain 60% to 65% of the social distancing efforts already being practiced by the state.

At two virtual meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, county commissioners thoroughly debated Wineland’s recommendations on everything from nonessential workplaces returning at 50% capacity to restrictions on second homeowners returning to the county.

One of the more restrictive parts of the amended order prohibits short term lodging, including short term rentals, from operating through May 31.  

“We are the ultimate tourist-based economy, so bringing in people from all around the state, the country, the world is what our economy thrives on,” County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said. “We cannot do that safely.”

The county’s dedication to preventing the spread by discouraging visitors from coming to the county falls in line with Polis’ recommendations. 

At a virtual news conference Friday afternoon, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis urged people to avoid recreating far from their homes. He suggested people stay within 10 miles of their houses to prevent crowds from gathering and the virus from spreading throughout the state. 

“Areas that are just turning the corner and getting control of infections do not need a whole new round of infections from people from Colorado Springs or Denver who are going to those areas,” he said. 

Both Stiegelmeier and county commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence hope the amended order will help people cope with social distancing practices and improve mental wellness. 

“It gives everyone just a small amount of freedom while following the rules,” Lawrence said. “I think that will be very helpful for everyone’s mental health.”

The amended order also allows retail businesses to provide products through the mail, home delivery and curbside pickups. The county will also be providing an online form for businesses to submit social distancing protocols that would allow for people to be safely inside a physical building when restrictions are loosened further. 

Those wishing to return to work may be able to do so, with limited opportunity. Starting Monday, May 4, non-essential workplaces can have up to 50% of normal staffing. However, employers are strongly encouraged to continue telecommuting, and workers are expected to maintain a 6-foot distance while at work. 

In his Friday conference, Polis reminded people that the safer-at-home order does not mean restrictions are completely lifted. Everyone is still expected to remain at home as much as possible and wear masks when going out in public. 

The following are other restrictions included in the county’s amended order:

  • Sick individuals, people with underlying health conditions and people over 65 must stay at home as much as possible. 
  • Gatherings of 10 or more people continue to be prohibited and people are encouraged to remain 6 feet from others outside of their immediate household.
  • Real estate agents can hold showings through appointments, but open houses are still prohibited.
  • Child care services can start opening on May 11 to serve members of the local workforce with strict precautions to limit the transmission of the virus. 
  • Elective medical and dental procedures are allowed.
  • Restaurants and bars can be open for take-out and delivery, but dine-in services continue to be prohibited. 
  • K-12 schools will remain closed throughout the school year.
  • Car rentals and car sales are allowed. However, sales must take place by appointment to prevent gatherings of more than 10 people at dealerships. 
  • The Summit Stage main line routes will resume with fewer than 10 passengers at a time. Paratransit services will continue for those who require transportation to work and essential services. Some seats will be roped off to maintain social distancing and all riders will be expected to wear face coverings while on busses. 
  • Places of worship can open but there must be 6 feet distance between congregants and fewer than 10 people at gatherings. The county is encouraging remote and online services to continue. 
  • Trailhead parking will be limited.
  • All construction activities have to adhere to the Summit County Building Department COVID-19 policies and procedures. 

This phase of social distancing will continue for the foreseeable future. The county will have to see a decrease in positive cases for 14 days before it can fully open up, Stiegelmeier said.

Lawrence and Stiegelmeier both pointed out that the county will not get to the point to fully reopen unless everyone follows the rules and continues to practice social distancing. 

“I think it’s pretty clear, this is not a reopening, just lessening some restrictions,” Stiegelmeier said.

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