Surging rates of COVID-19 in Pitkin County pushed the area into the “orange” level of the state’s COVID-19 meter, a multi-tiered gauge used to impose restrictions on counties where the virus is worsening.
On track to move one level higher on the meter, Pitkin County is imposing its own set of rules – slightly stricter than the state requires – to avoid the mandatory shutdown of businesses that comes with the “red” level.
That level, dubbed “orange plus,” includes a 9:30 p.m. last call for alcohol sales, a 25% capacity limit on indoor events and dining, and a cap on gatherings to limit them to five people from no more than two households.
The county’s new set of rules was crafted in collaboration with local business owners who said they would be devastated by total shutdowns during a year that has already dealt a blow to many restaurants and retailers.
In addition to spacing, capacity and mask compliance, restaurants must now also “maintain a record of current contact information of all individuals for the purposes of contact tracing activities in the event of a suspected or confirmed outbreak of COVID-19 and screen patrons at entrance and refuse entry to those displaying symptoms,” according to the public health order detailing the new rules.
While worsening coronavirus rates would automatically push Pitkin County into harsher restrictions mandated by the state, the county says the duration of these “orange plus” rules “will depend on the personal actions of everyone in our community,” should the county avoid ascending into the state’s “red” level.
Eagle and Garfield counties are also both in the “orange” level of the state’s meter. In Eagle County, the rate of new cases continues to rise, but appears that it may be slowing its climb. Garfield County’s rate of new cases has continued its staggering increase with each day markedly worse than the last.
At the state level, Governor Jared Polis is warning businesses that are threatening to defy new COVID-19 restrictions they could have their licenses suspended by the state.
The warning came hours after restaurant owners in Loveland said they would not follow the new public health orders, which ban indoor dining in counties with significant virus outbreaks. Service industry workers also held a protest in Breckenridge on Monday, saying the restrictions were taking a financial toll. Polis said the state may need to punish businesses that do not comply to protect customers from the virus.
“I think it’s a time for every Coloradan, and that includes county elected officials, to really ask themselves are you on the side of the virus or are you on the side of Colorado,” he said.