The state approved the next step of Mesa County’s plan to reopen over the weekend and with businesses able to reopen at 50% capacity, individual responsibility continues to be stressed by the local health department.

“I wish the community would take it upon themselves to social distance and wear a mask,” Mesa County Public Health Director Jeff Kuhr said. “The unfortunate thing is, if we start getting more cases, the state will take us backwards.”

Over Memorial Day weekend Las Colonias Park was one place that was packed with people looking to escape their homes and get outside and enjoy the nice weather. Outdoor activities will likely become more and more popular with the approaching summer.

Kuhr said social distancing while outside and recreating remains a concern for health officials not just locally, but nationally as well as places like New York’s Central Park, the Ozarks in Missouri, beach locations and other popular relaxation spots that have been scrutinized.

Kuhr hoped that with more choices now available for people to recreate, with pools and parks opened, it will ease areas like Las Colonias Park. Though he’s considered requiring masks in public, he’d rather people take it upon themselves to follow the guidelines.

The Mesa County safer-at-home Phase 2 public health order states gatherings shall be limited to no more than 50 people and participants shall maintain at least 6 feet distance from one another. Outdoor activities where more than one group is allowed shall keep a reasonable and safe distance from other groups of no less than 20 feet, the health order state.

The decision to continue to lift restrictions, stay with the current plan or go back to stay-at-home will be made by the Mesa County Board of Public Health based on the rate of positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Mesa County, the order states. If the county were to exceed a 15% positivity rate or more than 100 cases per 100,000 population in a two-week period, the variance would automatically be rescinded.

BUSINESSES ARE ADJUSTING

Diane Schwenke, chief executive for the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, said as soon as the decision to approve the second variance was announced by the state on Saturday, she sent out a notification to more than 1,300 email addresses for more than 900 businesses letting them know about the good news.

In order to open up, businesses must fill out an online “Reopening Application” on the Mesa County Public Health website (https://health.mesacounty.us).

Schwenke said after the application is filled out, which takes about five minutes, the business will receive initial approval and can open back up before the health department does a follow-up within a week of the application being completed.

“We didn’t want the application process to hold up businesses,” she said.

The chamber has been hosting webinars over the past few days with business owners and health officials to go over the new order and to answer any questions business owners might have. The webinars include details of how the guidelines will impact businesses and what the expectations are for businesses to open back up.

Questions asked during the first few webinars, which have included as many as 70 people, have been mainly related to communication and messaging. Another webinar will be held today.

“My sense is people do want to do this right and protect their customers and employees,” she said. “Mesa County Public Health has been very helpful with downloadable kits for signage and supplies needs. We haven’t heard of anyone having problems getting supplies.”

The health order states businesses should commit to implement social distancing and best cleaning practices by posting signs in key places providing directions to hand washing and sanitizing locations, provide sufficient handwashing facilities and hand sanitizer stations, and ensure employees are wearing masks when dealing with the public.

According to Kuhr, about 145 businesses had filled out online forms as of Tuesday afternoon.

One industry that was excited to get back to work was wineries and wine tastings, according to Schwenke, as several had completed their applications and had opened as early as Monday.

“We’re starting to see customer bases coming back,” she said. “I went to a local restaurant at lunchtime on a recent Saturday and we were the only people eating at the patio. I went this weekend and it was much busier.”

“Customers are seeing precautions being taken and are coming back to dining services,” she said.