The state’s newly revised COVID-19 alert dial that lessened public health restrictions allows for restaurants to fully open in counties that are in the blue category, but still requires them to have six-foot distancing requirements.
As a result, they can’t fully open because most restaurants aren’t large enough to do so and still keep people that far apart, said Jeff Kuhr, director of the Mesa County Health Department.
But not to worry, Kuhr said.
“Yeah, with the six-foot, you can’t get there, it doesn’t get you much over probably 50% realistically,” he said. “But we’re working with folks to accomplish that as best as they can. There are ways that we can be creative because we’re not looking at table-to-table anymore, between parties. We’re working with folks to accomplish it as best as they can without being too prohibitive.”
That point was first raised by the Colorado Restaurant Association, which complained that the new, least restrictive dial didn’t help them much for that very reason.
Still, that problem isn’t expected to last long, at least not here in Mesa County and others in the six-county region.
Currently, Mesa, Montrose and Garfield counties are in the “blue” category, while Delta, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties are in “green.” Under the new dial, that means counties in the green category can decide for themselves what restrictions to impose, including allowing restaurants to fully open without any social distancing requirements.
Kuhr said that he fully expects Mesa to be in that green category by at least the middle of April, which would be in line with county commissioners’ resolution calling for fully opening up by then.
The commissioners’ resolution calls for 100% opening sometime between April 16 and May 1, but only if the vaccines are available to everyone, which is expected to happen within the next few weeks.
That’s kind of already the case here.
Although Kuhr was forced to back off from making the vaccine available to everyone last week, he’s encouraging people who don’t yet qualify — primarily those 50 and older, and restaurant, transit and other “essential” workers qualify — to fill out the department’s vaccine interest form.
Those who do will be contacted when vaccine appointments aren’t taken by others who already are eligible.
He said about 2,000 county residents have already done that and received their first dose. (The form is accessible at health.mesacounty.us/covid19/vaccine.)
Additionally, Gov. Jared Polis’ statewide mask mandate is due to expire by early April, and the new dial allows counties to be exempt from it if they are in the green category.
In the meantime, Kuhr said the advent of spring and warmer temperatures will help not only restaurants serve more patrons, but other businesses that can expand their operations outdoors.
Under the new dial, there are no restrictions on outdoor activities unless it involves very large groups at special events.
Kuhr said he’s also spoken with organizers of such events as Country Jam, and the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, saying that at least for now they would operate at 70% capacity. He said that could quickly change.
JUCO is scheduled for May 29-June 6. Kuhr said enough people could have received the vaccinations by then to allow them to fully operate.