In response to the recent announcement by Gov. Jared Polis that Colorado will be moving from a Stay at Home executive order to a Safer at Home model on April 27, Chaffee County Public Health announced in a press release late Friday afternoon the county has already been moving in that direction.
Public Health, Chaffee County and all of its municipalities, the Chaffee County Economic Development Corporation, the Chaffee County Visitors Bureau, and a wide array of stakeholders from throughout the county have been coordinating and collaborating to create a thoughtful strategic plan and set of communications that will guide the county’s actions toward gradual reopening while taking strict precautions to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19.
Along those lines, Gov. Polis also announced late Friday he would be creating an advisory board to support coordination across multiple jurisdictions on compliance and enforcement for Safer-at-Home with the goal of maximizing social distancing compliance.
It will be specifically focused on how local governments and local public health can coordinate with the state on educating the public about these regulations, and maximizing compliance and enforcement efforts during the COVID-19 crisis, Polis said.
Chaffee County’s efforts to “flatten the curve” – to reduce the potential overwhelming of our regional and state healthcare capacity by slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our communities – and continue to keep the community safe, has been largely successful, said Andrea Carlstrom, director of Chaffee County Public and Environmental Health.
Meanwhile, CCPH and its partners are attempting to balance protections for public health with protections of personal liberties, the needs of our local economy and the financial welfare of residents.
“We know that the sacrifices that Chaffee County has made over the past month have worked in slowing the spread of COVID-19. Because of the selfless efforts made recently, we are now able to move forward to the next phase of COVID-19 response in a careful and deliberate manner," Carlstrom, local incident commander, said.
Chaffee County and the communities of Salida, Buena Vista and Poncha Springs – under the latest safety guidelines set by the state of Colorado – are implementing a slow and careful reopening of community services beginning May 1.
Chaffee County’s local order is still in effect through April 30 when it will be reviewed and amended as needed to keep everyone safe," Carlstrom said. "Our local order supersedes the state order and decisions. Therefore, very little will change on April 27."
The following, Carlstrom noted, is an overview of what this means for our community.
Why Chaffee County is prepared to slowly reopen
• Chaffee County has seen a sustained decrease in positive COVID-19 cases over the last 14 days;
• Local hospitals are safely able to treat patients without resorting to crisis standards of care;
• Testing is available for all people with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 infection and fit the latest criteria;
• Active monitoring can be accomplished for all COVID-19 cases and their contacts;
• Clear protocol is in place that requires social distancing and assists with case investigation.
What this means for local businesses
We have one chance to reopen the county in a thoughtful, safe and coordinated way. We understand that local businesses are the backbone of the community and are an essential component of our economy.
A phased approach to reopening local businesses means that the community will still be able to effectively follow social distancing practices while visiting some local businesses and completing essential tasks. All businesses will be required to:
• Protect employee health
• Prevent crowds
• Ensure effective distancing
• Increase sanitization
• Prevent unnecessary contact
• Reduce exposures in transportation
• Include symptom screening for employees
Phase 1 – Now through April 30
The following businesses to open by May 1. Businesses are NOT required to reopen if they do not feel comfortable or safe to do so.
• Personal services including salons, tattoo parlors, dog grooming, massage therapy
• Non-permitted construction
• Personal trainers (less than 4 people)
• Art galleries
• Real estate
• Offices - Up to 50% or 10, whichever is least restrictive, of staff can work in person with social distancing in place starting May 4. Offices encouraged to continue telecommuting through PHASE II
• Elective medical and dental procedures can begin on April 27th, with strict precautions to ensure adequate
personal protective equipment and the ability to meet critical care needs. However, DORA is urging providers to postpone this until there is more formal guidance and information.
Phase 2 – May 1-May 15
The following businesses to open by May 16 only if there is state approval and guidance:
• Restaurants and bars (can continue with curbside and delivery)
• Spas and hot springs
• Gyms and fitness facilities
• Faith-based can only function if 10 or less people with social distancing
Phase 3 – May 16-31
All short-term lodging, guiding and outfitter related, campgrounds, RV parks, and other tourism industry businesses to open by June 1.
Prior to opening, all businesses will be required to complete a safe business checklist. The checklist will be reviewed, approved or not, and those businesses that have a safety plan that meets all of the appropriate requirements will receive a certificate of safety to be placed in a public area at the business.
Guidance documents will be available for certain industries, and Chaffee County will supply a “starter kit” for those businesses who do not readily have protective supplies for the first days of reopening.
Critical businesses that have been operating throughout the COVID-19 pandemic will be expected to follow the safety requirements as appropriate, and CCPH will be following up them to inspect and issue a certificate of safety.
Businesses are still encouraged to provide alternative models for delivery goods will still be encouraged, e.g. online purchasing with home-delivery or curbside pick-up. Examples and best-practices of how businesses have already completed the social distancing protocol can be made available to assist others developing their protocol.
What this means for the general community
• The goal of the Safer at Home phase is to maintain 60-65% physical distancing.
• Second Homeowners will be allowed back in Chaffee County on May 16th. However, they must comply with the amended and extended local public health order and follow isolation and quarantine requirements.
• Individuals who are 65 and older, who have chronic lung and/or moderate to severe asthma, have serious heart conditions, who are immunocompromised, pregnant women, and those who are determined high-risk by their licensed healthcare provider should continue to follow the Stay at Home model. In Chaffee County, 1 in 4 residents is 65 and older. This figure is greater taking into account second homeowners. We must protect our county’s older adults and most vulnerable.
• Limitations on Public or Private Gatherings/Congregations: The size is increased from 0 to 10, and gatherings greater than 10 are still to be prohibited. This should be limited to family members or select households and continue to follow distancing and hygienic practices.
• Recreation remains only to local residents and second homeowners until we are open for tourism. Outdoor recreation should continue to follow the current requirements. Indoor recreation will need to meet the business safety requirements. These should not promote social gatherings.
The Safer at Home phase is not:
• A free-for-all
• An opportunity to leave the house as much as possible and spread the virus to others
• An excuse to not wear a facial covering, or begin giving hugs or handshakes
• Going to the mountains to spend the weekend
• Conducting unnecessary travel
• Having parties or get togethers
• Playing in pick up sports games
In the coming days, further guidance will be provided to a variety of affected industries including retail, offices, elective medical and dental services, child care, education, personal services, and real estate.