County submits variance for COVID-19 restrictions


DEL NORTE- Over the past week, Rio Grande County Commissioners completed the variance request for the State of Colorado to consider lessening COVID-19 restrictions in order to get the county back up and running just in time for summer. The document has been submitted to the state for review after being approved by Rio Grande County Public Health and Rio Grande Hospital.


In the document, the county made several requests that would allow some relaxed restrictions for businesses, religious organizations, RV parks and gyms within the county. All of the following requests have yet to be approved and will need to be approved by state officials before they can be implemented.


According to the document, “Rio Grande County is respectfully requesting a variance from some of the provisions of Governor Polis’ Executive Order 2020-044, Safer at Home and CDPHE Order 20-28. A variance, as outlined in CDPHE Order 20-28, III.” The request gives several alternative guidelines for the state to consider in place of the guidelines originally set by the executive order, such as, instead of restaurants remaining closed except for delivery and takeout, the county would allow restaurants to open with 30 percent of their seating capacity.


In addition to allowing people inside restaurants, guests would be required to wear masks until seated at a table and be asked upon entering if they are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, and dining rooms would be set up according to the six foot distancing guidelines. These are only a few of the many restrictions that have been requested from the state, but according to local business owners, they are prepared to follow guidelines just to be able to have the chance to open.


In addition to restaurants, places of worship will also be able to open, pending approval, with 30 percent seating capacity and as long as they can separate seating to conform to the six foot distancing guidelines. Places of worship will also be requested to have touchless offerings and communion services, as well as, require all attendees to wear face coverings and put up proper signage warning congregation members of COVID-19 symptoms.


Gyms would be required to place customers at every other machine in the workout room and would not be allowed to offer aerobic classes or other group activities until further notice. All machines must be cleaned after every use, and facilities such as racquetball would remain closed.


RV Parks would have similar restrictions with 30 percent capacity for group gathering spaces and common areas. The parks must clean and disinfect shower areas after every use, and food or retail services on-site must adhere to state and local guidelines.


The variance request also included a suppression plan should an outbreak occur and the need to shut everything back down again arises. The plan will be implemented when and if a trigger point is reached within any community throughout Rio Grande County.


In order for the county to remain open, the variance suppression plan request states that the county keeps the proportion of positive tests to less than 15 percent of overall tests conducted and that current positive cases of COVID-19 must stay below 10.


The county is awaiting approval of the variance request and hope to hear from state officials in about two weeks, depending on case load and changes to the request that may be required in order to get approval. 

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