Eagle County to tighten restrictions due to COVID-19 case increase
Amended public health order expected to be released on Thursday
What will or won’t change
- Outdoor public gathering sizes will be reduced to 175 people.
- Indoor public gatherings will be limited to no more than 100 people, given enough space for social distancing.
- Private gatherings will be limited to no more than 10 people.
- Restaurants and bars can remain open, with capacity limited by social distancing requirements.
- Hotels can remain open at 100% capacity.
With local COVID-19 cases increasing, Eagle County is expected to amend its current public health order Thursday and tighten restrictions on public gatherings.
The decision came out of the Wednesday morning work session of the Eagle County Commissioners. Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry said she expected the modified public health order to be issued Thursday morning.
Chandler-Henry said the move was prompted by the state. Eagle County Public Health Director Heath Harmon was contacted by former commissioner Jill Ryan, now the head of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Ryan told Harmon that Eagle County’s increasing virus cases require a mitigation plan. The county has two weeks to get its numbers down, or it could lose its exemption from current state public health orders.
The changes to the current public health order will have “some pretty big impacts,” Chandler-Henry said.
The first event canceled was Wednesday’s Avon Live concert in the park. Further events at the park have also been canceled.
“I deeply regret cancelling Avon’s free concert and film event series,” Avon Town Manager Eric Heil wrote in a statement. “But there is no other responsible choice considering the recent sharp increase in COVID-19 cases and the risk to school reopening plans and risk to keeping our businesses open.”
Also affected is Bonfire Block Party’s concert at the Eagle County Fairgrounds, originally scheduled for this weekend. In an email sent to ticketholders, organizers announced that the event was canceled and that credit card purchases would be refunded through Eventbrite, and cash payers should send a mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org so they can mail a check back.
While organizers are disappointed that the event was canceled on short notice, they understand the decision.
“Up until today, we had their full approval to move forward, and our creative plans for social distancing, crowd segmenting, and messaging were being applauded by fellow event producers and county staff alike,” said Bonfire Brewing Co-Owner Amanda Jessen. “We are absolutely in support of our county government’s efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 in our community, and had every confidence in our ability to produce a safe event. However, the process in which this decision was hastily handed down without warning carries with it an absolutely devastating economic impact to our business, as well as our partner Optimum Events and all the other event producers who relied on previous guidance from Eagle County.”
We need to be more cautious
Chandler-Henry said she understands the possible impacts of tightening group sizes. But, she added, “We’ve got to go back to being more cautious. By loosening restrictions, we may have sent a message that it’s OK to be out and about.”
Chandler-Henry said that most of the new cases are Eagle County residents, meaning that much of the spread has been from residents, not visitors.
Vail Economic Development Director Mia Vlaar said adapting to the rules so far has been “challenging.” But, she added, the town’s economic and event planning has to adapt to whatever public health orders are in place.
“We take that guidance and try to reimagine what we’re doing,” Vlaar said. That reimagination also has to be done in a way that still provides the high-level experience Vail’s guests expect, she said.
Vlaar said the town is ready to dial back group sizes to meet the new requirements.
Ready to adapt
“We’re prepared to do whatever we need to do,” Vlaar said. “We’re not going to just throw in the towel on this.”
Mark Gordon is a member of the Vail Commission on Special Events. That volunteer board works with town officials and private promoters to bring events into town.
“We need to put the health of our guests, residents and locals above everything else,” Gordon said. But, he added, that health goes beyond just safety from the virus, and includes behavioral and economic health. ”We need to do something to keep food on the table and roofs over our heads.”
Chandler-Henry acknowledged the impact on local businesses.
“It was a tough move to make,” she said, adding that county officials are working now with state and regional health officials to speed up getting test results. Delayed results mean people are either staying home from work longer than needed, or going to work and potentially infecting others.
That needs to change, she said.
In Vail, Vlaar said staying as open as possible is the intent of the town’s economic development team.
“We have an amazing community that pulls together and leads,” Vlaar said. “We don’t give up and we try the best we can.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at email@example.com.