Routt, plus several other counties, say state’s COVID restrictions are inconsistent, frustrating and confounding
In a letter to the governor, the counties ask for their restaurants to be allowed to open at 25% capacity starting Friday
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt and several other counties in Colorado are sending a letter to Gov. Jared Polis pleading for restaurants in the counties to be allowed to open to 25% capacity and for the state’s dial framework to be implemented equitably across the state.
The draft letter currently includes Eagle, Pitkin, Grand and Summit counties in addition to Routt. Commissioner Tim Corrigan said they were hoping to have Clear Creek, San Miguel and La Plata counties sign the letter as well.
“We respectfully request, with great urgency, that you allow our restaurants to be open for limited indoor dining during the holiday season,” the letter reads. “We firmly believe we can put strong measures in place to minimize the risk of additional disease spread. 2020 has been a very dark year for many in our communities and allowing our restaurants to open their doors during the holidays would give them a much-needed glimmer of light.”
The letter asks Polis to allow restaurants in these counties to open at 25% capacity starting Friday until, at least, Jan. 3, 2021.
The letter points to what commissioners in several counties feel is inequitable and uneven application of the COVID-19 dial framework used across the state, especially in resort communities.
“The objective is to create a level playing field for our businesses, so that they have the same opportunities that businesses have in other counties that are in the same situation as we are,” Corrigan said.
Summit and Routt counties have been in level red of the state’s dial since before Thanksgiving. Both have shown signs of progress containing the virus in recent weeks yet, according to the letter, it seems there isn’t a change in levels planned for the foreseeable future.
Pitkin, Eagle and Grand counties have been in level orange during this time, allowing restaurants to be open at 25% capacity, despite two-week case incidence reports well into the level red metrics.
The five counties write that they find it “incredibly frustrating and confounding” that the counties are being treated differently despite all of them having somewhat similar case metrics.
“The inconsistent application of the state’s policies is of significant concern, and I think this is one strategy for addressing that,” said Commissioner Beth Melton. “I think the approach of working together with other counties that are in a similar situation is probably the best one to get results for our community.”
The letter also raises more concerns of being in level red in higher elevation communities where outdoor dining is not realistic at this time of year, and restaurants cannot get by on take-out orders alone. There have been protests in both Routt and Summit counties against level red restrictions that are keeping restaurants shuttered.
“Summit and Routt counties need only to look at the lines outside their food pantries or the stacks of new applications for food assistance in their human services offices to see how dire the situation has become,” the letter reads.
The letter points to resort communities’ seasonal economies with sometimes triple the amount of people in town depending on the time of year. Many restaurants will not recover if they cannot make some indoor capacity in the next three weeks, the letter says.
Leaders in the counties express concern about the ability of resort town grocery stores to keep up with increased pressure from out-of-towners. They fear that without the ability to eat at a restaurant tourists will “overrun” local grocery stores, which in turn will be unable to enforce their own capacity limits.
On Nov 16, Routt County was informed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment that it would be moving to level red, with restrictions going into place on Nov. 20.
Corrigan said the county did not volunteer to move to level red. He said they were told they had been moved to level red by the state.
“I think there are people that are purposely sending out misinformation claiming that the Routt County commissioners made a voluntary decision to move into red,” Corrigan said. “That is flatly not true.”
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