Jeffco variance in danger as COVID-19 cases rise, JCPH says

JCPH issued new order requiring those hosting large events to submit plan for distancing

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As COVID-19 case counts continue to rise sharply in Jeffco, Jefferson County Public Health's Executive Director is warning the county is in danger of losing a variance that allows larger gatherings to take place in Jeffco than are allowed under the current state public health order.

In response, JCPH on Monday issued Public Health Order 20-007, which requires venues hosting large events to provide a plan outlining how they will adhere to the state's Safer-at-Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors requirements to help ensure health and safety of staff and attendees.

Under the order, venues holding events with more than one designated activity area, which would permit more than 100 people inside or 175 people outside, must submit a plan to JCPH and receive approval in writing prior to such events taking place. The order took effect on Monday and is scheduled to remain in effect until Aug. 19, although it can be amended or extended. Large facilities, such as Bandimere Speedway, have been allowed to be divided up into separate activity areas provided the occupants of each area are kept separate from those of other activity areas.

“Today's order is one more piece of a comprehensive mitigation plan that we are preparing to help slow the spread in Jeffco as quickly as possible,” JCPH Executive Director Mark Johnson said in a statement. “We must take swift, strategic action now to help keep our cases below the permitted threshold, so we do not have to take giant steps backwards in our county's recovery efforts.”

As cases accelerate across the state, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) is requiring counties that are close to falling out of compliance with the requirements of their county variances because they have higher levels of the virus than permitted to take mitigation actions or risk losing those variances. Jeffco's first variance request was approved with the stipulation that it would be revoked if Jeffco saw 580 news cases in a two-week period. According to JCPH, Jeffco had 486 new cases between July 5-18.

“Having our local variance revoked would be detrimental to our residents and local businesses,” Johnson said in a statement. “In addition to requiring plans for large gatherings, we need residents to take this very seriously and do their part to help keep our cases down — wear a mask in when in public, stay 6 feet away from others who don't live in your home, wash your hands frequently and get tested and isolate if you have symptoms of COVID-19.”

Variances were granted to several local governments, including Jeffco which was granted its variance in early June, because those places were demonstrating progress in containing the spread of COVID-19. Jeffco's variance allowed more lenient capacity limits for gatherings and locations like malls and brewpubs than would otherwise be allowed under the state Safer-at-Home order. Jeffco had seen 317 new cases in the two weeks before Jeffco's first variance request was granted.

Jefferson County also submitted a second variance request later in June that would have further relaxed capacity limits. However, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced on July 16 that it would not be granting new variances for two weeks.

Current capacity requirements and other information related to COVID-19 reopening and best practices for Jeffco businesses can be found at www.jeffco.us/4047/Safer-at-Home-Order.

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