Some Douglas County businesses were able to operate under more lenient restrictions after the state gave permission Feb. 2.
Instead of 25% capacity or 50 people, restaurants and gyms certified by the county were given approval to operate at 50% capacity or 50 people, whichever is fewer.
“I’ll take anything with more capacity,” said Brandi Fehringer, owner of Rory’s Diner in Parker. “I’ll take what I can get at this point. I’d much rather have people dining in than trying to convince them to eat outside in the snow.”
That decision from the state comes after the county’s number of cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people, or incidence rate, was below 350 for seven days, meeting the state’s level orange requirements on the dial. This meant certified businesses could operate under the looser level yellow restrictions.
The move came just days before Gov. Jared Polis announced that the state’s new COVID-19 Dial 2.0 would go into effect as of Feb. 6. The move placed Douglas County and many other metro-area counties in level yellow. It’s possible that under this new dial, the county’s certified businesses could soon move to operating at level blue restrictions.
The state’s dial program has been used throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to set countywide restrictions based on the severity of local virus spread.
“We congratulate Douglas County’s residents and businesses for their role in reducing COVID-19 transmission here,” according to a statement from the county commissioners, released through a spokesperson. “Their dedication to a healthier community led to the public health metrics we have today, creating the opportunity for our 5 Star Businesses to open with greater capacity while adhering to the COVID safety measures required of this program.”
The county’s COVID Best Practices Business Certification Program is the local version of the state’s 5 Star program. Both programs are designed to allow approved businesses, which have been certified by the county after taking extra measures to reduce the spread of the virus, to operate a level lower than other local businesses.
The local program was first approved for the county Dec. 23. At the time, the county was in level red on the state’s dial, which disallowed any indoor dining and greatly restricted businesses such as gyms. Once the program was approved, certified businesses were able to operate in level orange, which allows limited indoor dining.
However, when on Dec. 30 Polis announced he was moving all level red counties to level orange — even when they didn’t meet the appropriate data — all county businesses, including those certified, were allowed to operate at that level.
CDPHE clarified that for 5 Star businesses to be allowed to operate under level yellow, their counties would have to actually meet the required level orange data for seven days. As of Feb. 2, that stipulation has been met by Douglas County, according to an email from CDPHE to the county.
“It’s changed so many times ... it makes people a little unsure,” Fehringer said. “We all try to do whatever to keep things safe.”
Fehringer said the Parker community has been incredibly supportive of her business during this difficult period.
“Things are good,” Fehringer said. “I wish they were better.”
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