Local elected officials submit request to Governor’s office in hopes of loosening COVID-19 restrictions in Moffat County | CraigDailyPress.com

Local elected officials submit request to Governor’s office in hopes of loosening COVID-19 restrictions in Moffat County

Moffat County hopes to follow Eagle and Mesa County's lead in requesting exceptions to state health orders

The downtown section of Yampa Avenue sits empty during Gov. Jared Polis' stay at home order for the state of Colorado amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Joshua Carney / Craig Press

With COVID-19 cases relatively low in Moffat County in comparison to surrounding counties, local elected officials took a big first step forward Tuesday, submitting a letter and a detailed plan to Governor Polis’ office and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in hopes of following in the footsteps of Eagle and Mesa County, who recently had their requests to loosen COVID-19 restrictions within the county granted by Gov. Polis’ office.

The process to put together a thorough plan was long and stressful, County Commissioner Ray Beck said Tuesday morning. However, the Board of Public Health feels confident and comfortable with the plan, which was signed off on by Moffat County Public Health Director Kari Ladrow, Moffat County Public Health Medical Director Dr. Brian Harrington, and Memorial Regional Health Chief Executive Officer Andy Daniels, along with all three County Commissioners in Ray Beck, Donald Broom and Don Cook.

In the letter to the Governor’s Office and CDPHE Executive Director Jill Ryan, the Board of Public Health wrote the following:

“…The Moffat County Public Health Board is requesting exemptions from the State Orders in four areas. For Retail Businesses, the Board of Health requests that they be permitted to let patrons inside the store if they have a protective plan in place as outlined hereafter. The Board of Public Health is further requesting that gyms, movie theaters, and place of worship (as outlined in the Moffat County COVID-19 Suppression Plan) be permitted to open if a) strict physical distancing practices are possible, pursuant to the plan outlined in Exhibit B; b) they submit a formal disease mitigation plan; and c) receive approval by the Public Health Director, with advice from the Medical Officer. The Moffat County Board of Health is prepared to add restrictions back on if there is a significant increase in COVID-19 disease in our community.”

Prior to Tuesday’s final decision, it was a long, tense conversation between local elected officials, health officials, local business owners and concerned community members that featured much deliberation. In total, more than 10 hours were spent in meetings discussing the plan before coming up with a final plan to submit.

On Wednesday, April 22, the Board of Public Health, along with members of Craig City Council, held a meeting in the council chambers to discuss a way forward with the plan.

After more than 30 days under the Stay at Home order from Gov. Polis, which was signed into order March 27, and the closing of non-essential businesses locally, forcing people out of work in Moffat County, local officials were adamant that it’s time to get back to work.

“I’m more scared about the collapse of our local economy than I am of this virus,” Councilman Tony Bohrer said during the April 22 meeting. “We have to get people back to work here, not only for our local economy, but for people’s mental health.”

Following a number of tweaks to the initial plan, the Board of Public Health rolled out the final version Tuesday. Should the proposal be approved by Gov. Polis’ office, non-essential workers can return to work at a 50 percent capacity, as long as that business maintains proper social distancing and safe habits in the workplace.

Restaurants and bars will remain closed to the public at this time following the majority decision by business owners during an April 23 meeting between the Board of Public Health, City Councilors and local bar and restaurant owners.

“We obviously understand the seriousness of this virus and we want our community to be safe,” Commissioner Beck said Tuesday morning. “We just want to do what’s best for our community to get folks back to work in a safe way and return to some normalcy locally.”

Calling it a suppression plan, the Board of Public Health’s proposal to the state was outlined in a four-page document.

Moffat County Suppression Plan with best practices recommended by the Governor’s Office:

  • People are encouraged to stay at home except when absolutely necessary
  • Achieve 60-65 percent physical distancing
  • Sick people may not go to work
  • At-risk population are to stay at home except when absolutely necessary
  • Avoid unnecessary and non-essential travel
  • Implement no-touch payment, as appropriate
  • Urge businesses to do the following: Conduct daily temperature checks and monitor symptoms in employees – Provide hand sanitizer at entrances and other high-traffic locations
  • Encourage all public to wear masks to enter retail businesses
  • Appoint a COVID-19 workplace coordinator

Public gatherings

Under the proposed plan, close gatherings shall not exceed 10 people. Large venues (movie theaters, sporting venues, places of worship) can operate IF strict physical distancing practices are in place.  Additionally, the practice of wearing masks when in public places and in close contact with others to reduce risk of asymptomatic individuals spreading the virus to others is encouraged.

Critical Businesses

In the proposed plan to the Governor’s office, nothing changes for critical businesses, as they are expected to:

  • Practice six feet physical distancing (especially in common areas where employees are likely to congregate OR implement physical distance protocols)
  • Conduct standard office cleaning with increased frequency and supplement with sanitization of high touch surface areas
  • Provide employees with sanitization products and guidance on daily workspace cleaning routines
  • Post signage for employees and customers on good hygiene and new office practices
  • Maintain in-office occupancy of no more than 50 percent of total
  • Conduct daily temperature checks and monitor symptoms of your employees
  • Encourage use of gloves and masks for any employee and customer interactions
  • Encourage use of masks by employees
  • Provide hand sanitizer at entrances and other high-traffic locations
  • Continue to limit or prohibit non-essential travel
  • Implement or maintain flexible sick leave policies and practices
  • Consider accommodations for vulnerable populations such as hours where service is only provided with increased caution to vulnerable populations

The biggest change under the proposed plan is for non-essential workers and personal service businesses, such as hair salons, barbershops, nail salons, gyms, etc.

Under the proposed plan, personal services (salons, barbers, nail salons, spas, personal training services for under four people, pastoral services and dog groomers) are to be considered in the High Risk Category and have to adhere to strict guidelines:

  • Strict hygiene guidelines and sanitization procedures for all contact surfaces and tools
  • Use a minimum of separation of six feet between clients and customers when not directly performing this service
  • Post signage for employees and customers on good hygiene and safety measures
  • Minimize in home services with remote alternatives
  • Conduct symptom and temperature checks and log results for all employees
  • Wear medical grade mask and gloves, and practice meticulous hand washing if glove use is not feasible
  • Change gloves between every individual client
  • Maintain a log of customers in case contact tracing is necessary
  • Services with low contact (real estate, appliances, movers, repairs) maintain six feet of separation with customers (no open houses), require masks and gloves for customer interactions, provide guidance with hygiene precautions
  • Customers provide services by appointment only with no walk ins or waiting, require customers to wear masks, conduct symptom checks for all customers of services with personal contact and provide contactless payment

With the submission of the letter and the plan Tuesday, Moffat County now awaits a final decision from Gov. Polis and the CDPHE regarding the potential loosening of restrictions locally.

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