La Plata County this week moved into Level Orange on the state’s COVID-19 status dial, an improvement over Level Red, giving 54 restaurants that have achieved 5-Star certification the ability to operate at 50% indoor capacity.
“All the metrics are looking really good. And they’ve been on a pretty steep downward decline for a good period of time now,” said Tim Walsworth, executive director of the Business Improvement District.
He added: “However, Level Orange is called ‘high risk.’ And so even though things are getting better, we want to echo what public health is saying: We’ve got to stick with the protocols still. So you know, what they are – mask wearing, washing hands, limiting your social interactions when you’re outside your family.”
To meet Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Level Orange metrics, a county must show new COVID-19 cases ranging from 175 to 350 people per 100,000 population, a positivity test rate not greater than 15%, and stable and declining hospitalizations.
La Plata County’s two-week case rate from Jan. 19 to Feb. 1 was 207.9 per 100,000 population. Its positivity rate is 2.6%, and 55% of its ICU beds were in use.
For the week beginning Jan. 24, La Plata County issued 2,228 PCR nasal swab tests with 2,170 negative tests and 58 positive cases, according to data on San Juan Basin Public Health’s website.
La Plata County was allowed to enter Level Orange in December by Gov. Jared Polis along with 32 other counties. Polis said enough progress had been made combating the virus to move out of Level Red even though the counties technically had not yet met state health department criteria to enter Level Orange.
With the county now meeting the criteria, 5-Star restaurants are able to operate at 50% indoor dining capacity or a maximum of 50 diners, whichever is fewest. 5-Star restaurants are now able to move their last call to 11 p.m.
For restaurants that are not 5-Star certified, indoor dining capacity remains at 25% and the last call remains at 10 p.m.
5-Star gyms and fitness centers also are now eligible to open to 50% capacity or 50 people maximum, whichever is fewer. Non-5-Star gyms remain at 25% capacity.
The voluntary 5-Star certification program enables county businesses that meet enhanced safety guidelines to open at greater capacity than allowed under the state’s COVID-19 status dial.
“This program does a great job of balancing public health with economic health,” Walsworth said.
Businesses interested in applying for the 5-Star program can visit swcoda.org/5star-laplata to learn more about the certification program.
La Plata County’s 5-Star program eventually is expected to extend certification for added indoor capacity to indoor events businesses, such as theaters, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and other fraternal organizations.
In addition, the program is expected to eventually enroll personal service businesses like salons, barbers and spas. Eventually, the La Plata County 5-Star program looks to begin certifying offices.
“We might be able to qualify some offices to get a few more of their employees back in. Think about CPAs. Now’s the time of year where they start ramping up for tax season, and everybody working from home can be challenging,” Walsworth said.