Garfield County approved for 5-Star variance — businesses can begin operating at 50% once incidence rate drops significantly |

Garfield County approved for 5-Star variance — businesses can begin operating at 50% once incidence rate drops significantly

City of Glenwood Springs Economic Development Specialist Matt Nunez conducts a Facebook Live video talking about the new dining igloos placed underneath the Grand Avenue Bridge in Bethel Plaza Thursday morning.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Restaurants, bars and other businesses that decide to participate in Garfield County’s newly approved 5-Star Program could begin accepting more customers for sit-down service once the county’s COVID-19 incidence rate drops.

The 5-Star Program, a certified variance request made in January by several Garfield County entities, was approved by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment last week.

In order to operate at greater capacity than the state would otherwise allow, it requires certified businesses to implement safety measures beyond what is required by public health orders and guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19, according to a Friday news release from Garfield County Public Health.

By adding additional safety measures, any participating businesses will be able to expand operations to 50% indoor capacity. In the meantime, many restaurants continue to offer heated outdoor seating in addition to limited indoor capacity. The city of Glenwood Springs has also placed several personal “igloo” structures along Seventh Street for take-out customers.

“Garfield County meets the percent positivity and hospitalization metric criteria for this program; but has not met the incidence rate metric criteria.

Through Saturday, the county’s COVID-19 test positivity rate was 6.6%, which is within the target to operate at level yellow (concern), on the state’s metric dial, or 50% capacity for most businesses. However, the incidence rate remained at 505.3 per 100,000 people, which is still in level red (severe risk).

Overall, Garfield County remains at level orange (high risk), meaning restaurants are allowed to operate at 25% indoor capacity.

Once the county meets a two-week cumulative incidence rate of less than 350/100,000 population and sustains it for 7 consecutive days, CDPHE will confirm that the program is approved to proceed, according to the release.

Certified businesses are then permitted to operate at reduced restrictions, according to the Jan. 27 contingent approval letter from CDPHE.

Each participating business can operate at one less-restrictive dial metric below the county’s actual level currently in place.

In other words, since Garfield County is currently categorized as level orange, the 5-star program will allow certified establishments to operate at a less-restrictive level yellow.

Until Garfield County’s incidence rate meets level orange metrics, all 5-Star-certified businesses will still be required to operate at orange-level standards, which only allows up to 25% capacity, the release states.

In early January, Garfield County’s incidence rate was 798 cases per 100,000 people, and at one point in December was above 1,000 cases/100,000.

Any businesses within Garfield County interested in becoming 5 Star certified are encouraged to visit the county’s website to review program requirements and fill out the application, the release states.

“Once these metrics are achieved, the certified businesses will be able to operate at Level Yellow restrictions, or 50 percent capacity,” the release states. “The program is completely voluntary for businesses and will be offered to restaurants first. There is no cost for businesses to participate in the program.”

As the program successfully rolls out and COVID-19 numbers continue to decline, additional business sectors will become eligible for certification, the release states.

The 5 Star program can remain in operation as long as public health guidelines and protocols are followed to help keep COVID-19 case numbers from expanding.

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