Garfield County to ask again on reopening of hot springs, other tourist attractions | PostIndependent.com
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Garfield County to ask again on reopening of hot springs, other tourist attractions

Miner's Claim waitress Desi Kirkpatrick takes a tray of drinks out to a table during dinner hours on Tuesday evening in downtown Silt.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Valley View COVID-19 Cumulative Stats 5/26/2020
  • Specimens collected thru Valley View: 1,450
  • Positive results: 52
  • Pending results: 39
  • Patients admitted with COVID-19 since outbreak began: 17
  • Patients discharged: 13
Grand River COVID-19 Cumulative Stats 5/26/2020
  • Specimens collected thru Grand River Health: 896
  • Positive results: 33
  • Pending results: 1
  • Patients admitted with COVID-19 since outbreak began: 2
  • Patients transferred: 2
  • Patients discharged: 0

The Glenwood Hot Springs Resort is ready to implement its COVID-19 reopening plan.

It’s just waiting for the go-ahead from state officials to do so.

Same for Iron Mountain Hot Springs, the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and other area tourist attractions.

For now, though, they remain idle after the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) over the weekend granted all but one of the variances requested by Garfield County to begin reopening businesses that have been shut down or severely limited since mid-March.

The county was granted the ability to allow the reopening of restaurants, gyms and fitness centers and places of worship at 50% capacity. However, a request to allow tourist attractions to reopen at 30% capacity was denied.

In a two-page reply to the county, the CDPHE gave no explanation for its decision on the latter, other than that the opening of tourist attractions statewide will be revisited on June 1.

Garfield County commissioners will meet Wednesday to discuss the county’s public health policies related to the COVID-19 response, and may formally ask again if tourist attractions could be allowed to open before that time.

“We filed our plan three weeks ago,” Hot Springs Director of Operations Kevin Flohr said. “It’s over 70 pages long and very, very detailed.

“Ours is a lot different … because we have all these separate businesses under one umbrella,” he said, referring to the Hot Springs Lodge, the pool, health club, spa, grill and retail shop.

The plan involves reopening at 30% capacity with strict social distancing guidelines in the pool, on the deck, in locker rooms and other locations, Flohr said. The newly completed improvements, including additional restrooms on the west side of the property, will help accomplish that, he said.

One-way walks zones have also been marked in just about every location around the pool, in the lodge, in the retail shop and in the locker rooms. Facemasks are required everywhere except when people are in the pool, he explained. And, the pool deck itself has been painted with squares where sets of two lounge chairs are to be spaced 6-feet apart.

“No. 1 priority is our employee safety training,” Flohr said. “Every single employee has gone through a training program.”

From personal safety and guest safety, to the difference between cleaning and sanitizing, even how to kindly but assertively remind people about safety protocols — it’s all been covered, he said.

Steve Beckley, who co-owns Iron Mountain Hot Springs and the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, said during a county commissioners meeting on Tuesday that he, too, was disappointed the state did not explain its decision to deny the reopening of tourist attractions.

“Multiple other hot springs are open in state,” he noted, referencing the Salida and Mt. Princeton hot springs resorts. Royal Gorge, with its gondola similar to the Adventure Park’s, is also now operating under a Chaffee County variance.

“These all sound very similar to my operation, so my question is, ‘how is someone else open, and we’re not?'” Beckley queried.

For his part, the plan to reopen the Caverns and Adventure Park calls for limiting capacity to between 30% and 50%, whatever the state will approve, restricting the number of people who can be in a gondola car and establishing ticket purchase times for customers to reduce crowding at the ticket window.

The Iron Mountain Hot Springs would be limited to 40% capacity on a reservation-only basis. Guests could change in the locker rooms, Beckley previously explained, but would use pool-side cubbies instead of lockers.

Garfield County Public Health Director Yvonne Long said during the Tuesday meeting with commissioners that some restaurants have already reopened at half-capacity under the approved variance, all with operating plans on file with the county.

Some are waiting to reopen later this week in order to have staffing and food supply orders in place, she said.

Christian Harra, owner of the Miner’s Claim Restaurant in Silt, said he had over 127 reservations for Tuesday night, “all spaced out,” he said.

The restaurant was completely shut down for five weeks and started doing takeout orders on April 22.

The town of Silt leased Eighth Street to Harra for a few months in order to accommodate additional outside seating.

“The town of Silt has been absolutely wonderful,” Harra said. “They’ve been phenomenal. I’ve got, essentially, another dining room at this point.

“It’s been tough serving plastic boxes,” Harra added. “We’re just trying to bring a little life back into the world here.”

As of Sunday, there had been a total of 134 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in Garfield, including some newer cases that trended over Mother’s Day weekend, Long said.

“That’s a pretty good indication what may happen, or not, after this past weekend,” she said.

Garfield County hospitals also released their latest COVID-19 data on Tuesday. Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs reported it had collected another 123 specimens for testing since last Thursday, and had confirmed three new cases since then and had one new hospitalization.

Grand River Health in Rifle had collected another 69 specimens for testing since the last report and also reported three new confirmed cases, but no new no new hospitalizations.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Post Independent reporter Matthew Bennett [mabennett@postindependent.com] also contributed to this report.


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