The state and county Safer at Home public health orders do not mean that people can go anywhere they want, especially to recreate, or travel back and forth between their primary residence and a second home on weekends to get away and relax. It also doesn’t allow businesses to fully open.
The orders do allow people to travel within their counties for work and essential shopping, but limits recreational travel to within 10 miles of one’s primary residence.
Any type of gathering is limited to 10 persons. When in public, persons need to maintain a six foot distance from anyone else.
People are advised to wear nonmedical face coverings that fit over the nose and mouth when in public.
These points were repeated many times at the April 29 county commissioner work session and the commissioners’ regular meeting April 30.
Seated as the board of health, the commissioners revised the county public health order to align it with the state’s new order called Safer at Home.
The county order, effective through June 4, covers all land and property in Park County, including town, state and federal lands.
The orders are the first step to slowly resuming people’s daily lives and to slowly reopen the economy.
The Park County order states emergency and safety services are limited in rural counties.
Park County does not have a hospital and has one small clinic, so anyone needing emergency services must be transported to a facility out of the county.
The order states it is to protect emergency medical service personnel and Park County residents from undo exposure to the coronavirus.
“In these extraordinary times, I’m frustrated. It is discouraging that people aren’t staying home,” Commissioner Ray Douglas said at the April 29 work session.
He said at a recent Colorado Counties Inc. teleconference of mountain counties, all made the same comments. People are out and about and not following the rules.
Bars in several counties were overflowing with people, even though curbside pickup is still the rule.
Commissioner Mike Brazell said the Safer at Home orders meant people needed to still stay home as much as possible.
“This (virus) isn’t going away anytime soon,” Brazell said. “We need to open slowly or we’ll be in a worse spot and end up with more restrictions.”
He said the county is trying to protect first responders and at-risk populations.
Douglas asked that people remain patient and not just think of themselves.
Park County had 11 cases on April 28 and 14 cases by May 3, according to county information on the state website.
Brazell said residents that work out of county had done a good job of not bringing the coronavirus home to the county.
The biggest concern was the virus being brought to mountain counties by tourists and recreationalists.
He said San Miguel County had completed lots of testing of residents and found that 80 percent of the people who tested positive for COVID-19 did not have any symptoms.
Scott Dodge, Fairplay town trustee, said he was concerned about Prathers Market since a grocery store in Summit County recently had eight employees come down with COVID-19 and the store had to close.
If there was an outbreak at Prathers, some town residents would not be able to travel to buy food, he said.
Park County Sheriff Tom McGraw said over the weekend that bars were full and so were parking lots around Fairplay.
He said most people he saw did not have on masks. At one store in Fairplay, employees weren’t wearing masks and not keeping a six feet distance from each other.
“I think things will get worse and I’m afraid we’ll see more cases in Park County (as the state reopens),” McGraw said.
McGraw said his deputies had handed out 15 citations to people in short term rentals over the weekend.
Commissioner Dick Elsner said that commissioners from several counties expressed concern to the state government that some businesses as well as tourists and some residents weren’t following the rules.
They questioned how the state would enforce the orders if the state saw an increase in COVID-19 cases again.
Elsner said the governor said he would revoke liquor and any other business licenses if that is what it took for compliance with social distancing and other restrictions as the state reopens and cases spike again.
If counties or cities don’t follow state orders and guidelines, he will deny any FEMA funds requests he received from that entity.
Elsner supported that and said a president had threatened states with not receiving Highway Users Tax Funds in the 1970s if states did not reduce speed limits to 55 miles per hour.
Besides the governor’s and public health orders, Colorado’s Department of Transportation and Department of Natural Resources are reminding people to recreate close to home to keep from spreading the virus to other counties, to wear face coverings and limit groups to 10 or less.
A few hard hit counties chose to maintain the original Safe at Home order a little longer. For example, Jefferson County’s Safe at Home order will last at least until May 8.
The Safer at Home order allows some businesses to open in limited capacities with a 50 percent workforce.
Face masks must be worn by employees and customers plus all must maintain a distance of at least six feet from each other.
Short term vacation type rentals are still prohibited, not just in Park County, but in the entire state.
According to the county order, between 25 and 30 percent of emergency services calls in the county are related to short term rentals.
Park County’s website, www.parkco.us, contains links to all orders and guidance provided by the county and the state. Links are near the bottom of the home page under a drawing of the virus.
Up to date information can also be found at www.covid.colorado.gov.
Details on which business types that can reopen with restrictions are listed in Colorado’s public health order 20-28. A link is on the county website.
Sheila Cross, county development services director, posted a letter on the county’s website that outlines phase one of businesses reopening in Park County.
Any Park County business should refer to the letter and documents that are linked to it to learn what is required for each business type to reopen.
Bars, restaurants and marijuana stores are still restricted to delivery or curbside only. Gyms, recreation centers, performance venues and schools remain closed.
Cross’s letter states four requirements that are mandatory before any business reopens.
“Prior to reopening, businesses are required to clean in accordance with the CDPHE guidance, implement employee health screening, follow protective gear measures, and maintain and post social distancing protocols. These requirements are not optional.”
County offices, except for libraries and community centers, will reopen on May 11. Strict guidelines will be followed, “such as wearing face coverings, social distancing, and limiting the number of people in the buildings.”
The county encourages people to use online services when they can. Curbside services will still be available at county buildings.
More information will be posted during the first week of May as to how the county buildings will be reopened.
Elsner said he had spoken to Area One Wildlife Manager Mark Lamb before the work session.
Lamb told him even though Colorado Parks and Wildlife closed picnic areas, campgrounds, dispersed camping and camping facilities, Elevenmile State Park was over-run with people and campers on that morning. They were scheduled to open May 4.
Elsner said if people come to second homes in Park County for the summer months, to bring food and supplies with them to last at least two weeks, so they can self quarantine.
Vulnerable populations, such as those over 65, those with lung or heart conditions, pregnant women, those whose immune systems are compromised and any others determined by a doctor to be high risk should still stay at home as much as possible, according to the state order.
To that end, the Senior Coalition was able to find funding for food boxes for those over 60.
Bobbi Gore, Coalition director, said the boxes had enough food to last about two weeks.
Prathers Market filled boxes on the western side of the county and King Soopers on the eastern side. Prathers also made a donation to make the funding go further.
Elsner said public works will see impacts to road work because people aren’t driving as much, thus reducing state and federal HUTF funding to counties.
He asked Human Services Director Susan Walton about impacts to services, particularly Temporary Aid to Needy Families.
Walton said she didn’t expect to see impacts, but some counties had run out of funds already.
Elsner said several counties had asked the state to dip into state TANF reserves to help counties who needed more funding.
Elsner said the Land and Water Trust Fund would be impacted due to sales tax not being submitted for March by order of the governor to help businesses.
He expected less sales tax in the future because so many businesses were closed during part of March, April and some remaining closed in May Some may not be able to reopen.
Full impacts to the county, towns and special district budgets will not be known for a while.
For the most up-to-date information, visit the county and the state’s websites.