Updated: Regulations and educational material to guide businesses in their reopening decisions can be found here:
Weld County will continue to release more best practices for specialized businesses; however, the commissioners have made it clear that all businesses are allowed to open under the new “Safer at Work” order. The onerous to be safe and responsible is being placed on the business owner and the general public.
GREELEY — The Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment is expected to release a set of best practices guidelines by close of business today that will guide businesses in the county on how they can best reopen in a Covid-19 world.
What businesses can reopen their doors is not exactly clear, but it appears they may include restaurants, gyms and other businesses still closed on state level.
“It’s a framework that people can live in as we move forward in living our lives with COVID-19,” said Weld County Commissioner Scott James. “COVID is here. It’s not going away. We have to empower the individual and the business owner with information essential to them to make the personal decisions they need to make in their lives and business as we move forward.”
The guidelines come a day after Gov. Jared Polis said two more weeks or more of lockdown won’t change the model because the virus is here permanently. Polis stressed that the shutdown was never intended to stop the spread of cornovirus but only to give hospitals time to be able to handle the number of infected who need medical help. Polis also said health officials fully expect the numbers of hospitalizations and deaths to increase once the state is opened up and until either herd immunity exists or a vaccine or cure can be found.
Polis, however, said the state cannot withstand the economic damage that would come with a continued stay-at-home order. That damage can already be seen in record unemployment rates, the oil and gas industry crashing and crime and suicide rates rising daily, which has generated growing pushback from the public in the form of nationwide protests.
James said details about Weld’s re-opening are still being finalized, but they will be recommendations, not requirements, and they are likely to include everything from suggested gathering sizes, masks, sanitizer and other social distancing policies already in place.
“If you have a restaurant that seats 100, maybe they should only seat 25,” James said. “But when it comes to commerce no one knows how to innovate better than business themselves. So, let business innovate so they can earn the trust of their consumer.”
Weld County Commissioners met by conference call with all the mayors in Weld this morning, and they have a call to finalize all the details with the health department’s Dr. Mark Wallace this afternoon. They hope to have the full details released by the end of the day.
James would not get into detail about what this means for businesses that Gov. Jared Polis has said he is going to wait to open until at least mid-May, such as restaurants, gyms and movie theaters. He did say, however, that he believes in free market and it’s up to individual business to put in place best practices before opening that will earn the trust of their customers.
James said government cannot tell businesses they cannot be open, and he believes Polis understands that.
“Polis said on Monday these orders are unenforceable,” James said. “The governor’s authority through the director of public health is to quarantine an individual based on evidence that individual is sick. He does not have the authority to quarantine the (healthy).”
James added Weld Counties guidelines will help businesses move from the red-light they are currently stopped at to a yellow light, with the ultimate goal of getting to the green light. But the speed in how those transitions happen is ultimately up to the individual business owner, not the government.
“Do I as an individual think it’s responsible to open a restaurant right now? I don’t,” James said. “But that is a relationship between the business and its consumer. Who am I as a government official to insert myself in between that relationship?”
James said ultimately what Weld County’s orders will do is put the responsibility back on the consumer and the business to determine what they believe is safe, based on the guidelines set forth by the health department to assist in making those decisions.
“If the consumer does not feel safe, then by all means the consumer should not go out,” James said. “Social distancing is social distancing. The things we’ve been saying since the onset of this, they still apply.”
Complete Colorado will update the story with the full directions of the department when they are released later today.