Business/Economy, Constitutional Law, Coronavirus, Glenwood Spings, Health Care, Legal, Original Report, Scott Weiser

Garfield County maneuvers around ‘Level Red’ mandate; declares restaurants, other businesses as critical

GLENWOOD SPRINGS–The Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) passed a resolution Thursday to place indoor sit-down dining, non-critical retail, gyms and recreation into the critical businesses category under county health regulations so that the businesses do not have to shut down under the state’s “Level Red” COVID designation for Garfield County.

The BOCC believes it has the authority to set policy as to which businesses in the county are deemed “essential” and can be placed in the critical business category that allows them to operate at 50% capacity.

“I’m shocked and disappointed by the state of Colorado,” said Commissioner Tom Jankovsky. “This really hurts gyms and restaurants. From my perspective, it’s discriminatory against these businesses and those who work for them. It’s a shutdown through the holidays.”

Complete Colorado reported recently that data from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) does not appear to support the idea that restaurants are major vectors for spreading the virus.

Josh Williams, Mental Health Manager for Garfield County Public Health said the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) is constantly changing rules and definitions.

“One we’ve seen is houses of worship as well as life rites that now have been unrestricted,” said Williams. “That is pretty much how they operate, even as we are being told that we need to increase restrictions in other areas.”

CDPHE loosened restrictions on religious observances as the result of a November U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down restrictions on religious liberties different than those applied to other businesses in a case out of New York.

Speaking to how the resolution would work, Garfield County Attorney Tari Williams said it puts the businesses on an equal footing with other businesses.

“Parts of those industries would move into the critical business category and follow the rules that applied there. And those rules really have not changed from yellow,“ said Williams. “They would be treated the same way as Walmart, Lowes and grocery stores. That’s one way that helps balance the economic impact a little bit more locally. But it still allows citizens to make their own decisions about whether they want to go into an indoor situation or not. By getting the information out there, people can make those choices, but it doesn’t foreclose the businesses from continuing to operate.”

She told the BOCC that municipalities within the county like Glenwood Springs and Carbondale can set stricter requirements if they wish.

Commission President John Martin was outspoken in his objection to the county being placed in the red category.

“I’m thinking of people first, businesses and economy second, as well as local control. I answer as hell no,” said Martin. “I’m saying exactly where we are. We need to do that for our businesses, for our survival as well as taking care of our folks, so that they can have faith in our health department doing their job. And making sure that the priorities are correct for Garfield County, not just for the state of Colorado. So my answer again is Hell no, I’m not moving.”

The BOCC will consider the resolution again on Monday during their regular meeting.

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