State officials have agreed to consider new county-by-county variances to red-level shutdown restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, but they warned rising case loads mean they will cast a skeptical eye on anyone hoping to replicate Mesa County’s “5-star” exemption program.
The Mesa County program, approved by the state and running since the summer, allows businesses like restaurants and bars that have earned the local health department’s trust to avoid some new restrictions each time case growth pushes the county to more restrictions on the state’s color-coded dial. Since Mesa County was pushed into the red, for example, approved businesses can stay open for in-person services, while the move to the state’s “red” level in other counties means a complete ban on in-person dining.
Last week, a group of Larimer County businesses rebelled and said they wouldn’t comply with the new red level since it would kill their commerce, and Larimer County’s state lawmakers asked Gov. Jared Polis if they could get the Mesa County variance. Douglas County’s commissioners wrote a similar letter to Polis. On Monday, Eagle County elected officials and town leaders from Vail, Avon and more started an online petition asking for similar treatment.
The state health task force agreed to take a look.
“The state will first be reviewing several weeks of data from the Mesa pilot to determine if such a program is compatible with the red level and make a final determination whether red counties are eligible following review of stakeholder input and analysis of how such a program would work within the dial framework,” the state health department said.