RIO GRANDE COUNTY- Rio Grande County is joining the long list of communities that are attempting to get back to what they will now deem close to normalcy.
A new public health order has been approved by the Rio Grande Board of Health. The COVID-19 variance request submitted by the county a week ago has been approved with one stipulation. In the letter received by the county Monday, May 18, state officials asked that they change their threshold of less than 15 percent to less than 10 percent. “Regarding the conditions to determine if the variance is providing the necessary public health protections, we are concerned that your proposed threshold of positive tests at 15 percent is too high, and instead ask that you reset this threshold no higher than 10 percent, as the current state threshold is less than 10 percent. We agree with your positive case threshold of 10 or fewer, as well as the 60 percent utilization of available hospital beds in the San Luis Valley. This variance approval is granted based on the facts and circumstances today as you have described them in your request. If any of the County’s thresholds of 10 or more cases under investigation, 10 percent positivity rate, or 60 percent hospital bed occupancy occurs, then this variance is automatically rescinded. Additionally, CDPHE reserves the right to modify or rescind this variance approval as circumstances warrant. This approval is in effect until the final expiration of PHO 20-28, which currently is set to expire May 26, 2020, but may be extended.”
All businesses that will be affected by the variance will be contacted by the county who will provide a list of guidelines they must follow before they can open. The date as to which they can open will be determined on when they can have all guidelines in place, which most businesses in the area have already planned for the phased opening and complied with the recommendations from county and state officials. It may not be the same normal that the community is used to, but it will be the start of the new normal for many.
The guidelines set by the variance are as follows in sections according to the type of establishment. Though these guidelines are directly from the document approved by the state, all questions should be directed to county officials and Rio Grande Public Health.
• Limit the number of customers to 30 percent of seating capacity
• Require signage on doors telling guests that are experiencing COVID-like symptoms not to enter
• Customers must wear face coverings when entering the restaurant until seated at their tables
• Customers must be asked prior to entering a restaurant whether they have any symptoms of COVID-19, and any customers reporting symptoms must be excluded
• Try to make accommodations for high-risk individuals (e.g. early opening, Senior hour) • Group pairs should be limited to six, ideally to members of the same household
• Bars shall remain closed, including those that are part of restaurants, except for preparing drinks for seated/takeout orders
• Place markings on the ﬂoor to maintain at least six feet distance in customer lines
• In-room dining shall follow strict physical distancing (6-feet)
• Customers should make reservations online or by phone
• Every effort should be made to notify customers via text or phone call when their table is ready so no one is waiting in a lobby
• Self-serving stations shall remain closed (drinking stations, bulk dry, etc.)
• Don’t allow public sharing of utensils or condiments
• Buffets shall have an employee serving the food, no self-serving allowed
• Require employees and contracted workers to monitor daily for symptoms, using CDC symptom guidance.
• Employees who are symptomatic must be excluded from the workplace and be required to isolate until they are fever free for 72 hours AND other symptoms have improved AND at least 10 days have passed since their symptoms ﬁrst appeared, per CDC guidance
• Employees and contracted workers must wear face coverings that cover the mouth and nose when in contact with the public and other employees
• Implement or maintain physical barriers for high contact (e.g. cashiers) when possible
• Implement touchless payment methods when possible
• Stagger shifts if feasible to decrease employee numbers at the business
• Limit reusable items (i.e. menus, condiments)
• If possible, provide hand sanitizer at table or in highly used locations
• Frequent cleaning and disinfecting of all services and increased frequency of high touch items/areas.
Places of Worship:
• Limit the number of participants to 30 percent of seating capacity AND spread people out so there is at least six feet distance between individuals or families throughout
• Require signage at doors telling guests that are experiencing COVID-like symptoms not to enter. Participants should be encouraged to wear a face covering both when entering and while present in the house of worship
• Participants must be asked whether they have COVID-19 symptoms at the door and excluded from the place of worship if symptomatic
• Consider accommodations for high-risk individuals (e.g. online viewing)
• Place markings on ﬂoors to maintain at least six feet distance where lines form
• Implement touchless offering and communion options as much as possible
• Monitor employees and volunteers by checking for fever greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, asking if they have a severe cough that started or has gotten worse in the last 48 hours, and by asking if they have shortness of breath that started in the last 48 hours
• Workforce (staff & volunteers) to monitor daily for symptoms, using CDC symptom guidance
• Workforce (staff & volunteers) who are symptomatic must be excluded from the facility and be required to isolate until they are fever free for 72 hours AND other symptoms have improved AND at least 10 days have passed since your symptoms ﬁrst appeared, per CDC guidance
• Workforce (staff & volunteers) must wear face coverings when in contact with the public and other workforce members
• Perform frequent cleaning and disinfection of bathrooms and high-touch surfaces.
The suppression plan highlights specific trigger points that will require the county to either tighten restrictions or shut places down again is and when a trigger point is met. These guidelines and the suppression plan will be given to business owners and can be found online on the county’s website at www.riograndecounty.org