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State approves Eagle County’s request to lift some COVID-19 restrictions

Eagle County is now preparing a new Public Health Order and expects changes to take effect on Monday.

EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. — Once an early COVID-19 hotspot, Governor Jared Polis now calls Eagle County “an inspiration.”

On Thursday, state health officials formally approved a request from that county to lift some of the COVID-19 restrictions early. The Governor praised Eagle County for its work to manage virus cases there, and prepare for any potential new ones.

RELATED: Colorado Gov. Polis 'virtually visits' Eagle County, says he expects it will be the first in the state to reopen

“It is really appropriate that one of the first and hardest-hit counties is the first to really have your act together in a way that has the full confidence and the support of the state of Colorado in addressing this crisis moving forward,” he said during a “virtual appearance” before county leaders on Thursday.

Eagle County made that request before Governor Polis announced his upcoming Safer-at-Home model, set to start Monday.

RELATED: Polis says 'testing alone' won't be enough to reopen Colorado, emphasizes multi-pronged approach

RELATED: Colorado moving to 'safer-at-home' status; here's what we know so far

Eagle County’s local request is similar. It would allow non-essential businesses and some recreation facilities to reopen under strict social distancing rules: Restricted to 10 people or less, ensure that people could stay six feet apart (or further) and face masks strongly encouraged. 

Eagle County health leaders are drafting a new public health order with more details, which is expected to be shared publicly on Friday.

The changes apply to residents of Eagle County only. County leaders say visitors are still not welcome.

“Both the rational and the proposed step-down plan are thoughtful. Eagle County is well-positioned to take the next step,” said Jill Ryan, Director of Colorado Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

“It is clear that you are not proposing to be open for business… but rather you’re using a model, similar to the state's upcoming safer-at-home model, that still promotes people staying at home and working from home but with a thoughtful loosening of restrictions around some businesses.”

Mesa County has also requested permission to lift some specific restrictions. Ryan said CDPHE is reviewing that request and said the state will likely approve it this weekend.

Mesa County leaders said they’ve had 37 COVID-19 cases, six hospitalizations, and zero deaths since the virus was first detected in that county. Like Eagle County, Mesa said the number of local cases has continued to decline in recent weeks.

Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese said the county went through several drafts and sought community input on the best way to proceed with plans to lift some restrictions. Phase One would allow businesses to reopen with strict social distancing rules (no more than 10 people, stay at least 6 feet apart, masks encouraged). She said restaurants would be allowed to reopen under these rules, but bars would remain closed.

The Mesa County proposal calls for large venues to remain closed and places like nursing homes to still prohibit visitors. Elective surgeries could resume. Pugliese said the county would assess the virus situation after two weeks to see if they can take further steps to reopen or scale back instead.

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