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One of Colorado's first counties to close will also be the first to reopen

Sticking to its ski industry roots, it's reopening plan is moving from beginner to its blue or intermediate phase.

EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. — Starting June 1, Eagle County is launching its phased-in approach to reopening county buildings that have been closed since March 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

And in typical Colorado fashion, this intermediate part of the reopening plan is called the "blue phase." 

Eagle County was one of the first counties to be hard hit by the novel coronavirus in March, and one of the first to close down. It was also the first to receive a variance from the state to begin to reopen certain businesses. 

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“Really it’s just for the most part to help the public and the rest of us and that guidance about how we do this,” Eagle County Commissioner Matt Scherr said. “It’s a big deal for us to get back to the fundamental idea of doing governance.”

The county starting allowing public gatherings of up to 50 people with social distancing on Monday -- significantly more than the state's limit of 10.  Dine-in services at restaurants and bars are also back in business with reduced capacity. 

Short-term lodging was also allowed to reopen with half the usual capacity. 

Credit: KUSA-TV

“It means so much for our community because that is our economy,” Scherr said.  “And it’s not just that…summer is a big season for us but it’s nowhere near the biggest.”

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As for municipal buildings? The county said its new operating process will include limited hours and will be in effect until June 22 when they plan to tentatively move into the next phase (the expert or "black" phase) of their transition.  

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) outlines the options available to local governments as things move forward:

  • Local governments can implement the guidelines of safer-at-home to match the state.
  • Local governments can go farther than the state, including but not limited to extended stay-at-home orders or additional protective measures.
  • Local governments can relax guidelines more than the state. To do so, they will need to demonstrate proof of 14 consecutive days of a decline in COVID-19 infections in the county. They also must submit an application to CDPHE that includes a written COVID-19 suppression plan approved by the appropriate local public health authority, all hospitals within the jurisdiction and elected leadership.

“Protocols that some of them are requiring more employees, we are right now looking for other staff that can help us,” Scherr said. 

To comply with public health orders, a reduced number of employees will be working in county buildings.  The remainder will continue to work remotely until the public health order is revised.  The county has added Plexiglas to in-person work stations as well as increased cleaning schedules and more sanitizer stations.

The state referenced the county's decline in COVID-19 cases since March and its efforts to keep the disease spread to manageable levels.

The county said even though it's reopening, it's still working to keep residents healthy.

Credit: KUSA-TV

“We do need to figure out how to do all this well and right and show the world that we really know what we’re doing because if we want our business back in the winter time,”  Sherr said.  “It has to be a safe place as possible so that we will get those visitors back again.”

For more information, click here:  https://www.eaglecounty.us/

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