Businesses reopening under local pandemic guidelines

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Jeff Kuhr

Mesa County businesses have begun to reopen under local guidelines intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but also allow for additional operations.

Jeff Kuhr, the executive director of Mesa County Public Health, encouraged business owners and managers to familiarize themselves and their staffs with the guidelines as they open their facilities and welcome back customers

The changes come as cases of coronavirus remain less prevalent in Mesa County than other areas of Colorado. According to the latest numbers from Mesa County Public Health, there have been 49 positive cases and no deaths.

But the effects from the pandemic and related restrictions and business closures on the labor market in Mesa County have been severe. Initial claims for unemployment benefits have decreased in each of the last three weeks. But for the four-week period ending April 18, claims still totaled 6,661.

What’s called the Safter at Home Mesa County plan was instituted after a request for variances from statewide orders was approved. Kuhr covered the guidelines and answered questions during a webinar presented by the Grand Junction, Fruita and Palisade chambers of commerce.

Retail outlets, restaurants, personal care businesses and gyms are allowed to reopen with limits on how many people are allowed inside at a given time. Offices can also open with up to half the staffs working there. Churches can resume services, but with no more than 50 people in attendance.

Bars remained closed, however. And events, festivals and other gatherings of more than 10 people remain prohibited.

Kuhr said he hopes for a gradual transition rather than a rush. Businesses that have done well in offering curbside and delivery services might continue operating that way.

While the plan allows many businesses to reopen, capacity limitations and physical distancing requirements are imposed, Kuhr said.

Retail businesses are allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity or at a capacity that enables customers to maintain social distancing. Employees must wear face masks and gloves during customer interactions and retail and storage spaces must be cleaned and sanitized.

While the retail areas of wineries may operate, tasting rooms must stay closed, Kuhr said.

Restaurant dining areas are limited to 30 percent of the capacity allowed under building and fire codes. Parties are limited to six people from the same household. Customers aren’t allowed to wait inside for a table. They’ll be contacted by texts or phone calls when their tables are ready. Customers also will be required to wear face masks until they reach their tables and remain at least 6 feet away from others.

The same types of provisions apply to gyms in limiting use to 30 percent of capacity and requiring customers to wear face masks and maintain distancing. Customers also must disinfect exercise equipment after each use. Swimming pools, spas and locker rooms remain closed. Group classes are prohibited.

Offices are allowed to open with up to 50 percent capacity, although work-at-home arrangements are encouraged, Kuhr said. Meetings of more than 10 people should be avoided and distancing maintained.

Such large venues as movie theaters, bowling alleys and sports facilities remain closed. Large private events like weddings involving more than 10 people also are prohibited

Elective surgeries and other medical procedures have resumed.

Parks remain open, although playgrounds remain closed. No sports leagues or instruction are permitted.

Business owners and managers with questions about the Safer at Home Mesa County plan should contact Mesa County Public Health, Kuhr said. “We’re trying to help everyone through this process.”

For more information about provisions of the Safer at Home Mesa County plan, log on to http://health.mesacounty.us, call  683-2300 or send an email to healthinfo@mesacounty.us.