Coalition proposed variance plan based on Mesa County efforts

A business certification program implemented in response to the pandemic in Mesa County could serve as a model for similar efforts elsewhere in Colorado.

A coalition of businesses, chambers of commerce, hospitals and trade associations submitted a proposal to Colorado Gov. Jard Polis and the director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to implement the program.

The proposal is based on the Mesa County 5 Star program, which allows participating businesses following public health guidelines and best safety practices to operate under less stringent conditions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The coalition includes the Fruita, Grand Junction, Palisade and Western Colorado Latino chambers of commerce as well as Mesa County Public Health and Mesa County hospitals.

The coalition also includes the Colorado Chamber of Commerce, Colorado Restaurant Association and National Federation of Independent Business.

Under the coalition proposal, businesses implementing best safety practices will be allowed to remain open.

Businesses will be allowed to operate at 50 percent of their normal capacity regardless of the risk level in individual counties.

The proposal would allow any county to participate without going through an approval process with the CDPHE. That would enable local control among various partners in counties.

According to the coalition, the pandemic has created a crisis that extends beyond the health risks associated with COVID-19 to social issues resulting from businesses closing and people losing jobs.