This article first appeared in the Vail Daily on April 22, 2020
EAGLE COUNTY — As the state readies to ease restrictions on stay-at-home orders, much of the fine tuning will be left to counties to implement tighter or looser restrictions in the weeks that follow.
Eagle County will be the first to receive such an easement on Thursday, as Gov. Jared Polis is expected to usher in the formal approval of the county’s request for some exemptions from the state’s COVID-19 executive and public health orders. The easement is expected to allow for gatherings of 10 or less, as well as the opening of some parks, retail shops and service businesses.
Polis’ virtual visit to Eagle County is scheduled to take place at 3:30 p.m.
In a speech on Wednesday, Polis announced how the county-to-county approach to COVID-19 restrictions will function.
“Every city and county, of course, should have that flexibility to meet their needs,” Polis said Wednesday. “And that means that if they want to relax guidelines, they can apply for a waiver from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.”
Eagle County was the first in the state to apply for such a waiver.
“Just common-sense requirements there for that waiver,” Polis said. “They need to, of course, show that they have a low case count or demonstrate a proof of 14 consecutive days of decline … and secondly, a written county COVID suppression plan must be in place, it must be thoughtful, approved by the appropriate county health authorities, hospitals within the jurisdiction, and elected leadership.”
Polis said the local flexibility can go both ways.
“There will be times your county health department has to do more, perhaps in a targeted way,” Polis said. “And there will be times that they want to allow more flexibility, that’s wonderful, of course, as long as you can meet those guidelines.”
In allowing more flexibility in Eagle County, Colorado Public Health and Environment Executive Director Jill Ryan said the standards won’t be widened enough by the state to allow for tourism.
Colorado, through social distancing and stay-at-home orders, has reached a 75 to 80 percent reduction in the type of social interactions that can spread COVID-19, Ryan said this week in a presentation with Dr. Jonathan Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health.
But that number will need to remain above 65% in order to persist at a level where the number of ICU beds available is not exceeded in the coming months.
Ryan said Tuesday that 65% figure will not allow for tourism.
“To maintain a level of 65 percent social distancing, in general, people should stay in their own counties except to work or for necessities,” she said. “Tourists would breach that 65% level.”
Recreation on public lands is limited to in-county residents, and Polis on Wednesday said even within one’s county, recreation should occur close to one’s residence.
“When you’re walking or biking on a trail that others might be on, wear a mask,” Polis said. “And then recreate close to your home, within 10 miles.”
While Polis was himself expected to travel to Eagle County this week for the announcement of the easing of restrictions in Eagle County, the governor said Wednesday that the visit will be virtual.
The virtual visit will occur at 3:30 p.m. and will include the Eagle County Board of Commissioners and officials from Vail Health. In-person attendance of the governor’s virtual visit will not be permitted, the governor’s team announced on Wednesday.
The event will be aired live on ECGTV, available at http://www.ecgtv.com and on Comcast channel 18 and CenturyLink channel 18 and 1018 in the Eagle River Valley. The event will also be available via Facebook Live at http://www.facebook.com/EagleCounty.