Colorado releases draft guidelines for restaurants to possibly avoid some COVID-19 restrictions

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DENVER — Colorado health officials Friday released draft guidelines that could give businesses, including restaurants, the opportunity to avoid certain COVID-19 restrictions if they are certified through their local health agency.

The so-called “5 Star” program is currently underway as a pilot program in Mesa County, which is among the more than dozen Colorado counties on Level Red of the state COVID-19 dial. Level Red prohibits indoor dining and implements other COVID-19 restrictions, but restaurants in the 5 Star program would be eligible to avoid some restrictions if specific protocols are followed and they are certified.

The state has not said which restrictions would be lifted for certified businesses in Level Red counties. Businesses in Level Orange counties would be eligible to operate under Level Yellow capacity guidelines, and Level Yellow businesses would be eligible to operate under Level Blue restrictions.

No counties are currently in the newly-formed Level Purple on the COVID-19 dial, but businesses in those counties would not be eligible for the 5 Star program.

Read the full draft guidelines from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment here.

The qualifications include:

• A written plan about the restaurant will implement or exceed state prevention guidelines and local guidelines and how they will enforce compliance.

• All employees undergoing symptom checks.

• Regular outreach to customers and employees about exposure notifications.

• Recording the name and contact number of customers to be used for contact tracing.

• Complying with site-specific guidelines, such as spacing of 10 feet for tables at restaurants and reservations; reservations at gyms and personal service businesses; and any other industry-specific requirements that will be developed.

Any business that has already been cited for a public health order violation will be ineligible to be certified.

Under the draft guidelines released Friday, the 5 Star program would be suspended if a county reaches more than 90% of its hospital capacity or if it reaches Level Red metrics for more than two weeks.

Mesa County’s pilot program will be reviewed by Dec. 4 and parameters of a statewide program will be finalized by Dec. 14, with the program able to launch by Dec. 18.

The CDPHE on Friday said that due to high levels of COVID-19 in Colorado, the agency would be reviewing the Mesa County program “to determine if such a program is compatible with the Red level and make a final determination” on whether the 5 Star program should move forward.