Here are answers to many questions related to the “safer-at-home” phase of Colorado and Larimer County’s coronavirus response. Wochit
Confusion over state health orders regarding the COVID-19 pandemic is fueling frustration and anger directed at Larimer County officials.
Hard feelings are being expressed by residents and businesses wanting to know why the county is requiring people to wear face coverings in response to the novel coronavirus, Commissioner Steve Johnson said during a Tuesday commissioners’ meeting.
The county’s directive came after state and federal health officials said cloth face coverings were ineffective against the coronavirus in March, only to reverse themselves in April and encourage their use.
“The public is very confused and wondering who to believe,” he said.
Addressing the commissioners by phone, Tom Gonzales, the county’s public health director, said recent research has shown the people infected with the virus but showing no symptoms can be highly contagious.
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Masks are effective in stopping the spread of the virus from asymptomatic people, Gonzales said. They and social-distancing requirements are intended to protect other people from contracting the virus.
Gonzales said he understands the frustration people are feeling about mask orders and other measures taken to address the pandemic. But the county wants to follow the state health department’s lead in slowly opening businesses while monitoring the status of hospitals and other health facilities.
“This is just a step to make sure that we are continuing to slow the spread of COVID-19 with the best information we have today,” he said.
The county health department also is preparing to seek a waiver from all or part of the Safer at Home Order from Gov. Jared Polis that sets strict rules for opening businesses and services. A waiver request must be approved by local hospital systems, the county Board of Health and the county commissioners.
Gonzales said he hopes to have a document ready for review by early next week. But so far, Larimer County has not met some of the criteria for a waiver set by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
A waiver request must include a COVID-19 suppression plan showing the number of cases in the county is low enough to be contained, such as a decrease in the number of cases during the last 14 days or a decline in positive tests as a percentage of total tests.
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The plan also must indicate whether area hospitals have an adequate number of intensive care unit beds, ventilators and personal protection equipment.
Other criteria include describing alternative restrictions to what the state has ordered and how they would be effective in containing the disease.
To date, Eagle and Mesa counties have received waivers.
Johnson said he met with restaurant owners in Loveland who are frustrated and angry that the target for them being allowed to reopen for dine-in service appears to keep moving.
The state has not set a date for when restaurants may reopen.
Johnson said restaurant owners and their employees have worked for years to make their businesses succeed, and now their livelihoods and life savings are at stake.
The Colorado Restaurant Association has said one in five restaurants will have to close permanently if they cannot reopen by the end of May, Johnson said.
“I’ve told you several times that is unacceptable for me,” he said.
Restaurants need to know when they can reopen, Johnson said: They appear to be getting singled out through state and county restrictions.
Gonzales said everybody is being affected by the pandemic. The county is following the state’s orders while trying to ensure a medical surge doesn’t overwhelm the county’s health systems.
“It’s COVID-19 that caused this; not me, not my health department,” he said.
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