MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KREX/KFQX)- On Monday, Mesa County moved from red to orange on the state’s COVID-19 risk dial. Restaurants can open at 25 percent capacity, and non-critical retail can move to 50 percent capacity. This comes after Mesa County has seen a decrease in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
“For percent positivity and hospitalizations we’re actually at yellow right now. So we’re doing very well,” said Mesa County Public Health Director Jeff Kuhr.
While Mesa County’s two week new case count remains high, the county’s percent positivity and new hospitalization rate remains favorable on state public health metrics, ( see above graphics). This came after Gov. Jared Polis announced last week all counties in the red status on Colorado’s COVID-19 risk dial could move to orange on Jan. 4 after a statewide decrease in new hospitalizations, new cases, and percent positivity of COVID-19 tests.
But dozens of restaurants and businesses in Mesa County are part of Mesa County Public Health’s Variance Protection Program (VPP), which allows businesses to operate with lesser COVID-19 restrictions provided they prove they’re implementing safe practices. Kuhr says the move from red to orange won’t really impact many businesses already in the VPP
“We’ve actually been working with them more based off of how they spread their furniture out to create that social distancing,” Kuhr said when referring to restaurants. “With orange it’s around 25 percent. We’re close to that, slightly ahead of it.”
Margie Wilson owns Grand Valley Books in downtown Grand Junction. She feels a move to level orange might improve business in to downtown restaurants, which she says increases traffic in her store. Wilson says her store recently got its own five star variance-, and she was told she too, could increase capacity.
“We were told when we got the variance, the five star variance, that we could now increase it to half of our capacity, which would be 25 people in the store.”
But Wilson adds she’s going to play it safe and keep capacity limited to 10-12 people.
Although Mesa County is now in level orange, public health officials still urge the public to wear face coverings in public spaces, and limit interactions with those outside one’s household.