virus map

A map of southwest Colorado shows confirmed COVID-19 cases by county, including 23 in San Miguel County. Officials announced new public health orders Friday in continuing to reopen. County public health director Grace Franklin said the caseload has been spread out locally over the last couple of months. (Courtesy image)

San Miguel County announced new public health orders Friday, which will go into effect Monday after the current ones expire Sunday and will mirror the latest, anticipated state orders.

The biggest difference between a potential new state order and the county’s concern short-term lodging, which includes hotels, motels, homeowner rentals, privately owned residences for rent like Airbnb, time shares, bed and breakfasts, and lodges. If the state does not address privately owned short-term rentals next week, then the county will do what it is allowed to in regards to that sector locally. The potential new state orders were not announced in time for the meeting or as of press time Friday afternoon.

“We’ve been told they will be addressing this on June 1, but we are moving forward, expecting further guidance,” public health director Grace Franklin said. “If the state does not update its orders, we will move forward with what is allowable.”

The reopening of county lodging will follow a phased approach that

Telluride Alpine Lodging’s Larry Mallard presented to officials Wednesday.

Mallard explained earlier in the week that the plan was developed in cooperation with county public health officials and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

On Monday, June 1, lodging rentals will open on a limited basis not to exceed 25 percent of maximum occupancy as determined weekly by the Telluride Tourism Board (TTB). June 22 was proposed for lodging rentals to increase to no more than 50 percent of maximum occupancy as determined weekly by the TTB. And, pending any future revised public health orders, by July 13 lodging rentals would be allowed to move to no more than 75 percent of maximum occupancy, again as determined weekly by the TTB.

The plan will be subject to continual monitoring by public health officials, as a lodging oversight advisory committee will be formed. The compliance with protocols surrounding social distancing, hygiene and other measures are based on recommendations issued by federal and global health organizations such as the CDC and WHO.

Officials said the initial 25 percent allowance would equal approximately 1,500 total visitors, but Mallard said Friday that people shouldn’t expect a surge too soon since several local hotels aren’t planning to fully reopen Monday as preparations must be made to do so, including proper training and protocols.

“Not a lot of folks are going to open on June 1. It’s just too short of a timeline, and they’re worried about business levels,” he said, adding that Telluride Alpine Lodging is one of them. “ … You probably won’t see any real visitors here until that Phase 2 mark.”

The new county orders also include the elimination of the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for all non-resident homeowners, visitors and full-time county residents who traveled for an extended period of time outside of the county. Other new orders that align with the state’s latest include opening child care facilities, allowing day camps for kids and dine-in services at restaurants with capacity limitations, and opening private campgrounds. “Restaurants may open to dining indoors and outdoors at 50 percent of the posted occupancy code limit, not to exceed 50 people, whichever is less. Tables or groups must be limited to no more than eight people and be spaced so that patrons are a minimum of six feet apart. Based on the state’s executive order, bars are not allowed to open at this time, with a re-evaluation scheduled in June,” officials explained, according to a county news release.

County manager Mike Bordogna explained officials are working on communications about the new orders in an effort to educate people before they get here, so there isn’t any confusion and doesn’t leave businesses in a position to relay such information.

“We don’t want to make it incumbent on those businesses to be the main education point,” he said. “We want to educate those visitors before they come in via this process and communication so once they leave their hotel, motel or short-term rental and they head into Mountain Village, Norwood or the Town of Telluride they already have a really good understanding of what’s expected of them and it won’t lead to as many cases of, they just didn’t know.”

The county currently has 23 confirmed virus cases, according to the latest state data as of press time. Franklin said she felt confident in approving the new orders since the local response, including continued physical distancing and wearing a facemask in public spaces, has helped quell the spread.

“We’ve sustained a very steady caseload across the last few months,” she said. “I’m very confident right now that we are in a good place. It’s working so we should all be really proud of ourselves in the work and messaging that’s gotten across because it’s really moving us forward in a safe and reasonable way.”

Given the fluidity of the situation, which may result in resurgences as the state and country move towards slowly reopening, Commissioner Hilary Cooper stressed the importance of adhering to public health guidelines. She said that Gov. Jared Polis asked officials statewide, particularly in mountain communities, to limit population mixing as best they can during a conference call Thursday night.

“He has asked us to do what we can to minimize population mixing and limit our attractions to reduce the attraction to our communities,” she said. “As we understand, covid started in some of (the state’s) mountain communities and spread from there, so we need to take this very seriously and take our local responsibility very seriously. They did state that with the 38 variances they granted already they’re concerned that they opened up too much.”

For more county information, visit sanmiguelcountyco.gov. For state information, go to covid19.colorado.gov/safer-at-home.

Associate Editor Suzanne Cheavens contributed to this story.