Reopening plans from industry subgroups submitted to county. June looks promising but no promises…

Limited lodging could open before end of month

By Mark Reaman

Local lodging properties in the valley can begin to plan for a likely reopening of their doors before the end of May on a limited basis. Ideally, according to Gunnison County pubic health director Joni Reynolds, the properties could see tourists staying in all of their rooms by the middle of June.

Target dates have been announced by Reynolds but she emphasized that state regulations will come into play as well. And as always, the health numbers related to the coronavirus have to remain stable in the county otherwise more strict restrictions could be imposed.

After weeks of discussion the county’s so-called “industry subgroups” have finalized their proposals on what they hope will be a timeline to reopen their business. The proposals include detailed safety measures they plan to implement in order for the reopening to happen in a manner the helps slow down the spread of the COVID-19.

Crested Butte-Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce executive director Ashley UpChurch submitted the proposed plans to Gunnison County Public Health director Joni Reynolds this week with the final submissions being Friday afternoon. Reynolds said she would use the information to help guide her future public health orders.

In fact, after reviewing some of the plans, Reynolds announced Friday evening some tentative dates for lodging to possibly reopen. Some visitor lodging could be allowed before the end of May.

“All short term lodging, including but not limited to hotels, motels, short-term rental (30 days or less), bed and breakfast establishments, lodges, retreats, campgrounds/recreational vehicle park and recreational camping will continue to be prohibited for out of County (non-essential) visitors through May 26th, unless there is a change in the State Directive restricting in-state travel,” she wrote to the lodging subcommittee.

“Beginning immediately operation start up activities can be initiated including internal and external work projects, staff hiring and staff training. A target date of May 15th is appropriate for opening lodging at <25% capacity for parties in the County including all residents and essential workers. Spacing customers throughout the facility to reduce interactions would be an appropriate public health measure.,” she continued. “A target date of May 27 is appropriate for opening lodging to 50% capacity for all visitors, tourists, residents and essential workers. A target date of June 10th is appropriate for increasing capacity to 75% and then June 24th for 100% occupancy. These dates are subject to change based on the indicators locally as well as the state’s public health orders and guidance.”

Some owners of short-term rentals noted Friday that using percentages of occupancy does not necessarily work for them as families typically rent their units.

UpChurch said local business representative have been working hard to come up with plans to help Reynolds with her future public health orders. “I have been drafting and finalizing plans for the lodging, restaurants, services, fitness, and real estate and assisted Sam Degenhard with the outfitters/guides this week,” she explained. “Volunteers from each industry helped me draft them, and they were sent out to the industries using the subgroup subscribed email lists for 24-hour comment periods. The volunteers helped me finalize them today.”

UpChurch said approximately 30 to 60 people participated in each of the nine industry calls this week. Subgroups have been meeting regularly on Mondays and Tuesday for weeks and UpChurch said she would guess that most businesses in the valley have participated in at least one subgroup meeting. Generally, each of the the plans given to Reynolds provide detailed safety measures that would be implemented within any industry once reopening begins.

In the cover letters to Reynolds the industry representatives state the importance of keeping the community safe along with the importance of getting business open again to provide an economy for the community. The ending message from each group generally states something to the effect of: “We understand case numbers need to remain stable and manageable as we move forward. If required by an amended public health order, the industry supports the reinstatement of stay-at-home measures and will comply with any service restrictions necessary.”

The lodging industry plan requested a “soft opening” from May 10 until the end of the month which would normally happen anyway given the season. But they want future guests to have an idea of when hotels, short-term rentals and campgrounds could be definitively open. “A target reopening date will allow lodges to effectively market and rehire for the summer season, reestablishing a critical economic lifeline to our non-lodging partners,” the plan states. “We ask that you allow for limited occupancy from May 10-May 31 and full occupancy starting June 1, all with strict protocols in place.”

The restaurant industry group laid out distancing protocols they would enforce and are asking that they be allowed to have a limited number of staff in the restaurants for training, preparation, and general operations as of May 4.

Overall, they want Reynolds to let restaurants reopen on Wednesday, May 20 “with no more than four customers in a booth and six at a table; tables would be spaced with six-feet between any chair backs and booths; every other booth will be closed. At that time outdoor seating should be allowed for 50-percent capacity. And then on Monday, June 15, they hope to have 100-percent capacity for outdoor seating with social distancing measures in place.

Personal services include non-medical wellness services such as massage therapy, acupuncture and reflexology, tattoo studios, spas, and tanning services that do not have a path to reopening under the current Public Health Order. Those businesspeople came up with a plan with a request to reopen May 8. “Specific recommendations include adopting similar numeric-based criteria for distancing, including maintaining ratios of one person per 240 square feet; spaces under 240 square feet will provide services by appointment only,” the plan explains.

Outfitters hope to have the county ask the state for a waiver that would allow “guiding and outfitting services to be reopened for second homeowners and local residents while adhering to the guidelines below. From May 10 onwards, lodging would be allowed to reopen with 50-percent occupancy, in-state visitation should be permitted and outfitting and guiding services should reopen while adhering to the guidelines. As of June 1, restrictions would be further lifted…”

The fitness industry wants to open the week of May 4 for private clients, outdoor small group training and those centers that are prepared are asking to see one-on-one clients or same-household clients immediately with appropriate sanitation and cleaning standards, social distancing recommendations, and appointment protocols in place. On May 15 they hope to be open to five or fewer clients at any one time depending on the size of the facility and spacing capability. On June 1, they hope to be open to groups allowed by the current State or County public health orders.

The real estate industry submitted an appreciation for being allowed to operate currently and detailed hygiene measures that would be implemented including the wearing of face masks, the wiping down of things they touch in homes such as light switches and door knobs, and the posting of health and safety information at each of their office locations to limit the number of people in an office, encourage social distancing, and remind people not to touch things unnecessarily.

“Our hope is that these (plans) will illustrate to Joni how businesses within each industry can operate safely and while preventing spread of the virus and that she will loosen restrictions sooner with these assurances in place,” explained UpChurch. “The Chamber ultimately supports Joni’s decisions and appreciates this opportunity for the business community.”

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