EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) - Health department officials are explaining what would happen if the state decides to revoke its COVID-19 variance, which grants permission from the state for larger gathers.
El Paso County is just one of more than a dozen counties in Colorado -- along with Chaffee and Custer counties -- given a warning by the state health department that it could "lose its variance" if the number of new COVID-19 cases didn't decrease within two weeks.
El Paso County reached the two-week mark from that warning on Monday -- reporting 45 cases per 100,000 people over the 100-case threshold.
El Paso County's most recent variance from the state increased the capacity for indoor restaurants and private venues to 175 people or 50% occupancy, whichever is fewer.
"It is our understanding that El Paso County is currently at risk of losing its variances, but is not at risk of action being taken that would be stricter than the current Public Health Order," county health officials explained in a statement to KRDO.
Therefore, the only businesses at risk of losing customers if El Paso County's variance is revoked are large venues consisting of one room that allows for more than 100 people with six feet of social distancing.
Local businesses tell us this new information brings a sigh of relief.
"That's great news for our industry. We've taken quite a beating lately. To be able to stay open is important for us," said Tim Payne, owner of The Mason Jar restaurant in Old Colorado City.
Payne told us his business is just starting to bounce back after the previous shutdown.
"We've watched our business increase, we've watched our local guests come back in, and we're also seeing a fair number of tourists now," he said.
Health officials do want to warn everyone that this whole situation is changing rapidly, and if cases continue to rise at consistently higher rates, the whole state could eventually regress all the way back to a stay at home order.
For that reason, the nerves local business owners grapple with aren't going anywhere.
“Of course we're concerned about another shutdown," said Payne.