PUEBLO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- Could indoor dining reopen in Pueblo County? Both the County and City governments will vote Tuesday whether or not to support a Variance Protection Program that could potentially do just that.
The Variance Protection Program - otherwise known as a 5 Star Certification program - allows certain businesses demonstrating a commitment to following COVID-19 guidelines to operate at a 50% capacity level despite restrictions from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).
Pueblo County is currently operating under Safer at Home Order: Level Red, which bans all indoor dining and requires many non-essential businesses to remain under a 25% capacity level.
Mesa County is also under Level Red, but has a 5 Star Certification program in place. The program allows certain restaurants, gyms, and small businesses to remain open at 50% capacity despite the CDPHE restrictions.
December 1, Pueblo City Council will hold a special meeting to vote on a resolution in support of the program. Mayor Nick Gradisar issued a statement supporting the resolution:
“If Colorado approves the 5 Star Business Program for counties in the Red Level of the COVID-19 Dial and PDPHE decides to apply, I will support that decision as I want to do everything I can to help local businesses get through a challenging winter. Pueblo has one of the most comprehensive programs in place to keep businesses and customers safe thanks to our COVID-19 Education and Compliance Program. If Mesa County’s 5-Star program works and is approved for statewide use, I’m confident the City of Pueblo could implement this plan."
Pueblo County Commissioners would need to request a variance from CDPHE to approve the program. The request would require support from both the local Health Director and support from local hospitals like Parkview Medical Center and St. Mary Corwin. The State of Colorado and CDPHE would then make the framework for the program.
Should Pueblo County receive approval from CDPHE, the county would have to form a community commission required to implement the framework of the 5-Star Certification program. The commission would approve applications for businesses and hold businesses within the program accountable for following their criteria.
Pueblo City Councilman Mark Aliff says he hopes to have a request turned into the state by the end of this week, and hopes it will be approved by the end of next week.