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Cripple Creek casinos risk closure due to COVID-19, county officials push back

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TELLER COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) - As state health officials near a decision on whether Teller County will have to shut down all of its casinos with the new Safer at Home order, locals and county officials are giving some pushback.

The Colorado Department of Public Health is expected to announce Monday whether Teller County casinos will be allowed to stay open, after the county applied to exempt the gambling businesses from the new restrictions.

Matt Andrighetti with Wildwood Casino wants health officials to be fair, and use common sense in their decision-making.

"We see casinos as being one of the safest businesses in Colorado," Andrighetti said in an interview Sunday. "There are three different kinds of businesses that they health screen not only the employees, but the patrons when they come in - that's doctors offices, dentist offices and casinos."

The state health department will continue to monitor case numbers in Teller County for the next couple weeks. Health officials said, if things don't turn around in that timeframe, the county could see more restrictions.

Meanwhile county officials, including Commissioner Norm Steen, argue only around 5% of total cases in Teller County have been traced to the Cripple Creek area, so the city's casinos shouldn't be targeted.

"More than 1,000 people are employed in that industry and many people are dependent on those revenues," Steen told KRDO.

The new restrictions will start at 5:00 p.m. Monday.

Restaurants, gyms and places of worship will move from 50% capacity to 25% -- capped at fifty people.

Commissioner Steen thinks enough is enough with the restrictions on local business.

"A functioning economy has to stay open. At some point, government support just has to end," Commissioner Steen said.

The state health department got back to us with a statement on the economic concern in Teller County Sunday night, saying "We are at a pivotal juncture. We need to change course to prevent more Coloradans from getting severely sick."

"We are seeing an increased incidence of COVID-19 across the state, and many counties have moved to Level Orange on the COVID-19 dial," the statement continues. "We need everyone to step up and fully participate in mitigation tactics—like wearing a mask, distancing a minimum of six feet from others, and not interacting with other households—if we are to suppress the spread of COVID-19."

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Julia Donovan

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