Business Monday: Pitkin restaurants show appetite for 5-Star program

At least 33 businesses in Pitkin County, including 30 restaurants, had applied by Friday afternoon for membership into the 5 Star State Certification Program that eases restrictions and will be administered locally, a county official said.

On Monday, the county will start reviewing the applications giving restaurants priority, according to Laryssa Dandeneau, the COVID-19 program administrator with Pitkin County Public Health. Gyms and offices will be next in line.

The goal is to have eligible restaurants certified by Friday, she said. Restaurants will need to submit a business safety plan with the county; businesses that filed plans after Nov. 13 do not need to submit another one. Business filing plans before that date are required to submit another one for certification.

Dining establishments aiming for 5-Star certification must adhere to requirements that include employees doing daily symptom and exposure checks and recording customer names for contract-tracing purposes. Restaurants also will be required to space tables 10 feet apart and operate on reservations only.

As of last week, Pitkin County — while accepting 5-Star applications — was still not eligible to install the program because it didn’t meet all of the criteria.

Even so, it is processing applications for the 5-Star program so once the county is eligible, certified businesses can immediately enjoy the benefits of a color level down.

Red counties like Pitkin can participate in the 5-Star State Certification Program once they meet all of the following criteria:

— A two-week sustained decline in incidence, and a percent positivity under 10%; or 10 cumulative days of decline in positivity in the previous rolling 14-day period;

— Less than 90% of regional ICU hospital beds in use in addition to 10 cumulative days of decline in the previous 14-day period for hospitalizations.

On Friday, Pitkin County had met those metrics except one — 90% of regional hospital ICU beds were in use.

Satisfying that criteria would allow certified businesses in Red counties to operate under Orange-level guidelines that allow indoor dining at a 25% capacity.

Pitkin County went under Red-level restrictions that ban indoor dining at all restaurants Jan. 17. Outdoor dining, also with restrictions, is allowed under Red, and takeout is permitted.

The county’s incidence rate was down to 732 on Sunday, and it needs go down to 700 or lower for the county to reduce health restrictions under the Orange level.

Certified businesses could operate under yellow guidelines — which includes 50% capacity for restaurants and 6 feet between tables — if Orange trends hold for a week. The state’s COVID-19 dial dictates what color restrictions are used during implementation of the 5-Star program. All three metrics must be simultaneously satisfied under the state’s COVID-19 dial for the 5-Star program to take and remain in effect.

“Depending on where the county falls on the state COVID-19 dial metrics, certified businesses may be eligible for less restrictive capacity caps,” according to the county’s 5-Star FAQ section. “For example, if Pitkin County case and hospitalization metrics all move to Orange for at least seven days, certified businesses would be eligible for level Yellow restrictions.”

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