Larimer County “Level Up” plan approved
Last Wednesday afternoon, Larimer County received word from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) that the proposed “Level Up” program had been approved.
Upon receiving approval last week, county health department officials immediately set out and began inspections at businesses across the county. Inspections were completed at just over 40 county businesses on Wednesday before the county closed for the holiday weekend. Inspections restarted in earnest on Monday morning.
As of Wednesday morning, 109 businesses in the county had passed inspection and been granted Level Up certification. In Berthoud, as of press deadline Wednesday morning, only TPC Colorado had been certified but county officials will be descending on Berthoud in later part of this week to complete more, according to county officials.
A list of businesses that have been certified under Level Up can be found at the NoCoRecovers website at https://nocorecovers.com/level-up-certified-businesses/. The list is sortable and updated continuously.
The physical, in-person inspection process does not take long, “about 15 minutes or so,” according to a local brewery owner whose business was among the first to pass inspection. The in-person inspection verifies that the conditions outlined in the application that each business must submit online prior to the inspection have been met and staff has been trained on protocols unique to each type of establishment.
Among the requirements, businesses must enforce mask-wearing among all customers and staff, keep a list of all those who visit the business for contract tracing purposes, display proper signage for social distancing and adhere to strict sanitation procedures.
The program had been in the works for nearly a month and was developed by local small businesses working in conjunction with chambers of commerce, county commissioners and health department representatives to create a means by which businesses can apply for a variance to operate at one level higher, essentially one level less restrictive, should a number of conditions be met.
With Larimer County is currently operating at Level Five (or Red) on Gov. Jared Polis’ COVID-19 risk dial, local businesses that receive approval under the Level Up program will be allowed to operate at Level Four (orange) beginning immediately upon completion of the inspection.
Under Level Orange, eating and drinking establishments are allowed to host guests in-doors, with tables spaced 10 feet apart and operate at no greater than 25% capacity. Under Level Red, indoor dining was prohibited, a stipulation that forced many to close their doors and furlough staff. Multiple restaurants throughout the county outlaid for outdoor tents and heaters, at significant cost, in order to stay afloat while waiting for restrictions to lessen.
“It’s something, it’s better than nothing I guess,” said one Larimer County restaurant owner. “I don’t want to sound ungrateful and I’m glad we got (approval), a lot of people worked hard to get this passed but it’s only going to help us on the margins, we really need to get past this and open fully.” The owner commented that he estimates his establishment has lost “about $200,000,” since the pandemic began and state orders closing businesses were enacted.
COVID case rates in Larimer County continue to decline steadily from their peaks in late November. The rate per 100,000 residents has fallen to 349.1 as of Dec. 30 from a high of 980.8 on Nov. 25. These numbers, coupled with the arrival of the vaccine, is providing business owners with some measure of hope that the county can soon move to down to Level Orange, allowing Level Up certified businesses to operate at Level Yellow, the same as they were during the summer and fall months.
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