Larimer County to ramp up COVID rule enforcement as state variance hangs in balance

FORT COLLINS and LOVELAND — Larimer County officials plan to follow up on COVID-19-related complaints more frequently in the coming weeks after the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment warned that the rising caseload could lead to more restrictions on businesses.

In a call hosted by the Fort Collins and Loveland chambers of commerce, Larimer County Department of Health and Environment spokeswoman Katie O’Donnell said cases have risen locally in the weeks after July 4, coinciding with a larger increase across the state attributed to gatherings for holiday celebrations.

The county has had five days in the past month with more than 25 new cases, which puts its COVID-19 variance from safer-at-home rules at risk.

Those variances, which the state health department grants to counties or county groups with low transmission rates, allow previously-shuttered businesses such as indoor malls, restaurants, gyms, theaters, bowling alleys, libraries and hotels to reopen under limited circumstances.

However, the previous restrictions would immediately go back into place if the county reports more than 25 new cases or a 10% increase in new cases on three days within a two-week period, or if 15 new COVID-related hospital admissions occur in the same timeframe.

If state officials revoke the variance, the largest area of impact would be limiting public gatherings from the current level of 50 with county approval to a maximum of 10.

Revocation of the variance would also add additional limits on in-person activity for bars, restaurants, breweries and graduation ceremonies.

O’Donnell said the majority of the new cases have been tracked back to individual gatherings and not within specific businesses, but complaints in recent weeks from concerned residents about businesses not following rules have tripled.

Larimer County officials have already submitted a spread mitigation plan to state health authorities, and they intend to send more staff to businesses that have been the subject of complaints over not enforcing masks and social distancing or allowing more people inside than permitted.

“We haven’t had as much of our compliance team out in the community in the past three weeks because we hadn’t needed to,” she said. “Now we need to ramp up and send people back out.”

Lauren Storeby, a co-owner of Fort Collins sandwich shop Snack Attack, said the restaurant had to lay off 75% of its staff due to the pandemic and its revenues have been down around 40% to 50% on average in the past several months. 

She said businesses in the area have a key role in balancing themselves as places for community gatherings while promoting measures to slow the virus’ spread.

“Nobody wants to wear a mask, but it’s our civil duty to do right now, and it’s our social duty,” she said. “We’re here to do this to nip it in the bud and put this to an end and have a great future going forward.”

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FORT COLLINS and LOVELAND — Larimer County officials plan to follow up on COVID-19-related complaints more frequently in the coming weeks after the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment warned that the rising caseload could lead to more restrictions on businesses.

In a call hosted by the Fort Collins and Loveland chambers of commerce, Larimer County Department of Health and Environment spokeswoman Katie O’Donnell said cases have risen locally in the weeks after July 4, coinciding with a larger increase across the state attributed to gatherings for holiday celebrations.

The county has had five days in the past month with more than 25 new cases, which puts its COVID-19 variance from safer-at-home rules at risk.

Those variances, which the state health department grants to counties or county groups with low transmission rates, allow previously-shuttered businesses such as indoor malls, restaurants, gyms, theaters, bowling alleys, libraries and hotels to reopen under limited circumstances.

However, the previous restrictions would immediately go back into place if the county reports more than 25 new cases or a 10% increase in new cases on three days within a two-week period, or if 15 new COVID-related hospital admissions occur in the same timeframe.

If state officials revoke the variance, the largest area of impact would be limiting public gatherings from the current level of 50 with county approval to a maximum of 10.

Revocation of the variance would also add additional limits on in-person activity for bars, restaurants, breweries and graduation ceremonies.

O’Donnell said the majority of the new…