As Douglas County’s indoor dining program rolls out, county’s data improves

County could move to looser level in January

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As more Douglas County businesses became certified under the county’s new “COVID Best Practices Business Certification Program,” the community inched closer to moving to a less restricted level on the state’s COVID-19 dial.

In the final days of 2020, the county was in level red, the second most restricted point on the dial. However, with cases and hospitalizations appearing to improve, the county was expected to meet the qualifications for level orange on the dial by the first week of January, said Jennifer Ludwig, deputy director of Tri-County Health Department. 

As of Dec. 30, the county had the appropriate level of hospitalizations and test positivity rates to fall under level orange, but cases per 100,000 were still too high at 398. In order to move to orange, the county would need to reach 350 cases per 100,000 people for a two-week period, according to the state’s guidelines for the dial.

According to the state’s guidelines, the county must meet all three metrics for at least two weeks before the county’s restrictions are loosened, Ludwig said. Under that rule, the soonest Douglas County could move into orange is mid to late January.

The county could move to that level of looser restrictions sooner, as Gov. Jared Polis asked the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Dec. 30 to move all the state’s red counties to orange, citing improving COVID-19 data.

As of Dec. 30, Douglas County had 155 certified businesses able to operate at level orange restrictions due to the certification program and 140 other businesses in the process of being certified, according to a county spokesperson.

Each time the county moves to a less restrictive level on the dial, certified businesses are also rewarded with loosened restrictions. If the entire county is moved into level orange, those certified businesses will be able to operate at level yellow restrictions. If the county moves to level yellow, certified businesses will be permitted to operate at level blue. With the county in blue, those businesses can add 50 extra people to their capacity cap.

Businesses are certified by following an advanced level of measures aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19. The county has prioritized restaurants, gyms and indoor event spaces for certification, as these businesses were most acutely impacted by the level red restrictions. 

“We won’t survive on 25% (capacity) forever, but this is better than no inside dining,” said Kaleb Hilton, director of operations for Grist Brewing Company. 

Once the brewery’s Highlands Ranch location was certified Dec. 26, customers started showing up to sit inside that day, Hilton said. 

“It’s been immediately helpful,” he said.

Grist Brewing, which also has locations in Lone Tree and Sterling Ranch, was able to bring back all of their furloughed staff, albeit with reduced hours.

“We’re just excited to get back to brewing some interesting flavors,” Hilton said. 

Rock Bottom Brewing Company in Highlands Ranch was also feeling relieved after receiving their certification before the end of the year. One Wednesday evening soon after the restaurant and brewery was able to open for indoor dining, the location had already earned the same amount from a full week’s worth of to-go only serving, general manager Jimmy Gibson said.

“It’s a work in progress,” he said. “Tomorrow I’m sure something will change.”

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