by Donna Carlson, Estes Chamber of Commerce
It truly takes the whole village to make creative solutions work in a pandemic. It all started when Senator Rob Woodward signaled to Larimer County that Grand Junction had a special program that would enable restaurants, gyms and theaters to open at a “level up” from the County dial after passing an inspection meeting a list of “over and above” criteria. Larimer County’s “5 star” certified business variance program, locally known as the Level Up Larimer Program was approved by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) December 23, 2020. Businesses in Larimer County can apply and upon approval, inspection, and certification, operate at the capacities one level above the overall county position.
The spirit of the Level Up program is to reward exemplary behavior with the privilege to increase capacity. There was a hiccup in the plan when the governor asked all counties to move to Level Orange, whether or not they met the requirements on the dial, which are changing now that we are getting vaccinations. This is the page where you can track our vaccinated community: https://covid19.colorado.gov/vaccine-data-dashboard. This is the Larimer County dial page where you can track the metrics we watch that, when improving, can allow certified businesses to move up in levels: https://covid19.colorado.gov/covid-19-dial.
Our reason for sharing this with the community is to increase your confidence in the rigor behind the Level Up program. We appreciate recent news coverage of the requirements that businesses face when they have an outbreak. We have to expect that outbreaks will happen and be supportive as a community because an outbreak might only involve two people, but can impact a whole staff if they are asked to quarantine. One restaurant had an outbreak and the owner was not required to shut down all four businesses, but he chose to close all four restaurants for two weeks as a matter of caution. When a business reopens after quarantine, it’s a great time for the community to celebrate its safe recovery and support that business as it gets back on its feet.
That level of cooperation mirrors the way our Estes Valley Resiliency Collaborative (EVRC) has been working through the winter, from Level Red to Orange to Yellow. The Chamber has been the contact point for the Larimer Level Up community, but Visit Estes Park and the Estes Park EDC have been partnering to get the word out. All three and the Town of Estes Park have been sharing updates in social media so our residents know what’s happening, who’s open and what to expect next. In the midst of all this, members of the EVRC are also exploring options for an online marketplace so our retail stores will have a new marketing channel when times are slim as well as for the longer term. The Town’s sales tax data shows that online sales are strong during the pandemic, so we want to take advantage of this for our local retailers. We forget that when restaurants are closed and people are taking extra precautions not going out, that shuts down residual walk-in traffic that keeps many of our stores busy.
Another way we are supporting our community is by distributing free hand sanitizer that Larimer County donated through the Town of Estes Park. We’ve been hand carrying cases of hand sanitizer and Keep NoCo Open schwag to all the businesses on the Level Up list in addition to anyone who asks. If you need hand sanitizer, contact the chamber at email@example.com. We’re going to weather this storm together. Keep it up, Estes. You are stronger than you know.