El Paso County Commissioners explore reopening standards

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COLORADO SPRINGS – In a rare second meeting of the week, El Paso County Commissioners heard from several people wanting them to reopen businesses in the county.

Board Chair Mark Waller pointed out that many businesses can still operate, although in a limited fashion.

The majority of the speakers in the public comment section said the safer at home and stay at home restrictions issued by Governor Jared Polis was an afront to their liberty and freedom. Others offered dire economic predictions of what is to come with while on this current path.

A few expressed the direct impacts to their life.

“I own a small business which I just brought my license over here to Colorado. I sell products at farmers markets, I sell them to businesses and I can’t do that now, so my income has been completely wiped out.”

This mother of two said she and her family moved from Arizona in 2019. They have a pension from her husband’s former job but it’s not enough to keep their savings accounts from bleeding. She estimates next month’s mortgage could be the last one they can afford. She would look for other jobs but says, she has to home school her kids now that their schools are closed.

“I still haven’t worked in two weeks. I don’t know if I’ll be working tomorrow. I am on call, most likely I’ll be called off.”

Another mother from El Paso County who also worries about her child’s mental health without interactions from friends.

“It’s the most aggressive method that we have to deal with this. It has numerous negative side affects,” said Dr. Leon Kelly.

El Paso County Public Health’s Deputy Medical Director Dr. Kelly said the county is now leading the state in the response to COVID–19 after recording the first outbreak and death related to the Colorado Springs Bridge Center earlier in the month.

”I describe this as a 12-round title fight boxing and we took some huge blows right out of the gate,” Dr. Kelly explained.

For several hours, the Board of County Commissioners met in executive session, Waller says to discuss requesting a variance waiver from the Governor’s office.

Two other counties have been granted those requests, Eagle and more recently Mesa counties, but the requests have to be narrowly tailored, Kelly said.

For example, Eagle County requested a faster track to move from “stay-at-home” to “safer-at-home” citing statistics of a flattening curve in recent weeks and a ban on out-of-county visitors.

Mesa County has reported 44 cases through this posting and zero deaths. The county’s public health director said in a statement the area’s reopening will still be gradual and in phases.

Those counties have a combined population of around 210,000. El Paso County has over 720,000 residents.

As previously reported, new daily hospitalizations have leveled off since late March, cases since early April. Dr. Kelly says the curve is flattening but sticking to the plan of opening in phases is still vital.

“We are in a good place because we did the measures we set out to do. There’s not going to be a scenario where tomorrow El Paso County abandons all logic and reason and opens everything without having guidelines. That would be complete medical negligence,” said Kelly.

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