El Paso County Board of Commissioners votes to approve comprehensive multi-sector variance request

 El Paso County, CO – El Paso County Public Health presented a comprehensive multi-sector variance request to the El Paso County Board of Commissioners during their meeting this morning. County Commissioners unanimously passed the variance request. 

The next steps in the process involve review and approval by local hospitals, and then the request will be sent to the Governor’s Office and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), who will review the request and can then decide to modify, approve, or deny it. This process is estimated to take around 7-10 days at the state level. For anyone interested in learning more about the variance process, visit the variance page on CDPHE’s website

“I want to thank El Paso County Public Health, our business leaders, and local health partners for listening to our community's voices, particularly our local business owners who came to the table to help us develop a plan that allows them to decide how to operate their businesses with reasonable safety guardrails in place to protect the health and safety of employees and customers,” said Commissioner Cami Bremer. 

Approximately 15 local businesses attended the meeting and shared their thoughts, concerns, and support for moving in a direction to more widely open sectors of our local economy. 

“We are proud of the collaborative and innovative efforts to create this broader variance request,” said Susan Wheelan, El Paso County Public Health Director. “These are shared decisions, made with the expertise of countless partners, and we feel confident we are establishing a more streamlined, effective process moving forward.” 

Key takeaways 

This variance request applies to the following sectors: 

  • Gyms (defined as a building or room used for indoor sports or exercise, such as fitness, dance, exercise or group classes, martial arts classes, exercise studios and centers, recreation centers, and other indoor facilities) 
  • Athletic Training Facilities (defined as gyms used exclusively, either at all times or for certain defined periods of time, by athletes who have an official relationship with an Olympic organization and are training for future Olympic competitions or qualifying events) 
  • Theaters, both movie or recorded performances and live performances 
  • Indoor Malls 
  • Indoor and Outdoor Activities 
  • Attractions (defined as places of interest visited by people for their natural, cultural, educational, historical, or unique entertainment value) 
  • Indoor Water Park at Great Wolf Lodge 
  • Libraries 
  • Small Private Special Events 

General Requirements for all Facilities, Attractions, and Events: 

  • The owner or operator of each facility, attraction, and event must develop a written operational and disease transmission mitigation plan (“Safety Plan”) that incorporates and addresses all of the requirements and recommendations contained in this alternative opening plan. Such a written Safety Plan must be kept onsite and made available to El Paso County Public Health upon request. The plan must include the following:
    • Safety standards for workplaces 
    • Safety standards for employees 
    • Safety standards for customers and attendees 
  • Occupancy of staff and customers is limited to 50 percent capacity or the occupancy necessary to maintain the applicable six-foot distancing requirements, whichever is less. 
  • A minimum six-foot distance must be maintained between individuals or groups participating in each activity or attending each facility, attraction or event. 

The variance request also outlines sector-specific safety standards for each of the nine sectors listed above. The final variance request contains all of this information in greater detail. Once it is finalized, it will be available on Public Health’s website. 

“We recognize the economic hardship COVID-19 has had on our community, said Board Chair Mark Waller. “As we continue the process of safely and strategically opening El Paso County for business, I am proud to vote yes on this broad-based, collaborative approach to getting our economy on track and people back to work.” 

Michelle Hewitt
Public Health Information Officer
(719) 578-3239
El Paso County, CO