El Paso County Board of Commissioners votes to approve variance requests for places of worship and Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

El Paso County, CO – El Paso County Public Health presented two variance requests to the El Paso County Board of Commissioners during their meeting this morning – one for places of worship and one for the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. County Commissioners unanimously passed the variance request for places of worship. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo variance passed four to zero, with one Commissioner abstaining.  

“I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to Director Wheelan and her Public Health team for their wisdom and expertise. They have been incredibly wonderful to work with, in balancing both sides,” said Yemi Mobolade, Small Business Development Administrator, City of Colorado Springs and co-founder of COSILoveYou, a local group comprised of dozens of faith-based organizations.  “I also thank Commissioner VanderWerf, for his support as well.” 

Public Health is excited to send another two variance requests to the State with the support of the El Paso County Commissioners. Now that both variances have been reviewed and approved by local hospitals and the County Commissioners, the documents will go to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for final approval. The church and zoo variances are the third and fourth variances El Paso County has sent to the State for approval. 
“Spiritual and mental health is a critical factor to our region’s response, recovery, and resiliency to COVID-19,” said Mark Waller, Chair of the El Paso County Board of Commissioners. “Today’s vote demonstrates the role our churches play in the health and strength of our community. We will continue our work on variances to get our County open for worship, business, and recreation.” 

Key takeaways from places of worship variance request: 

Seating capacity and processes 

  • Total occupancy limited to 25 percent of fire occupancy load 
  • Seating structured to maintain six feet of distance and groups less than 10 
  • Churches encouraged to obtain contact information from at least one person of each group 

Attendance and participation policies 

  • Vulnerable individuals encouraged to utilize online services or participate in a separate room 
  • Attendees strongly encouraged to wear cloth face coverings 
  • Attendees are discouraged from participating in handshakes or other forms of physical contact 

Public health practices 

  • Staff and volunteers required to wear cloth face coverings 
  • No congregating in common areas 
  • Staff should clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces between services  
  • Doors are encouraged to remain open to promote maximum ventilation and air flow 

Use of sacraments 

  • Communion should not be distributed by the passing of plates, common-use items, or other high-touch methods                                             
  • Offerings shall not be obtained by passing collection items across groups 

Key takeaways from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo variance request: 

Phase periods and restrictions 

  • Phase I will be the first five (5) days the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is open to the public 
  • Zoo will open to members only; timed tickets will be issued with a limit of 300 per hour 
  •  Phase II will be the nine (9)-day period following Phase I 
  •  Timed tickets will continue to be issued with a limit of 300 per hour 
  •  Phase III will begin on the fifteenth day after opening to the public 
    • Tickets without time restrictions will be available to both members and non-members, without hourly limitations 
    • Off-site parking shuttles will not be utilized, effectively capping daily attendance to 4,000-4,500, significantly less than the site capacity of almost 20,000 
  • In Phases I and II, the following additional restrictions will apply 
    • The main play area, the “crashed airplane” play space, and the historic carousel will be closed 
    • A safety officer will be designated whose sole duties are to patrol the grounds and provide guidance and supplies to staff 
    • Buildings will be open at 25 percent of stated capacity, up to a maximum of 50, with appropriate signage and marking to encourage social distancing 
    • All activities in buildings that will cause congestion over the approved variance numbers will be managed, restricted, closed, or cancelled 
    • Workspaces will be cleaned by staff between shifts 
  • In Phase III, building capacity will be increased so long as six-foot distancing can be maintained and will be capped at 50. The cap may be raised up to 250 based upon coordination with Public Health 

 Public health practices 

  • Additional daily cleaning and disinfecting throughout the zoo in all guest areas 
  • High-touch guest areas will be cleaned and disinfected more regularly 
  • The Skyride (ski lift) and ADA-accessible tram will be open following proper cleaning and social distancing guidelines 
  • Rental equipment such as wheelchairs will be cleaned and disinfected between each use 
  • Restrooms will be cleaned and disinfected throughout the day. Entry doors will be propped open when possible to allow touch-free entry and exit. Increased hygiene signage will be posted 
  • Only water bottle fill stations will be available; drinking fountains will be closed 
  • Signage and other tools such as spacing do’s, barricades and stanchions will be used to remind guests of social distancing and proper etiquette  
Ryan Parsell and Michelle Hewitt
Chief Public Information Officer and Public Health Information Officer
(719) 520-6540 and (719) 578-3239
El Paso County, CO