El Paso County commissioners approve variance request to reopen multiple facilities

How to stay safe at gyms after COVID-19 quarantine
Posted at 8:03 AM, Jun 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-09 15:30:48-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Attractions, theaters and malls are among the many businesses included in a "sweeping" reopening variance request El Paso County commissioners unanimously voted to approve Tuesday.

This variance request will be the fourth sent to the Colorado Department of Public Health for approval in an effort to reopen more of the county. It will seek to reopen "gyms, athletic facilities, theaters, indoor malls, indoor and outdoor activities, attractions, the indoor water park at Great Wolf Lodge, libraries, and small private special events."

While gyms and some activities have already been reopened under state guidelines, the county is seeking to allow more capacity and include other guidelines. Dr. Susan Wheelan, director of El Paso County Public Health, said in Tuesday's meeting that the county's shift from state guidelines is looking more at percentage capacity than number caps.

Lori Seago, senior assistant county attorney of El Paso County, addressed finalized guidance from the state for the reopening of houses of worship, outdoor and personal recreation, including swimming pools. For more on state guidelines released for these facilities, click here.

El Paso County Health stated in the variance that this request will pertain to closed spaces and those "choosing to participate" will need to be aware of the "inherent risk" it carries.

In the request, El Paso County health officials are proposing that owners or operators of businesses "must develop" a safety plan that includes requirements set forth in the variance and will need to be kept on site.

This plan does not apply to the following: arcades, rodeos, fairs, festivals, parades, bars, taverns, pubs and other places "of public accommodation offering alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption unless the establishment ensures access to food from a license retail food establishment for on-premise consumption purchased on site."

Some aspects of this request may be changed or updated during the county commissioners meeting Tuesday morning:

General requirements

The variance states capacity of a facility will be limited to 50% or the "occupancy necessary" to maintain 6 feet of distance, whichever is less. Part of this is also ensuring 6 feet of distance between individuals or groups in an activity or event.

Employers will need to "appoint a workplace coordinator" who will be in charge of addressing COVID-19 issues and keep up the safety plan. Areas with high traffic will need to be sanitized and "proper ventilation of all indoor spaces must be ensured." If there are two or more people with possible or confirmed COVID-19 cases with a 2-week period, El Paso County Public Health must be notified.


Those working out at a gym will be strongly encouraged to wear face coverings over the nose and mouth while exercising. Machines will need to be spaced out with 6 feet of distance, as a minimum, and they must be sanitized between use by staff. Classes and training sessions will need to be 50% capacity or less to maintain social distancing guidelines. Climbing gyms will have to require reservations in order to give access and information must be kept for a minimum of 21 days.


Seats will need to be identified by number/row and each group must be seated with a minimum of 6 feet of distance from other groups. Theaters will be encouraged to collect information from one adult in the group in the event there is an outbreak investigation.

For live performances, 10 performers will be limited to the stage at one time "if 6-foot distancing cannot be maintained," and 25 performers if it can.

Indoor malls

Eating food in the food court will not be permitted unless the mall seeks approval from the county health department. Areas and features that "encourage group gatherings must be removed or blocked from use, such as play areas and grouped seating areas."

Indoor and outdoor activities

These requirements cover activities, such as "park nature centers, bowling, ice rinks, laser tag, indoor gun ranges, escape rooms, Nerf gun battles, miniature golf courses, go-kart tracks, and paintball."

Equipment and high traffic areas will need to be disinfected between use and businesses will be encouraged to use reservation systems to "ensure proper spacing of groups."

Indoor and outdoor attractions

El Paso County health officials will approve attractions once they review their safety plans. These attractions include art galleries, indoor and outdoor museums, Cave of the Winds, Manitou Cliff Dwellings and more. These places will be encouraged to collect information from one adult in a visiting group and keep it for 21 days in the event there is a COVID-19 outbreak. They will also have to monitor traffic flow and social distancing of customers.

Indoor water park at Great Wolf Lodge

Bathrooms and showers can be open, but they need to be disinfected frequently. There will be frequent disinfecting of common use items or areas and the facility must follow guidelines in place by the CDC. For more information regarding guidelines set forth in the variance request, click here.

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