EL PASO COUNTY — El Paso County Commissioners Tuesday approved a new variance that would bring more business back into the community.
If the variance is approved by the state, shuttle buses and vans would return to operation with riders wearing masks and at 75 percent capacity. Vehicle windows would also have to stay open for the duration of the rides.
The variance also requests additional capacity for restaurants and private events be increased to 175 people or 50 percent of normal, whichever is less.
County Commissioner Stan Vanderwerf says with El Paso County having a low transmission rate, it's time for restaurants and venues to open their doors.
"We actually have in El Paso County a very low transmission rate. One of the best in the state, one of the best in the nation. The reason is that El Paso County Public Health has worked so hard," said Vanderwerf. "It's time for our business and community to be awarded for that hard work."
Vanderwerf says he understands why the state is being cautious.
"I think its different for different counties. If you were in a county that had a lot of coronavirus cases, you might not want to ask for a lot of variances and follow the governors plan more closely. But in El Paso County we have a very low transmission rate," said Vanderwerf.
When they get a request, the state health department assesses the current level of disease burden in that community and works with it to plan on how they would ease back more restrictions safely.
"These variances allow us to move forward ahead of the public health orders. We will continue pressing forward with those as appropriate and as allowed," said Kieth Siemsen, El Paso County Environmental Health Director.
Vanderwerf says it hasn't been an easy process.
"It's been tough. We have 64 counties and if they are all submitting variance requests, the state ends up with a lot requests," said Vanderwerd. "It's been difficult to navigate around that so just on that point I understand that it can be difficult for citizens and companies to adequately interpret exactly what applies to them."
Vanderwerf says company owners with questions or concerns about variance requests can view the public health orders on the El Paso County Health website. They can also call 719-578-3167.