State tweaks health order, local hot springs reopen

By John Finefrock
Staff Writer

On June 5, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released a sixth amendment to Public Health Order 20-29, Safer At Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors.

In an interview Wednesday, Archuleta County Attorney Todd Weaver explained some highlights in the changes are that gyms have more capacity, sporting events like races can now happen, and there are updated guidelines for wedding ceremonies and graduations.

Weaver noted that for restaurants, the language has been tweaked to now allow 50 percent capacity or 50 patrons, whichever is fewer. 

He added the language used to say “people” and that the state is now not calculating wait staff, chefs and other restaurant employees in that limit.

The amendment slightly changes language from a previous version of the health order. Some examples of the changes are:

• Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors now strongly encourages, but now does not require, “that people of risk of severe illness from COVID-19, also known as Vulnerable Individuals, remain at home or in the great outdoors as much as possible.”

• Gyms, recreation centers and indoor pools may open at 25 percent capacity, or 50 people, whichever is fewer.

Previous versions of the health order limited 10 people at a time in those venues.

• “Competitive events such as races and endurance events are permitted as long as 6 foot distancing and limitations on group size can be maintained,” the order reads.

• “Life rites, such as wedding ceremonies, graduation ceremonies and funerals, and other religious rites are authorized at 50% capacity not to exceed 50 people indoors, with strict compliance with Social Distancing Requirements for employees and any attendees of services. For outdoor rites, individuals must maintain 6 feet distance between non-household members and work with the appropriate local authority to obtain approval for the maximum number of individuals …,” according to the health order.

“This the first time that the state has provided requirements for these types of important life events to operate safely,” wrote Claire Ninde, director of communications for San Juan Basin Public Health, in an email to The SUN.

• Previous versions of the health order mandated “employees to stay home when showing any symptoms or signs of sickness …” and now includes specific symptoms like “fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea …”

• Face coverings were previously mandated at houses of worship, but that directive has been changed to “Face coverings are strongly encouraged to be worn by staff, volunteers and congregants while on the premises of [a] house of worship …”

• Courts are now “encouraged to make remote participation available to the greatest extent possible.”

Local hot springs

On Friday, The Springs Resort and Spa opened its bathhouse and soaking pools to the public per guidelines stated in Gov. Jared Polis’ executive order on June 1.

In a June 4 email to The SUN, The Springs outlined how its facility will operate.

The email reads that while state guidelines allow hot springs to reopen at 50 percent capacity, The Springs is opening at lower levels initially.

Shane Lucero, marketing director for The Springs Resort and Spa, explained more about the precautions the business is taking in an interview Wednesday.

“If you’re indoors, you have to wear a mask; once you’re outside you don’t have to,” he said.

Lucero explained there are maximum soaking capacities posted at each pool and that they are opening to the public at 9 a.m. instead of 7 a.m. to get two extra hours to sanitize the facility, but pools are still open 24 hours a day to hotel guests.

Lucero noted that patrons are being very compliant with the new rules and surmised that “they’re just happy to be doing something” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jeff Greer, owner of The Overlook Hot Springs, suggested that, since reopening, people have been cooperative with the new guidelines.

“We tell ‘em bring a mask, stay in your social group and we are limiting the total number of people at any one time,” he said.

Greer expressed frustration at how some of the health guidelines were disseminated from the state.

“The delay in sometimes getting accurate information — like you could raft on the Arkansas, but you couldn’t raft on the Animas on a commercial trip. You could indoor dine at a restaurant, but you couldn’t sit outside in a hot springs,” he said. “So the contradictions were really confusing for businesses and, honestly, the typical [public relations] thing, if you don’t put information out there, misinformation fills that gap.”

He added, “The variance process was slow and cumbersome, so that probably needs to be streamlined for the future so the communities that are at risk can shut down sooner and the ones that aren’t can open up sooner.”

The marketing director for Healing Waters Resort and Spa did not return a SUN phone call by press time Wednesday.

This story was posted on June 11, 2020.