If there’s one thing local businesses want to see in the new local public health order, it’s to have more say over their own operations.
On Friday, April 9, Gov. Jared Polis announced the state’s dial framework would be evolving from a mandated public health order to an advisory tool starting Friday, April 16. When that happens, local governments will have more control over the restrictions in their counties.
The move was expected, and county officials have already begun working on a new public health order. The Summit County Board of Health received a draft proposal at their meeting on Thursday, April 8. They expect to see a revised plan at their meeting on Tuesday, April 13.
As they continue to develop a new order, local business owners hope to see measures that give them more of a voice in how their businesses should be run.
“I would like to see more autonomy given to businesses,” Molly Powell said in an email. Powell is an in-home massage therapist and owns Mollify Mind Body. “Let business owners decide if they think masks, less tables in restaurants, etc. are needed.”
David Blake, general manager of Mitchell Theatres’ Skyline Cinema 8, said he’d like to see Summit County officials take an individualized approach when developing restrictions.
“Personally, I think that the movie theater could probably handle 50% (capacity),” he said.
“For the county as a whole, I don’t really feel like I can say that everyone should go to 50% and it’ll be totally fine,” Blake said. “I hope that they’ll take individual businesses into account for stuff like that.”
In the draft proposal of the new public health order, local officials proposed the county focus more on hospitalizations and less on incidence rates and positivity rates, a move Powell said she supports.
“I agree that the focus should be severe cases (and) hospitalizations versus cases,” she said. “I say this understanding that there are people who have had COVID and continue to experience severe repercussions from that.”
For a lot of businesses, it’s the capacity restrictions that impact his business the most. Kimberly Ghorai, owner of Meta Yoga Studios, pointed out that even if the county or state were to allow her studio at 100% capacity, she’d still be restricted by the 6-foot physical distancing rule.
Though capacity restrictions are also a concern for Blake, there are other factors outside the county’s control that still impact the theater.
“Hollywood has definitely held back just about all of their bigger movies for the past year or so, so because of that we haven’t had very large audiences,” Blake said. “Even though we were at 25% (capacity) for quite a while, in our smallest theater that meant we could put 19 people in there. … But even with those restrictions, we didn’t see a whole lot of sellouts where we had to turn a lot of people away.”
Blake said that once Hollywood begins releasing major blockbusters on a consistent basis, that’s when he expects the theater to be at full capacity, whether that’s 25% or 50%.
“Moving forward, we’re looking forward to being able to open up our doors to even more people, (while) at the same time looking forward to seeing some of these movies that the release dates keep getting pushed back,” he said. “When those finally start coming in, hopefully we’ll be near or at full capacity (that’s currently) allowed so that we can actually let people come and watch them.”
While Blake hopes to see an individualized plan, Ghorai said she hopes the opposite. From her perspective, she’d like to see a consistent measure from local officials.
“I think it’s important for us to all have a cohesive way that we are, as business owners, addressing the public health needs,” she said. “I think it’s really confusing when different businesses have different standards. Being able to have a cohesive plan is, I think, actually really important.”
Regardless of the plan, Ghorai said she’ll be okay with whatever officials come up with, but she wants it to encompass many months. “I know that we have qualified individuals and I trust whatever they decide to come up with and I’ll follow whatever they suggest.”
She went on to say that her “client base thrives on consistency” and that “the jerk back and forth is not helpful.”
Powell agreed, noting the hardships many local owners have endured due to the pandemic.
“I believe businesses have suffered enough and are willing to take precautions to stay in business, but should be trusted to handle things how they see fit,” she said. “If we are at 75% vaccinations by the end of May … I would see no problem with loosening mask and capacity restrictions and letting businesses decide how they would like to move forward.”