New COVID deaths confirmed in Garfield County, including 8 total at two Rifle nursing homes |

New COVID deaths confirmed in Garfield County, including 8 total at two Rifle nursing homes

City of Glenwood steps up efforts to provide business assistance grants, allow for outdoor dining spaces downtown

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
A nurse walks to a car at the free COVID testing site on Monday, Nov. 23 in Glenwood Springs.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Garfield County now has 16 confirmed deaths attributed to COVID-19, including six newly confirmed deaths at two Rifle nursing homes where outbreaks have occurred.

Two additional deaths also are pending a coroner’s investigation, according to the latest statistics posted Thursday morning to the county’s COVID-19 data web page.

Outbreaks at the Colorado State Veterans Nursing Home and E. Dene Moore Care Center, both located in Rifle, have grown to include 32 and 24 resident cases, respectively, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health Wednesday update on outbreaks statewide.

Five deaths are being reported at the state Veterans Home and three at E. Dene Moore. Two additional deaths at the Veterans Home were confirmed and reported last week.

A total of 57 staff members between the adjacent, but separately operated, facilities also have tested positive for COVID-19 since the outbreaks were first reported in November. The Veterans Home is operated by the Colorado Department of Human Services, and E. Dene Moore is operated by Grand River Health.

A new Garfield County outbreak also was reported Wednesday by the state, at the Mountain Valley Developmental Services Pitkin House group home. Two residents and one staff member there have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the state’s outbreak data page.

In addition, Garfield County is reporting its highest two-week total of new coronavirus cases since the pandemic began in March — 700 during the period from Nov. 26 to Wednesday.

At the same time, the county’s COVID-19 test positivity rate still hovers below the state’s Level Red designation of 15% — currently at 12.9%.

And, the county’s hospital capacity, as of Thursday, has moved back into the Level Yellow cautious/concerned range, after being at Level Red since earlier in the month.

Level Red restrictions imposed

Those are the latest statistics behind a worrisome trend in Garfield County that, as of 5 p.m. Thursday, officially moves the county to Level Red restrictions on the state’s COVID-19 dial.

The Level Red designation technically brings with it tighter restrictions on businesses, events and social gatherings in the county and its six municipalities — the subject of a special Board of County Commissioners/Board of Health meeting at 4 p.m., to discuss the county’s response.

The city of Glenwood Springs, in a Thursday morning news release, acknowledged the move to Level Red restrictions and issued its response.

Level Red is the second-strictest level on the state dial short of stay-at-home orders, as were in place in March and April.

It maintains current capacity of 50% for both critical and noncritical retail businesses, but requires restaurants to suspend indoor dining and limit business to takeout service and open-air dining for family/household groups only.

In addition, no personal gatherings outside households are to take place, and several other business sectors are required to operate at reduced levels.

Level Red Restrictions

• Indoor dining closed but restaurants can offer take out, to go or delivery. Outdoor open-air dining is allowed with members of the same household.

• Bars that don’t serve food must be closed.

• Offices limited to 10% capacity, with remote work strongly encouraged.

• Gyms/indoor recreation limited to 10% capacity or up to 10 people with reservations.

• Entertainment and indoor event venues must be closed.

• Unseated outdoor events are limited to 25% capacity or 75 people (whichever is fewer).

• Indoor in-person public gatherings (e.g. meetings, shows, exhibits) are not allowed.

• Child care facilities may remain open with standard ratios.

Source: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

“City administration reminds businesses that non-compliance with state public health orders could result in state enforcement, including cease and desist orders and suspended business and liquor licenses,” the city’s news release states. “Liquor licenses are a state enforcement area, and multiple restaurants across the state have had their license suspended for disobeying state public health orders.”

Meanwhile, the city, the Glenwood Chamber Foundation and the Downtown Development Authority have partnered to provide additional grants to restaurants, since they are expected to have the largest financial strain under the new state mandates.

“It is anticipated that these grants will be $2,400, if a restaurant did not take full advantage of the earlier warming grants provided through CARES funding,” the city explains in the release.

The move to Level Red restrictions also qualifies restaurants and other small businesses to apply for new state assistance that was approved last week, including grants of between $3,000 and $7,000.

State Bill 20B-001 recently approved by the Colorado General Assembly provides $37 million for direct relief payments to small businesses located in a county that is subject to, and in compliance with, severe capacity restrictions pursuant to a public health order,“ according to the city release.

Those payments are being allocated to counties for distribution to eligible small businesses, including restaurants, bars, movie theaters and fitness centers.

The city also recently opened its Bethel Plaza public outdoor seating and dining area with outdoor heating elements, and is expected to have several small, covered seating structures situated on the north side of the pedestrian bridge on Sixth Street later this month.

“The Topek structures on the north landing are limited to to-go food only; no alcohol,” the city release states.

The city anticipates that the special “igloo” outdoor dining structures it has ordered will arrive within the next two weeks, and propane heaters under the bridge were expected to be up and running Thursday.

The city has expanded Bethel Plaza to include outdoor dining options to facilitate to-go food and alcoholic beverages from area restaurants. Alcohol consumption hours are Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday through Sunday 11 a.m. until 9 p.m.

Private security is on site during these times.

“While areas will be cleaned on a regular schedule, patrons are encouraged to bring their own sanitation wipes,” according to the city release. “The city has been distributing blankets to restaurants to give away for outdoor dining.”

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