By Conor McCue

GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4) – Under Weld County’s new “safer-at-work” guidance amid the coronavirus pandemic, businesses now have the choice to reopen or not. In downtown Greeley, the signs outside many stores showed mixed results. On Monday, it appeared many erred on the side of caution by staying closed, but some, like William Moore Jewelers, reopened.

“I haven’t had a sale in the store since March 10,” said Carl Moore, who described Monday as a “soft reopening.” “If I didn’t have some savings set aside, I wouldn’t be here today.”

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Moore was eager to get his shop up and running again, but business likely won’t be back to normal for some time. For now, customers will be few and far between on purpose, we the store mostly utilizing call-in appointments.

“I just want one person at a time in the store, so we can maintain distance,” he said. “If they don’t feel like it’s safe to come out, then I agree 100%, stay home and do what makes you feel best for your family. But if you feel like you want to try to come out, with a mask and everyone aware, then come out and maybe I can help you out.”

Moore’s decision is in line with Weld County’s newest public health order, which differs from the state and City of Greeley’s guidelines. Weld County commissioners are urging everyone to follow precautions, but exercise their freedom of choice.

“At the end of the day, everyone has freedoms: freedom to stay home, freedom to go out, and freedom to support whatever business they want to support,” a county spokesperson said in a statement on Friday.

“I don’t just think you can take an umbrella and cover the whole state and say this is how it should be done,” Moore said.

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Gov. Jared Polis disagrees. Last week, he threatened to strip the licenses of businesses who violate state social distancing guidelines. It’s why the popular Hugo’s Barber Shop remains closed.

“We know who regulates us, and that’s (the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies) and the state. So, why even go against it? Why even put ourselves at that kind of risk? Not only because of the regulations, but health,” said owner Hugo Corral.

For Corral, the choice comes down to employee and customer safety, in a county that’s seen more than 1,500 COVID-19 cases and nearly 90 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We’re all in the same financial deficit, but it’s bigger than that,” Corral said. “I think we need to act a lot more responsibly and not just look at the financials.”

This weekend, northern Colorado health leaders sent a letter to the county commissioners urging them to rethink their decision to allow businesses to reopen.

They said, in part:

“Opening too soon or without a staged plan will negate the community, individuals, and businesses’ hard sacrifices to-date… and lead to widespread, severe illness that our health care system cannot handle. The deaths will be tragic.”

Monday night, the governor’s office released a statement regarding Weld County’s re-opening plan:

“Playing politics in a pandemic is perilous and when these officials send mixed messages to businesses it creates a great risk to residents. While Weld County officials are being reckless in their rhetoric, they’ve taken no official action to ‘defy the state,’ and most importantly are tricking and confusing businesses in the county into violating state law. The other 63 counties in Colorado are working to slow the spread of the virus and are committed to protecting the health of their residents. Limiting transmission in Weld County is a top priority for the state and the Governor, who recently deployed the National Guard to help test up to 300 people per day in Greeley. Science tells us that identification of COVID-19 cases and strong safety measures at work will help slow the spread throughout Weld County which currently has the highest case rate of COVID-19 among Colorado counties with a population greater than 100,000.”

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An office spokesperson went on to say the state will look into licenses at businesses that are operating and putting the public’s health at risk.

Conor McCue