By Tori Mason

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– Gov. Jared Polis announced Wednesday that Colorado’s counties in Level Red on the COVID-19 dial are going to Level Orange on Jan. 4, 2021. It’s welcome news for struggling businesses. However, many won’t be operating with the fewer restrictions they hoped after applying for the Five Star Program.

(credit: CBS)

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“When the second shutdown happened, I had 43 employees. Now I’m down to about 16,” said Jeff Eaton, owner or Señor Ric’s. “I’m hoping that Monday, when we move to Orange, we can open up to 50 people and I can bring about half of the remaining staff back. If I get my Five Star Certification, I can bring the rest of them back.”

Depending on where a business’s county falls on the COVID-19 dial, Five Star Certified businesses are eligible for less restrictive capacity caps. Now that Red Level counties are moving to Orange, businesses were hoping their Five Star Certifications would allow them to operate at Level Yellow restrictions.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says it’s not that simple.

(credit: CBS)

Even though Polis deemed Level Red counties back to Level Orange, CDPHE says these counties still haven’t met the Level Orange metrics in the state’s public health order.

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“I think CDPHE and the governor’s office are still deciding how they want to assess that, because getting the businesses to jump from Level Red to Level Yellow in one step might be a little bit too risky of a leap,” said Luc Hatlestad, Arapahoe County Public Information Officer.

(credit: CBS)

CDPHE says it’s still a good idea to get Five Star applications submitted now, so businesses can be prepared to operate with fewer restrictions once the county meets the Level Orange metrics specified in the public health order.

“We would like more consistency and clarity from the state because they are the ones that make the final decisions,” said Hatlestad.

Arapahoe County is prepared to send inspectors out to any businesses that have completed an application beginning on Monday.

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There’s no rush for restaurant owners like Eaton to submit application now, but at least a few more employees will be back next week under Level Orange.

Tori Mason