By Jamie Leary

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Colorado’s move to Level Orange from Level Red on Monday, while positive, has created questions when it comes to the state’s 5 Star State Certification Program, specifically for the restaurant industry.

(credit: CBS)

“It causes a lot of confusion for the 5 Star operations as many of you probably have experienced… asking yourselves questions like I was over the weekend, like, how does this affect 5 Star,” said Dan Hendershott, Summit County Environmental Health Manager.

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Hendershott along with the Summit County Board of Health, hosted a town hall Monday to answer questions about the move to Level Orange. While it puts restaurants closer to moving to Level Yellow, like many counties across the state case numbers in Summit County are still in Level Red.

“Typically, a 5 Star facility can operate in the next most restrictive level and so the idea is that if we’re in Level Red, a restaurant or a gym can operate in the Level Orange. If we’re in Level Orange, then that facility can operate in Level Yellow; however, since our numbers are still in red, 5 Star facilities can’t evolve to yellow capacities, which would be 50% in a restaurant, because our case numbers are still in the red, so it gets a little confusing,” explained Hendershott.

In Summit County on Monday, the two-week average for positive case numbers was sitting at 645 per 100,000 people. In order for 5 Star businesses to move to Level Yellow restrictions, cases need to be at 350 per 100,000 or fewer.

(credit: CBS)

“If you do choose to continue in the 5 Star Program, you can’t increase your capacity limits unfortunately at this time. We need to wait until our numbers get to orange so that you can operate in yellow capacities,” said Hendershott.

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For businesses with a 5 Star Certification, Hendershott said they would need to continue the enhanced safety measures in order to operate in Level Yellow when the county’s case numbers reach Level Orange.

“You still need to have your increased ventilation systems that were approved during the inspections for 5 Star, you still need to collect contact information, you still need to do customer symptom screening.”

The 5 Star certification meant some restaurant owners had to invest capitol. Matt Vawter opened Rootstalk in Breckenridge in December and said the certification meant he could seat people over the holiday.

“We had to upgrade our HVAC filtration and we decided to add some air filters that were HEPA filters.” Said Vawter. “I think the 5 Star certification was great. it got us a chance to open for the holidays, and I do think it keeps the guests safe, keeps the team safe within the four walls.”

The health order for Summit County, which reflects the move to Level Orange, expires in 30 days and can be amended at any point dampening on the number of cases.

(credit: CBS)

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“Many factors might change what the capacity limits are going forwards as far as gatherings, other capacity limits that are put on industries and we’ve seen it change over the course of the pandemic but it’s really important to understand that the framework will be evolving, for example as we embark on vaccinating more numbers of our population, how should the policies work once we are becoming more vaccinated overall,” said Amy Wineland, Director of Summit County Public Health.

Jamie Leary