Mass gatherings ban likely for months

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Ouray County Public Health Director Tanner Kingery says he expects a prohibition on mass gatherings to linger through the summer, even as other public health orders begin to dissolve.

That revelation came during a virtual meeting on April 30, one of several Ouray County leaders have held in the last week with various industries and community groups. The meetings have been geared toward discussion about what a reopening will look like for them.

The roughly hourlong meeting on April 30 focused on restaurants, bars and food services and featured questions about cur rent safety protocols and those that might be in place in the future.

Gov. Jared Polis hasn’t set a definitive date for when restaurants can open to sit-down dining, but it will be several weeks at least before that happens. Polis said during a news briefing Monday that state health officials first need to collect data over the next two weeks that will help create proper guidelines for businesses to do so safely.

Ouray resident Bette Maurer questioned how in-person dining would work if the state’s order limiting gatherings to io or fewer people remains in place.

“It would be really hard to have a family of six walk in, and now you only have four more people allowed,” she said.

Ouray County Emergency Manager Glenn Boyd responded that he didn’t think restaurants fell under the state’s definition of a mass gathering.

Restaurant owners said they’re grateful for the support they’ve received from local residents the last several weeks. But without the county reopening to tourists, some said it will be tough to hang on.

“It will be a challenge to figure out how to stay financially viable during this time when we’re discouraging tourism,” said True Grit Cafe owner Tammee Tuttle.

Boyd, who also serves as a Ouray city councilor, called the decision on when to reopen to tourists a “fine balance.”

“The paramedic in me wants to lock everything down until we have a vaccine. The city council person in me wants everything opened up so we have 80 percent of our budget again. The human in me wants that fine balance,” he said.

Eatery 66 co-owner Katie Graves said she doesn’t “really see tourism happening this summer” and suggested the county would be better off trying to fmd a way to lift restrictions for county residents and seeing how that goes before opening everything up to visitors.

Ridgway Mayor John Clark acknowledged residents are getting frustrated with public health orders that largely encourage them to stay home and floated the idea of the county seeking a variance from the state to relax some restrictions.

Pacie Merling, a brewer at Ouray Brewery, said county officials should pay close attention to places like Mesa County and Moab, Utah, which have slowly begun to reopen, and see how those decisions play out.

“There are other communities we can look to to gather information about how that affects those areas,” she said.