BREAKING: County issues orders closing down lodging to visitors, closing non-essential services and limiting gatherings

  • COVID-19, courtesy Centers for Disease Control
    COVID-19, courtesy Centers for Disease Control

Short-term lodging in Ouray County is closed to everyone except those who are working within Ouray County or for an employer based here and primary residents, according to an order issued by the health department this afternoon.

The order, which prohibits all others from staying in short-term rentals for less than 30 days, goes into effect at 4 p.m. today. However, this does not mean visitors who are currently staying at local establishments must leave immediately. According to the order signed by Health Department Director Tanner Kingery, those who are staying at hotels, motels, campgrounds, RV parks and short-term vacation rentals are asked to leave and no more reservations should be taken at this time. This order also closes pools at these lodging facilities. Click here to read the order.

This order is one of three issued by the health department this afternoon. The others formally prohibit mass gatherings within the county and close non-essential personal services countywide. Kingery has the authority to issue the orders as the incident commander of the emergency disaster, declared Monday by Ouray County commissioners. This gave broader powers to the health department to protect safety and health within the county.

Mass gatherings are prohibited and are defined as those with 10 or more people, and include everything from church services to people gathered in a public space.

The order doesn’t apply to Ouray County courts or office environments and government buildings where a safe space of at least 6 feet between people can be maintained. Click here to read the order.

The order closing non-essential personal services also applies to restaurants, bars, theaters and gyms, in accordance with orders issued earlier this week by Gov. Jared Polis’ office. The order does not apply to grocery stores or other places that offer food for consumption off-premises. The order also allows take-out food from restaurants and bars. Click here to read the order.

All the measures have been enacted in response to concerns over community spread of the coronavirus and a lack of available testing resources to determine whether individuals are sick or could be spreading the illness.

Failing to comply with these includes a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment in the county jail for up to 18 months. All the orders are in effect until April 30 at this time.

The orders come after several meetings Kingery had with local policy groups and the board of county commissioners, where concerns were raised about limiting exposure to the virus. While there are no confirmed cases in Ouray County at this time, health officials have said they believe it is present and could spread fast if community spread occurs. Little testing is available within Ouray County at this time and there is a shortage of available testing kits to health officials. Montrose County announced Friday evening it has its first confirmed case of coronavirus – a 39-year-old man who has been quarantined at his house.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.