DENVER (KDVR) — Gov. Jared Polis and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan announced an updated COVID dial for the state will go into effect 9 a.m. on Saturday.
Most of the Denver metro area is expected to move to Level Yellow on Saturday as Colorado institutes the new COVID-19 dial, Hunsaker Ryan announced.
The greatest change is in the threshold for disease incidence levels which will allow most counties to operate in Level Yellow. Once the metric for a new level is reached, the county will be moved by the state into the appropriate level.
Restaurants and several other businesses will be allowed 50% capacity in Level Yellow.
“It’s excellent news — phenomenal. We’re super happy,” said Mary Mcknabb, owner of Inga’s Alpine Tavern in Denver.
Mcknabb says the change will require some work on their part, like getting the space ready to accommodate more guests just in time for a busy Super Bowl weekend.
“Hopefully it’s easier to increase capacity on short notice than reduce. We’re just adding tables, adding spots,” said Mcknabb.
Under Level Yellow, restaurants are also allowed to push last call from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. Mcknabb says that extra hour makes at least a 15% difference in sales.
“That’s what we lost when they dialed it back. A lot of people are out there, they work and come here after work. We want to be that place where someone can have a quick drink and a little unwinding after work,” said Mcknabb.
Some restaurants won’t make dramatic changes to their layout and staffing right away.
“What we’ve seen even opening our dining rooms for 25% is, it’s been kind of a gradual trickle in of guests — it hasn’t been a flood of dine-in all of a sudden,” said Elizabeth Nicholson, director of human resources at Chook Charcoal Chicken.
Nicholson says that allows their staff to gradually prepare for an eventual increase of dine-in customers.
“That’s great for us too because we need that time to refine how we operate with more people in-house,” said Nicholson.
Counties in Level Yellow with 5 Star certification will be allowed to operate in Level Blue once 70% of Coloradans age 70 and up are vaccinated with at least the first dose. This is expected to be reached by end of February.
Polis announced last week that educators and people age 65 and up will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning Feb. 8.
Over the next three weeks, Polis says 120,000 people in the educator category will be vaccinated.
As vaccinations continue to roll out, medical establishments and local leaders have organized mass drive-thru sites around the Denver metro area.