Colorado Considers Eagle County’s Request For Exemptions From Coronavirus Stay-At-Home Order

Eagle County Paramedics in Avon, Colorado
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Eagle County Paramedic Sam Aaronson is helped with personal protective equipment by colleague Steve McGervey at the service’s station in Avon, Colorado, on Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Eagle County, which includes Vail, has requested an exemption from parts of Colorado's statewide stay-at-home order.

A state spokesperson said it's the first time it has received such a request during the coronavirus pandemic, despite a suggestion from Douglas County that it would consider something similar.

In a letter dated April 16, 2020, Eagle County’s top public health official asserts, “The conditions within Eagle County are significantly improving and do not warrant all the restrictions within the current State Orders.”

It’s a big about-face for the county, which was an early hotspot of the COVID-19 pandemic in Colorado. Just a month ago, Vail Health’s CEO warned of the virus, “It’s everywhere here.” 

In an email, a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said, "It is possible for jurisdictions to get exempted from all or parts of the Executive Orders." 

The spokesperson confirmed the state has received Eagle County's request, and a statement from CDPHE Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan added, "We are considering this request in the context of both the local conditions and our statewide disease control response and we will share our decision soon."

Eagle County says it’s met four crucial criteria to reopen: a sustained reduction in cases for 14 days; hospitals that can handle everyone who gets sick; the ability to test people quickly; and the ability to monitor for outbreaks using contact tracing.

Ryan’s statement recognized the progress the county has made.

“I want to praise Eagle County residents for successfully remaining at home and the Eagle County government for taking decisive action early to slow the spread within the community,” Ryan wrote. Ryan was an Eagle County commissioner for two terms before she was appointed to CDPHE.

Now the county would like to be able to permit gatherings of up to 10 people, and to allow some non-essential businesses to open on the condition that they put in protocols to protect employees’ health and continue to encourage social distancing.

The letter also notes that Eagle County plans to “permit the opening of outdoor recreation facilities.”

Signed by Heath Harmon, the county’s public health and environment director, it asserts, “I have determined that the community now will receive greater health benefits from incrementally loosening restrictions as disease activity continues to recede.” 

Gov. Jared Polis has indicated he plans to end the stay-at-home on April 26.