Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer, delayed making a decision Friday afternoon on Park County’s latest variance request.
The request would allow normal spacing between restaurant and bar tables, and remove the requirement kitchen workers must wear face masks as long as they have been screened for COVID-19. If approved, the spacing restriction will only apply to businesses that have 50 or fewer people inside.
“I do have some concerns with the timing of this action, given the recent increases in cases in Park County and ongoing investigations into those cases,” Harrist said in her email response to Billin’s variance request.
A 10th case of COVID-19 was reported in Park County on Friday afternoon, bringing the county to a total of eight active cases. There are now six active Cody cases and two in Powell. There were no new cases reported over the weekend.
Harrist said she will make a decision on the variance early next week when the Park County virus picture becomes clearer.
“This is consistent with what I did in May when another county requested a variance to the then-current statewide orders but at the same time identified a case with potentially multiple high risk exposures,” Harrist said. “After further investigation over the next several days, it was determined it was appropriate for the variances to be approved.”
Harrist is referencing Campbell County, to which she stalled in response to a variance request after the county’s 16th case became confirmed in early May.
In the past eight days, eight cases have been diagnosed in Park County.
“I am confident Dr. Harrist will appropriately review the variance request next week when we know more about the recently diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in Park County and can better evaluate the trend,” Billin said.
Harrist mentioned how transmission at a Uinta County bar in late May spread the virus quickly in that county, which now has 89 active cases. Two restaurants there have closed in response to the virus and health care providers have been impacted.
Harrist said she anticipates Gov. Mark Gordon’s next public health order, which will be unveiled next week for a July 1 start, will have relaxed restaurant restrictions similar to what Park County is requesting.
“It’s very disappointing,” said county commissioner Jake Fulkerson in response to Harrist’s decision. “I thought we had a good idea what she was looking for. Everybody is a little spooked right now, it’s spooky times.”
Harrist went on to clarify that although she is allowing the Cody Stampede Rodeo to occur, the exemption request that was approved for that event was different, in that the Stampede is an outdoor business event that is hosting households separated by six feet.