Variance order enters into effect
The variance plan request submitted jointly by Bent, Crowley and Otero counties to the state was approved on Saturday and was scheduled to go into effect at midnight on Monday.
The approved variance plan will loosen certain restrictions on some businesses and services in Bent, Crowley and Otero counties. It is scheduled to last from June 1 to June 30, unless extended, modified or repealed.
The businesses and services affected by the plan include restaurants, bars, places of worship, fitness facilities and gyms, dance studios, movie theaters, auctions, and motorsports racetracks.
New restrictions in the variance plan are similar across, but specific to the given establishment.
Every business and service must adhere to the standard 6-feet distancing guideline, and customers and congregates are also required to observe 6-feet social distancing.
This means restaurants, gyms churches and like facilities are required to arrange their dining rooms, exercise spaces and areas of worship in a way that maintains and accommodates six-feet social distancing.
Staff at restaurants, gyms and like facilities are also required to wear masks. Patrons are not allowed to gather in lobby areas and are strongly encouraged, reads the variance plan, to call ahead of time to make reservations.
Patrons will be required to wear masks as they are seated and as they are leaving. Employees are required to serve food at buffets, meaning no self-serving.
Bars may only open if they "operate like a restaurant,“ meaning they serve food at tables or only seating at a bar if food is served, according to the variance plan.
Similarly, people attending places of worship are required to wear masks or face coverings until seated, and notices of such must be placed.
The requirements for gyms, dance studios and fitness centers are much the same. Motorsports centers and auctions are be subject to a maximum outdoor capacity of 175 people.
In movie theaters, movie-goers are required to be separated by at least three seats to their side, and seating must be alternated every other row.
Concession lines need to be marked for six-feet social distancing and barriers need to be placed at registers and like installments.
In restaurants, places of worship and theaters, families may be seated within six feet, but must respect six-feet social distancing between other parties.
For all establishments, regular disinfecting of commonly accessed surfaces is mandatory.
The variance plan notes that establishments are “solely responsible and accountable for ensuring compliance, both from customers and for the establishment itself.”
Director Ritter said in news release containing the variance plan that it is up to the community to maintain the restrictions in place.
Should more than 30 cases combined in Bent, Crowley and Otero counties in one week (excluding inmates), the variance plan is “automatically rescended and we move backward.”
“Let’s all help to keep each other safe and to keep our local businesses open, it’s up to us. Take it seriously, because it is,” Ritter added.
Tribune-Democrat reporter Christian Burney can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Help support local journalism by subscribing to the La Junta Tribune-Democrat at lajuntatribunedemocrat.com/subscribenow.