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Colorado health department releases 5-star program checklist for counties and businesses

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Robert Davis

(The Center Square) – The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) released a checklist to set up businesses for its 5-star program, a variance program designed to allow businesses to stay open under restrictive public health orders.

The program is modeled after one piloted by Mesa County and several others over the summer. However, CDPHE stressed the program will be voluntary so that “each city or county can determine whether this program is a good fit for their community,” the agency said Tuesday.

CDPHE said it recognizes the amount of strain currently on public health agencies as they deal with contract tracing, disease control, and now vaccine distribution. Because of these factors, the health department said, “special care should be taken to ensure that launching this program does not detract from public health core functions.”

Before applying for a variance under the program, cities and counties must meet the five minimum requirements on the checklist. First, they must form an administrative committee in partnership with a Local Public Health Authority (LPHA) that will have “jurisdiction over development, compliance, and enforcement of public health orders,” according to the checklist.

These committees are also required to provide weekly updates to their LPHA and to CDPHE about the new certifications granted, the businesses that receive warnings, and the businesses whose certifications are revoked. Any committee that doesn’t comply could be disbanded.

CDPHE suggests including members of local chambers of commerce, nonprofits, elected leaders, and industry association professionals to ensure the committee is multivocal.

After forming the committee, the city or county must determine what resources they will need to remain compliant. Funds cannot be diverted from public health budgets to pay for the program.

Then, cities and counties must determine how they will remain compliant. CDPHE requires all businesses applying for variances to have an independent third party inspect them. Certifying organizations must be approved by a local Administrative Committee. Self-certification is not allowed currently.

Once approved, local jurisdictions can apply for the program. Only businesses in accepted jurisdictions can apply for a variance. The application must include letters of support from at least one local hospital, sheriff’s association, local tribe, mayors, or emergency managers.

CDPHE, which released the checklist Monday after taking public feedback, expects to finalize the program by the end of the week.