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Larimer County Businesses Get Ready For Possible Five Star Program Approval

LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4) – Thanks to the state's new five star certification program many Coloradans could soon be eating indoors at restaurants, even in counties that are in Level Red because of the spread of COVID-19. In Larimer County, eager business owners may have to wait for the same opportunity though.

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Under the state guidance for such programs, Level Red counties showing a consistent decline in COVID-19 percent positivity and hospitalizations can apply. Once the county is approved, businesses can apply for a special certification to operate at Level Orange capacity levels.

On Friday, the state approved Summit County's application for the five star program, and within hours, restaurants received word that they were approved and had diners indoors.

On the same day, Larimer County submitted its application for its own version of a five-star variance program called the Level Up program. It, too, would allow businesses to operate with fewer restrictions if they can prove they're following strict safety measures.

"We're very encouraged about it," said Mindy McCloughan, President and CEO of the Loveland Chamber of Commerce. "We're ready to roll the plan out as soon as we get the green light from the health department."

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The day before sending its application to the state, Larimer County announced it is not yet eligible. To get approval, the state must see sustained two week declines, and Larimer County is still days away from achieving that.

"We're on the downward trend, and I expect we'll get there by Wednesday," McCloughan said.

If approved, the county could begin inspections as soon as the Dec. 28, McCloughan tells CBS4. In the meantime, businesses can submit their plans to the county.

"We've all been very proactive on what can we do now, so that when this does happen, we're ready to go," said Morgen Harrington, owner of Grimm Brothers Brewhouse in Loveland.

Harrington was initially one of dozens of Loveland business owners who initially refused to comply with new Level Red restrictions in December. She's since been one of many people who have helped with the development of the Level Up program, which she believes finds a balance between public health recommendations and business' economic concerns.

"We would be able to at least make our bottom line," Harrington said. "Whereas, right now we're losing money."

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According to McCloughan, some 700 or more businesses could apply for the county's program. Standing it up quickly will require collaboration between several chambers of commerce, community leaders, and Larimer County Public Health, as well as countless volunteers.

"We know that it's a heavy lift, we're prepared for that, but to do nothing is unacceptable," McCloughan said. "We're going to make this happen one way or another."

In the meantime, officials are asking the public to continue following protective measures and guidance so the county can achieve the metrics the state requires for approval of a certification program.

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