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Thornton Businesses Brace Themselves As COVID Infectivity Rate Runs High In Adams County

THORNTON, Colo. (CBS4) - In his salon amid other stores and a restaurant near 164th Avenue and Washington Street in Thornton, Kevin Nguyen worries about his business, Foxy Nails and Spa.

Kevin Nguyen
Kevin Nguyen (credit: CBS)

"I'm paying tax just like anybody else. I shut down, the city will have no tax, the state will have no tax, the fed will have no tax."

Already things are hard in the era of COVID-19. He had a dozen employees, now he and his wife have not drawn a paycheck in eight months and have only four workers. Those laid off are on unemployment or have gotten other jobs at Amazon or King Soopers.

"If we get to level three, I don't know, I don't know what to do," he said.

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But Adams County, where the infectivity rate has risen to 7.6 percent, is in a world of hurt with the coronavirus.

"If things don't improve we could see a change to a lower level in the structure on the dial within a matter of three weeks or so," said the Tri-County Health Department's executive director John Douglas.

That would mean a change to the state's second highest COVID protection level on the color wheel, "Safer at Home 3, High Risk."

It would mean a reduction of capacity for places like Foxy Nails and Spa. Right now Nguyen is allowed 50 percent capacity -- this would bring it down to 25 percent capacity.

Douglas says the state is willing to work with them if they show progress. Adams County submitted plans Tuesday to try to improve the numbers, including a significant increase in communication about COVID risks.

"COVID has exposed every fracture American society has," said Douglas. "Whether health inequity, by age, or by race and certainly by income."

In Adams county the high infectivity rate may have several causes. A high percentage of the county workforce is considered essential.

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(credit: CBS)

"Most essential workers don't get much in the way of sick leave," explained Douglas. "If you are identified with a cold and oh by the way it's COVID, that means you have to stay at home for an isolation period and if you have roommates who have been exposed to you and have jobs, they need to be quarantined."

Add to that the higher number of intergenerational families living together in the county and the population of Latin-X people in the county, "many of whom honestly are fearful of the government given what's been happening over the last four years in terms of discussion about immigration. That's an added reason either not to be trustful or not want to interact with the government," said Douglas.

"I'm not all saying people in Adams County don't care about this. But we know these are realities that really impact how people want to prioritize dealing with this in their lives."

Recent outbreaks have been largely in gatherings among family and friends in not only Adams County, but around the state.

"We get pretty much the same pattern everywhere," noted Douglas. "Humans are social beings they want to be around each other."

Weariness of restrictions are starting to play a factor. People tend to be less protective around family members and friends, doing less social distancing, not wearing masks and may not be washing hands as frequently. All of those factors are catching Adams County businesses in the crossfire.

Kevin Nguyen follows guidelines and says "99.9 percent" of his customers cooperate. He has sought help from the government and a program implemented by the City of Thornton called the Alliance Business Assistance Center has stepped in with grant money to help as well. The program even offers assistance outside of Thornton in other parts of the county. He hopes to ride things out at current levels until next April, saying by then he really hopes for more re-opening and maybe he and his wife can draw a paycheck again. But the numbers don't add up if he ends up at even lower-allowed capacity with a change in the county's COVID designation. He fears his business will have to be boarded up more permanently than it was in the early days of the pandemic.

"We've done that before and hopefully never again," he said.

Here is a link to the Alliance Business Assistance Center for other Adams County businesses seeking help during the pandemic:

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