By Lisa Young

Staff writer

Delta County submitted a variance from the safer-at-home mandates last week, five days later a number of Delta County citizens, business owners and politicians attended a “Stand Up Rally” to protest continued state restrictions and show support for area businesses.

Rally goers clad in patriotic gear congregated at “high noon” on Main Street waving colorful signs, making passionate speeches, and offering up heartfelt prayers all to the tune of honking horns and revving motorcycles in hopes of pressuring Gov. Jared Polis and the Colorado Department of Public Heath and Environment to fully open Colorado for business.

“It’s been said for a while that it would be the people that decide when we open and not the government and I think this is the case,” said Commissioner Don Suppes stating that lives have been lost due to suicides related to the shutdown.

“We have to put pressure on our state government, we have to put pressure on our governor this is the only way it’s going to happen,” Suppes said. “I pray everyday to God that we can get this resolved without getting violent, because that is such a scary thing and there are a lot of desperate people out there right now who are about to lose everything.”

The rally, billed as a non-political event to “show support for businesses and services in Delta County who want to open,” was heavily attended by local Republicans. Promoted as “a rally of Americans and non-partisan,” the street was dotted with Trump hats, T-shirts and flags supporting the president.

Event organizer Roger Bentley, Delta County Republican Chair, said he opened the rally to both sides of the political spectrum by contacting Debora Fisk, Delta County Democratic Chair, to invite Democratic candidates to speak at the rally.

“Delta County Republican Party Chairman Roger Bentley mentioned that he invited Democratic candidates to participate with Republican candidates in a recent political gathering. That’s technically accurate,” Fisk said about the invitation, adding, “The night before the event, he made that invitation to me. Even if the event was conducted in accordance with the COVID-19 rules, which it wasn’t, overnight notice was clearly insufficient. Nevertheless, we Democrats appreciate Roger thinking of us. We certainly have good candidates and workable ideas.”

Bentley wanting to shift away from the political nature of the rally and focus on reopening the state said, “We were impressed that the Stockyard Restaurant closed and paid their staff to attend the rally, Tunget Gymnastics and American volunteers were also on hand to support American business.”

Fisk also responded to the recent Republican committee meeting in which over 30 persons and two elected officials attended saying, “The elected officials who were at the GOP meeting on May 5 need to step forward and openly admit to violating state orders and be subjected to a recall election. If they refuse, these elected officials should be known as traitors to this community.”

Republican State Representative Matt Soper, wearing a red “Make America Great Again” cap spoke during the Saturday rally saying that “among the most sacred of rights is the right to petition our government for a redress of grievances.” Calling for the complete opening of churches, Soper drew a number of “amens” and “hallelujahs” from the crowd.

Up for re-election in House District 54, Soper used the microphone to solicit votes and thanked rally attendees for “protesting our governor.” He asked the crowd to start writing letters to newspaper editors and the governor to get their message out.

“We’re sending a message to our governor Jared Polis to listen to us, to reopen our state, to allow us to get back to work,” said Soper, adding that state Republicans are going to demand that the legislature reopen to bring accountability to the governor’s office.

Despite calls to open the state “sooner than later,” the county’s variance request could face a delay due to nearly half of Colorado’s 64 counties filing with the state. To date, only Cheyenne, Custer, Eagle, El Paso, Kit Carson, Mesa, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Sedgwick counties have been approved.

Mesa County proactively filed the day after the safe-at-home policy went into effect on April 27 with approval the following day. A number of Delta citizens sharply criticized commissioners for not being more aggressive suggesting they “get off their butts” and do more for businesses.

The move to open more Delta County businesses required finding agreement among commissioners, the health department and the hospital to file the variance. Delta County Board of Public Health voted to approve the request as did Delta County Memorial Hospital while setting “trigger points” to return to the more restrictive safer-at-home should covid cases spike. The letter to the state was signed by Commissioner Chair Mark Roeber.

In the variance, the county mentioned two COVID-19 hospitalizations as of May 7 with the first confirmed case reported on April 2. Since May 11 the county has only 36 confirmed cases with the greatest spike occurring in late April with the curve on a downward trend since April 29.

The county is calling for the right to open up restaurants, dining rooms and private social clubs at 30% of occupancy rate based on the fire code. All establishments must ‘implement measures which mitigate the exposure and spread of COVID-19 among its patrons and workforce.’ Bars and restaurant playgrounds would remain closed. Party sizes would be limited to six members of a single household.

Places of worship would be allowed up to 30% occupancy rate based on fire code with no more than 50 participants. Congregants with symptoms of COVID-19 would be turned away, social distancing would be mandatory with mask wearing recommended.

Fitness centers would also be allowed no more than 30% occupancy during staffed hours only. Showers, locker rooms, lockers, swimming pools, hot tubs, saunas, and other recreational water or spa facilities would remain closed. Indoor basketball courts, racquetball courts and close contact sport areas would remain closed as well as youth and adult team leagues or sports.

The complete variance request can be found online at the county’s website at this link: Delta-County-Variance-Request

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