State Health Signs Off on Variance to Open Bars & Restaurants in Campbell County

Downtown Gillette restaurants and bars get ready to open following approval of variance request by State Health.
Downtown Gillette restaurants and bars get ready to open following approval of variance request by State Health.

With the return of 71 negative COVID-19 tests in what county officials feared might have been an outbreak among a vulnerable population after they had come into contact with a teen girl who had tested positive, Campbell County Public Health (CCPH) is feeling much more confident in the county commissioners’ variance request to open bars and restaurants.

State Health Officer and Epidemiologist, Dr. Alexia Harrist, seconded this confidence by approving the county’s variance request late Friday afternoon, according to an evening release from CCPH.

This means local restaurants, bars, coffeehouses and other places of public accommodation that offer food, beverages or alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption can reopen ahead of Governor Mark Gordon’s latest public health order allowing such businesses to open with restrictions on May 15.

Campbell County is the latest of several Wyoming counties to have such variances approved by Harrist and Wyoming State Attorney General Bridget Hill.

Most counties now have variances allowing counties to open bars, restaurants, churches and others offices and businesses.
Most counties now have variances allowing counties to open bars, restaurants, churches and others offices and businesses (Graphic provided by Gordon’s Office).

The variance comes with several public health restrictions that these businesses are required to follow, including seating patrons in groups of no larger than six at tables spaced 6-feet apart to ensure physical distancing requirements. Staff will likewise be required to wear face coverings at all times and wash hands between interactions at tables. Additionally, tables can not be set in advance of customers arriving and  menus, pens, condiments and salt and pepper shakers must be sanitized before and after customers leave among other sanitary measures. There will also be no self-serve or buffet service until otherwise approved, and all employees will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms prior to each shift, per instructions from CCPH.

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Failure to follow the outlined restrictions would violate Statewide Order #1, according to the a previous release from CCPH.

A second variance request submitted by Campbell County Commissioner Colleen Faber was also approved to allow for gatherings of 10 people at religious organizations and funeral homes.

“Getting the variances approved required the hard work of a lot of people,” CC Board of Commissioners Chairman DG Reardon said. “Adequately balancing the health of the public and the needs of businesses isn’t an easy task.”

Every one of us is happy to see our economy start back up, he added.

“The businesses that choose to open under the variance have a responsibility to help ensure the health and well-being of the community, as do the rest of us,” he said. “Following the guidelines in the variance orders will do just that. We have an incredible community that has come together to help their neighbors in these uncertain times, and we know they will continue to do so. That’s what makes Campbell County so great.”