Restaurants and bars in five more counties will be able to serve their patrons inside under exemptions from the state’s public health orders approved by state officials.
The Department of Health has approved variances for Carbon, Converse, Johnson, Natrona and Sweetwater counties from the public health orders closing restaurants and bars.
Natrona County was granted a variance last week to allow restaurants to serve patrons outside. The variance approved Wednesday allows patrons to dine inside.
Gov. Mark Gordon and Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s public health officer, in mid-March issued orders closing restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses likely to attract more than 10 people, along with businesses providing personal services, such as hair salons, massage therapists and tattoo parlors. The orders were seen as a way to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The businesses providing personal services were allowed to open last week and at the time, Gordon announced that counties could ask for variances to the state’s other health orders.
So far, variances have been granted for 13 counties, Gordon said Thursday, most to allow restaurants and bars to operate if they follow a lengthy list of safety guidelines.
Those guidelines include limiting tables to no more than six people, making sure tables are placed at least six feet away, requiring customers to sit at tables, requiring servers to wear face masks and requiring businesses to be disinfected several times a day. Employees must also be screened for coronavirus symptoms.
In addition to their requests to allow restaurants and bars to open, Sweetwater, Carbon and Johnson counties asked for churches to be allowed to conduct services.
While churches have not been ordered closed, a public health order limiting gatherings to fewer than 10 people effectively forced the cancellation of services.
The variance for Sweetwater County and several others that have sought to allow churches to resume services requires that household groups attending services be seated at least six feet apart. It also requires church staff who approach within six feet of people to wear face masks.
Gordon said Thursday that the statewide orders would probably be relaxed May 15, allowing restaurants and bars across the state to reopen if they follow the safety guidelines in place for the businesses allowed to open early.