PHOTOS: Documenting COVID-19 in the Pikes Peak region

Restaurant dining rooms in El Paso County can reopen immediately, as long as they follow specific guidelines, El Paso County officials announced in a release Saturday.

El Paso County's variance request to reopen restaurant dining rooms, which was submitted last Monday, was approved by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment late Saturday. It's effective immediately, the release said.

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The variance request was approved with the additional requirement that each confined indoor space be limited to half of the posted occupancy limit, which cannot exceed more than 50 people at any time. 

Variance requests for Douglas, Fremont and Teller counties were also approved in recent days. Last week, Gov. Jared Polis said he was expecting restaurants to reopen statewide sometime this week under guidelines that would be finalized over the weekend. Polis also said that expanded outdoor dining options would be encouraged. 

Polis expects restaurants can reopen across Colorado next week under COVID-19 guidelines

If the county were to have more than 715 COVID-19 cases in a two-week period, the variance would be automatically rescinded, the release said. 

Under the approved variance request, restaurants must adhere to the following guidelines:  

-Reservations are required; walk-in reservations are allowed 

-A distance of at least six feet must be maintained between occupied seats at different tables. 

- Bar seating is not permitted unless at least six-foot distancing between staff and customers can be maintained

 -Each table may only seat up to 10 people; diners must all be from the same household or consistent social group.

 -Multiple-use condiment containers are prohibited

-Self-serve buffets are not allowed. Buffets in which the customer is served by an employee are allowed and must be placed 6 feet away from dining tables

-Doorknobs, counter tops, bathrooms, handles, railings, and other high-touch areas need to be cleaned and disinfected every 2 hours 

 -Employees who routinely or consistently come within six feet of other employees or customers must wear a cloth face covering, unless doing so presents a health concern

-Businesses must make every effort to provide employees with cloth face coverings 

Restaurants looking for assistance or guidance can call (719) 578-3167. 

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