City staff is continuing their diligent work in helping businesses who have been affected by Gov. Jared Polis’ stay-at-home order, including a robust marketing campaign that will kick off next week and a new hotline for businesses that will go live at 9 a.m. Friday.
Mayor Ashley Smith and City Administrator Ryan Stevens laid out the initiatives during a weekly Facebook Town Hall meeting Thursday.
Stevens has been in contact with state and federal officials working on ways to help local businesses.
The small business hotline will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. The phone number is 719-299-0541. The line will be manned by library and museum staff who will put small business owners in touch with the appropriate resources and will be making calls to local businesses to see what they need.
Depending on how data comes in the next few weeks, Smith wants to see the governor take into consideration allowing businesses to start operating after April 26 so the local economy can get up and running a little better.
“I understand that it’s not going to be 100 percent normal from day one, it will be a process, but I do want to advocate that to our governor, that we need that desperately for Cañon City,” she said.
She said a COVID-13 Business Leaders Task Force also is working to reach out to businesses to give them the tools and resources.
“Our business owners are frustrated, and now they are beyond frustrated — they are devastated and emotionally wrecked,” Smith said. “Many of them are not going to be able to open their doors again.”
As far as the impact on the 2020 tourist season, Stevens said it’s a big question mark.
“I don’t’ know that anybody is anticipating that we’re just going to open the doors, open the gates, and if we can open, everybody’s going to be able to freely move about,” he said. “It’s probably going to be a staggered opening.”
He is continuing to monitor the tourist attractions, but right now it’s a moving target.
“I don’t think that we’re going to be in full business in May, either,” Smith said. “Coming from the governor’s office it’s stressed that we should anticipate continued social distancing measures until a vaccine is found and that we will need to be changing some of our habits, and I’m not sure how that’s going to affect the tourist industry.”
Public Health is planning on what it will look like when doors can reopen, she said.
“This is the new normal – people think that once this is over we will go back to the way things were, but that simply is not true,” Police Chief Daric Harvey said. “The virus is here. Until a vaccination is invented and allows us to return to pre-COVID-19, it will never go back the way it was before COVID-19, unfortunately.”
He encourages people to adhere to the stay-at-home order for everyone’s safety and protection. However, three juveniles have been cited for violating the governor’s public health order.
Harvey said some juveniles were out when they shouldn’t have been and there were areas where some criminal mischief was occurring, including at a hotel.
“That individual was charged with that crime and everyone else who was out there with them were charged with violation of the curfew order,” he said. “That is not our intent. We do not want to fine people or have issues with charging people who are out when they shouldn’t be, but clearly, if you’re out committing crimes you are going to get charged with not only whatever crime you commit but also with violating the health order.”
He said it’s OK to go out to get groceries, to care for a loved one or to take care of essential business, however parents need to take the initiative and leadership to tell their kids why it’s important to stay home.
Smith also addressed a question from a citizen about the chances of schools reopening before the end of the school year.
She said the school district is waiting to hear the governor’s announcement the week of April 20 before a decision can be made.
“We are being told it is highly unlikely that we will be able to return to school as normal before the end of this school year,” she said.
The weekly update will continue at 4 p.m. every Thursday on the city’s Facebook page until the stay-at-home mandate expires, and possibly after.