The Campbell County Commissioners plan to submit an application for a countywide variance to open the local economy at the beginning of next week.

During a special meeting Friday afternoon, the commissioners talked with city of Gillette officials about the variance, which would ask State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist to allow a deviation from the state's COVID-19 health orders. It hasn’t been released to the public because some work still needs to be done on it.

Although commissioners wouldn't give details on the draft of the variance, they said it will include a way for bars and restaurants to be open with certain restrictions in place.

“I know people are getting very anxious, very frustrated, they want to get things moving,” said Chairman D.G. Reardon. “The government is taking steps to get things moving.”

Requiring businesses and customers to wear masks was not included in the draft version of the variance, said Commissioner Rusty Bell.

“At some point, we have to have some personal responsibility for ourselves and those around us,” he said, adding that the county or state public health officers might think it’s important to address masks in the variance.

The document is based on variances that have been submitted by Sheridan County and in Montana, but will include elements that make it unique to Campbell County, Bell said.

Bell and fellow commissioner Del Shelstad met with several bar and restaurant owners earlier Friday to talk about the proposed variance.

There was talk of allowing outdoor seating, but the business owners said they did not think it was a good idea because “it’s not broad enough” and only affects a small number of establishments, Bell said.

“They were the ones that said, ‘The outside seating doesn’t take us a step closer to where we want to be,’” Shelstad said.

The county will send a modified draft copy of the variance to Dr. Kirtikumar Patel, the county’s public health officer. He will get it back to them with his comments on Monday.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that commissioners said a planned variance application to the state would include a proposal to allow bars and restaurants to reopen with some restrictions.

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