• Diners dine at the west end of Main Street.

As restrictions continue to escalate in parts of the Denver metro area, the state public-health department announced that Arapahoe and Denver are among several counties that now face greater restrictions amid the growing spread of COVID-19.

After weeks of rising case counts and mounting pressure on the health care system, Arapahoe County is moving to safer-at-home level 2, and Denver will move to the stricter safer-at-home level 3, on Oct. 28, according to a news release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Level 3 is one step short of a stay-at-home order.

Adams County is moving to safer-at-home level 3 on Oct. 28, a change announced Oct. 23.

The changes affect capacity for businesses, restaurants, places of worship, and other locations and activities. Colorado’s safer-at-home order came after the statewide stay-at-home ended in spring. In mid-September, the state broke the safer-at-home policy into three levels that counties qualify for based on how dire the local virus’ spread is. If the trend becomes severe enough, counties may be moved back to stay-at-home orders.

The new safer-at-home levels for Arapahoe and other counties are expected to last for at least two weeks.

See what restrictions each level includes here on page 6. See which level each county throughout the state is under here.

Jefferson County was notified recently by the state public-health department that the county could move to safer-at-home level 3. Jefferson County Public Health implored residents to wear masks, keep 6 feet away from others and avoid gatherings with those outside their households, the health agency said in an Oct. 27 tweet.

Douglas County still sits in safer-at-home level 1 as of Oct. 27, but greater restrictions could be on the way for that county as well.

In early October, Adams, Arapahoe, and Douglas counties received warning that must slow the spread or face tighter restrictions. If trends don’t change, tighter restrictions could take effect around late October for Douglas County, according to Tri-County Health Department, the local health agency for Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas.

As of Oct. 23, every safer-at-home level limits personal gatherings to 10 or fewer people from no more than two households.

“Now that the reopening of schools is bringing more people into contact with each other, and cooler weather is beginning to drive more people indoors than during the summer, we’re seeing a steep rise in COVID case numbers,” Nancy Sharpe, Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners chair, said in a news release.

“Blunting the spread of COVID now, at the onset of the annual flu season, is especially crucial to ensuring that we don’t overburden our hospital system in the county and throughout Colorado,” Sharpe continued. “We share everyone’s frustration at these restrictions, but our numbers are rising in ways that jeopardize our ability to keep the county open without further mitigation efforts.”

Changes in Arapahoe

The level 2 restrictions now faced by Arapahoe have brought about the following capacity changes:

• Restaurants may operate at 50% indoors or 50 people excluding staff, whichever is less, per room. That’s down from 50% capacity or 175 people in level 1. “Extra large” restaurants may expand to 100 per room based on the state’s social distancing space calculator.

• Places of worship may operate at 50% capacity indoors or 50 people excluding staff, whichever is less, per room. That’s down from 50% or 175 people in level 1. Extra large locations can expand to 100 patrons indoors per room based on the social distancing space calculator.

• Attendees at gyms are reduced from 75 to 50 (in Arapahoe’s case, that’s down from 175 to 50 because of a “variance,” or exemption, the county received from the state in June). The percentage cap is still 25% capacity.

• Organized recreational youth or adult league sports may operate with 25 players, excluding coaching staff and referees or umpires. That’s down from 50 players in level 1.

• Indoor events may allow 100 people based on the calculator, excluding staff, per room — unless the event is seated, in which case the calculator is not required and 6 feet between non-household contacts is required. That’s down from 50% not to exceed 175 in level 1.

• Outdoor events may allow 175 people based on the calculator, excluding staff, per designated activity or area — unless the event is seated, in which case the calculator is not required and 6 feet between non-household contacts is required. That’s down from 250 in level 1.

Noncritical retail may still operate at 50% capacity, same as under safer-at-home level 1. Critical retail includes businesses such as grocery stores and gas stations. See page 28 of the safer-at-home order for a full list of critical retail.

For questions on the restrictions, businesses and organizations can contact Tri-County Health at covidbusinessrecovery@tchd.org or call 720-713-6030.

A county’s level is determined by three metrics: the rate of new cases, the percentage of COVID-19 tests that come back positive and whether hospitalizations are increasing, stable or declining. 

To move from a more restrictive level to a less restrictive one, a county needs to meet the less restrictive level’s required metrics for two weeks, according to the state’s news release.

State action follows other changes

Separately, Tri-County Health announced public health orders for Arapahoe and Adams counties on Oct. 16 that move up the last call for alcohol and tighten limits on personal gatherings — and, for Adams, prohibit spectators at high school sporting events and at adult recreational and league sports.

Tri-County had issued those orders in an attempt to head off a change to higher safer-at-home levels and the further restrictions that would come with that.

Other counties

In Colorado’s rural areas, Otero and Crowley counties are moving to safer-at-home level 2 on Oct. 30, according to the state news release. Kit Carson will move to safer-at-home level 2 Oct. 28.

La Plata County moved to safer-at-home level 2, and Mesa County moved to safer-at-home level 1 Oct. 26.