The stay-at-home order will end the night of May 8 for Adams and Arapahoe counties, putting them under the state's new “safer-at-home” rules the next day, Tri-County Health Department announced May 5.
John Douglas, Tri-County Health's executive director, thanked the community for adhering to social distancing in a news release, acknowledging the “social, psychological and economic hardship” it put county residents through.
"We felt that Adams and Arapahoe counties were among the hotspots of COVID transmission in Colorado and that we could use a little more time, about 10 to 12 days, to give us time to prepare with better testing and better contact notifications, two of the linchpins in trying to control the epidemic," Douglas said during an Adams County virtual meeting May 5. "It also gave us a little more time to settle the epidemic down and to give us time to prepare better interactions with the business community."
The main difference between the safer-at-home and stay-at-home rules is that staying home is now a guideline, not a requirement. It also means certain businesses can now re-open.
Adams and Arapahoe counties, along with several others across the Denver metro area, extended the state's stay-at-home order for their residents past the April 26 statewide end date, citing higher levels of COVID-19 spread in metro communities.
Since the extension, access to COVID-19 testing and medical equipment has started to improve, with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment providing more testing and equipment to local providers and test sites, according to Tri-County's release.
Over the past two weeks, testing in Adams and Arapahoe counties has increased by 109% and 86%, respectively, and Tri-County Health has more than doubled its staff trained to undertake contact tracing — the practice of notifying people they may have been exposed to COVID-19 based on a confirmed case — and other outbreak responses, according to the release.
“Furthermore, while the increase in testing means that the reported number of cases in our counties has not yet declined, the number of persons hospitalized due to COVID-19 continues to go down, a very encouraging sign,” Tri-County said in the release.
Boulder, Broomfield, Denver and Jefferson counties have indicated they will not extend the stay-at-home order past May 8. Douglas County — the third county Tri-County Health covers — was exempt from Tri-County's stay-at-home extension and has seen less severe spread of COVID-19 compared to Arapahoe and Adams.
In Adams and Arapahoe, on May 9, many businesses that were deemed noncritical under the stay-at-home order can begin to open with new safety measures under the state's safer-at-home order.
That new order, which went into effect April 27 for Colorado counties that didn't choose to extend the stay-at-home order, allowed noncritical retail stores to re-open as of May 1, including those that sell clothing, cellphones, appliances, vape and tobacco products, sporting equipment, crafts, fabrics and more. As of May 1, personal services — which closed under a March public health order — could re-open. They include, but are not limited to, dog grooming, body art, hair and nail salons, and massage therapists.
As of May 4, noncritical office businesses could re-open with up to 50% of their employees for in-person work.
Tri-County developed tools for businesses, including a checklist to help businesses to plan for reopening.
Tri-County also has a frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the safer-at-home rules here.
"Part of the theme here is trying to open things up gradually enough, that if we do overshoot and there is a problem and we move back into crisis mode, there is a chance for us to pull back," Douglas said. "We don't want to do a yo-yo, to open and then shut. That would be terrible for everyone, but we don't think that's going to happen."
Individuals are strongly advised to continue staying at home to the greatest extent possible, only interacting with household members and only leaving for essential activities, Tri-County's release said. Those at greater risk of severe illness from COVID-19, such as people 65 and older and those with underlying medical problems, should continue to stay at home unless leaving is absolutely necessary, the release added.
The safer-at-home order also urges wearing non-medical masks or face coverings when in public.
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