The state's new safer-at-home order is set to run through May 26, but it appears likely to be extended.
Gov. Jared Polis has signaled that Coloradans would need to sustain the new norm for at least a couple months.
It's not certain that Colorado “will have more opportunities to do the things we love” in June, and if Coloradans aren't following guidelines well enough to contain COVID-19's spread, harsher restrictions could come back, Polis said at an April 22 news conference.
Polis has said a stay-at-home order may need to be issued again if the virus' spread is dire enough.
Eventually, a third social distancing phase — dubbed “protect our neighbors” — would see people socialize more normally with “significant precautions” and protections for vulnerable populations. That will occur when the capacity to better test for COVID-19 and monitor its spread will work “at scale,” a governor's office presentation said.
Mike Willis, director of the state Emergency Operations Center, didn't directly address the question of how soon the third social distancing phase could happen.
The state has to evaluate “where we stand in 30 days before we can make decisions about what's next,” Willis said on an April 28 conference call with reporters.
In general, the gradual winding down of restrictions during the pandemic could last for “two months, three months, 10 months — however long it is before there's a cure or vaccine,” Polis has said.
It could take between 12 and 18 months until a vaccine is ready, according to national news outlets.
Coloradans dodged the possibility of a second extension of the statewide stay-at-home order, but the new set of rules that went into effect April 27 may strike people as even more confusing.
The main difference is that staying home is now a guideline, not a requirement.
But it's not an invitation to go back to “the way we lived our lives in January or February,” Gov. Jared Polis said at an April 22 news conference. He implored Coloradans to limit social interactions as much as possible, although seeing friends in person is allowed under the new order.
Colorado's new safer-at-home order encourages people only to leave home for “necessary activities” that generally mirror what the stay-at-home order allowed: shopping for groceries, exercising outdoors, taking care of family members and other essentials.
Past that, the new order allows a long list of businesses and even hands-on college and trade classes to open, while still limiting Coloradans' social gatherings. The order also urges wearing non-medical masks or face coverings when in public.
Certain parts of the state — including much of the Denver metro area other than Douglas County — may be under slightly different rules. Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver and Jefferson counties extended the stay-at-home order to May 8. Aside from any other local restrictions, though, they'll be under the state's new safer-at-home rules after that.
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The new order is set to run through May 26, but it likely will see an extension, though possibly with some changes.
Here's a look at what's allowed and not allowed under the new rules.
Under the new order, Coloradans still are encouraged to stay home except for necessities — the same ones the stay-at-home order listed — such as shopping for groceries or seeking medical care. Caring for a family member or pet in another household, or for livestock at a location other than a person's home, are other examples.
That includes taking care of other “vulnerable” people, which in this part of the order isn't limited to older adults, or people with disabilities or serious health conditions.
Young people who have disabilities or other needs may need support, too, Mike Willis, director of the state Emergency Operations Center, has said.
Other essential actions include obtaining medication or medical supplies, collecting supplies needed to work from home, working in allowed industries, or walking, biking, or other outdoor activity. People must remain at least 6 feet apart from others.
Travel for recreation should be limited to a person's own community, such as their county of residence, or traveling no more than about 10 miles.
The new order urges Coloradans to wear non-medical cloth face coverings over the nose and mouth when in public.
Back on April 17, Polis announced an executive order requiring workers in critical businesses to wear face coverings when in close proximity with others. That includes workers in grocery stores, banks, homeless shelters, nursing homes and other care facilities, and many more industries.
The new order allows socializing but limits all public and private gatherings to no more than 10 people, except for the purposes of necessary activities. Gatherings of members living in the same residence aren't prohibited.
The following businesses that shuttered under a March public health order remain closed:
• Restaurants, bars and clubs (delivery and take-out still available);
• Movie and performance theaters, opera houses, and concert and music halls;
• Casinos, horse tracks and off-track betting facilities;
• Gyms, except that indoor personal training or classes are allowed for up to four people unless participants live in the same household, and those from different households cannot share equipment.
A gradual reopening of restaurants by mid-May is the goal, Polis has said. The state will work toward a gradual reopening of bars as well.
“Noncritical” retail stores that shuttered under the stay-at-home order could re-open as of May 1, including those that sell clothing, cellphones, appliances, vape and tobacco products, sporting equipment, crafts, fabrics and more.
Critical and noncritical retail must take safety measures, such as providing face coverings and gloves to all employees whenever possible, holding dedicated hours for at-risk customers, and offering hand sanitizer and wipes at entrances as much as possible.
As of April 27, noncritical retail could start curbside delivery.
Also as of May 1, personal services — which also 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.
The services only may be performed with 10 or fewer people in a location or up to 50% occupancy for the location, whichever is less — for example, five hairstylists serving five customers.
Employees and customers must wear cloth face coverings or medical-grade masks at all times. Only services that can be performed without customers removing their masks are permitted.
Regarding education beyond high school, the order also allows programs that cannot be conducted remotely, due to the equipment they require, to be held in person on a limited basis. That includes technical and vocational programs.
As of May 4, noncritical office businesses could re-open with up to 50% of their employees for in-person work.
They must take many precautions, including minimizing in-person meetings, maintaining 6-foot distancing and allowing working from home to the greatest extent possible.
Real estate home showings can resume with cleaning and disinfection between each showing, but open houses may not be held.
As with the stay-at-home order, critical businesses — which had already been allowed to operate — must still adopt work-from-home policies for operations that can be done remotely, and use other strategies, such as staggered schedules or redesigning workplaces, to create more distance between workers.
Nonemergency — or “elective” — health and dental services resumed April 27 based on an executive order by the governor. “Elective” means a surgery or procedure can be delayed for a minimum of three months without undue risk to health, according to the order.
For those at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19, the safer-at-home order urges staying home except to seek medical care — just like the stay-at-home order did. “Vulnerable individuals” in the new order include adults 65 and older, people with serious underlying health conditions, and those deemed to be at high risk by a health care provider. Pregnant women also are considered vulnerable.
Those groups cannot be compelled to work for any business or government function during the pandemic emergency, the order says. People who are sick must stay home except to seek medical care and must not go to work.
Employers must provide work accommodations for vulnerable individuals, prioritizing working from home.
Generally, businesses allowed to re-open must take many precautions to prevent spreading COVID-19.
Broadly, those include:
• Maintaining 6-foot separation between employees;
• Disinfecting all high touch areas (“high touch” is a term for things people touch often, such as rails or tables);
• Avoiding gatherings (meetings, waiting rooms and so on) of more than 10 people;
• Conducting daily temperature checks and monitoring symptoms in employees. A sample monitoring form is located here.
Additional requirements for specific industries are located in the appendices to the order.
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