DENVER – The counties that extended their stay-at-home orders through this Friday, May 8, will not further lengthen those orders and will move to the “safer at home” phase starting Saturday.
The counties of Denver, Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Pitkin and Jefferson have all so far announced they will move to safer at home starting Saturday.
The counties extended their stay-at-home orders through May 8 in order to further flatten the curve of COVID-19 in their areas and to take more time to prepare for businesses to reopen in the heavily-populated counties. But much of the rest of the state moved to the safer at home phase starting April 27, when retailers were allowed to open to curbside delivery.
In counties that have already moved to safer at home, retailers and personal services were allowed to reopen May 1 with strict guidelines, and businesses were allowed to bring back up to 50% of their workforces to workspaces starting Monday.
Once the counties that have been under extended stay-at-home orders let those orders expire, businesses in the metro area will begin allowing those steps as well.
Restaurants and bars are still limited to delivery or pickup. Eagle and Mesa counties have received variances from the state to allow them to expand their reopenings beyond what the state’s “safer at home” order allows for, and El Paso County is pursuing variances to open places of worship and restaurants early.
Any counties wishing to move beyond the state’s safer at home guidance have to submit similar variance requests to the state department of public health proving they have a plan and have seen decreasing cases of COVID-19.
The city confirmed Monday that it will let the stay-at-home order expire after Friday. Mayor Hancock made the announcement in a news conference Tuesday afternoon and outlined what the next phase looks like, including more community testing and contact tracing plans.
The mayor and other Denver officials said the extensions of the stay-at-home order bought the city time to lower hospitalization rates and ramp up its testing and contact tracing programs.
Starting Saturday, offices and retailers can reopen in Denver if they have 50% of their workforce or less on site at a time, with a least 6 feet of distance between employees or between employees and customers.
Hair and nail salons, tattoo parlors, pet groomers and personal trainers will be able to open Saturday if they have 10 or fewer people at a single location or a maximum of 50% occupancy – whichever is less. They will only be allowed to take appointments; no walk-in customers will be allowed.
The same rules that apply to those services will also apply to eye doctors and chiropractors, Hancock said.
But he said that businesses should still encourage as many people to work from home to do so if possible – especially older Coloradans, those with pre-existing conditions or weakened immune systems.
Larger businesses will also be asked to implement more protocols, like temperature checks and discouraging of using shared spaces or conducting in-person meetings, that are contained in the statewide safer at home order.
Hancock said that restaurants and bars, stadiums, arenas, gyms, playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts, rec centers and libraries will remain closed for now, through at least May 26, but that officials were working on plans to be able to safely reopen those businesses in time.
He said that the city will have to make “tough decisions” on its budget, as it currently faces a gap of at least $180 million from lost revenue. He said he hoped his urging of the state’s congressional delegation to get direct funding relief for cities into the next congressional funding package would be acted upon.
Starting Wednesday, people will have to wear face coverings while inside of, or waiting in line to enter, certain businesses, facilities or locations, such as retail stores, bus stops or health care facilities, the order said. They will also have to wear them when at Denver International Airport.
People will not have to wear them when walking outside or exercising, Hancock said, unless they can’t keep at least 6 feet of social distancing from other people.
Several other counties or municipalities have put similar measures in place. Anyone violating the order could face a civil penalty of up to $999, per violation.
Hancock and the city attorney said that they would be enforcing the mask requirements but that it was pertinent for people to think of others and to wear masks as much as possible to protect the most vulnerable.
Bob McDonald, the executive director of the Denver Department of Public Health, said that hospitalizations have been about as low in recent weeks as they were when the outbreak first started.
He said that 45 contact tracers were training Tuesday and that more trained last week, with the goal of getting up to 100. He said that there are about 1,000 people being tested per day in the city but there is capacity for more once more testing media can be obtained.
And he announced that the city would be sending out a mobile testing unit that people can request to their home or community if they are unable to get tested for COVID-19 at a health care or other facility. He said the city hopes to launch up to seven similar units.
But the testing will still require a doctor’s note, which McDonald and Hancock said they were working on trying to change through a possible standing order.
He said that officials across the metro area would be watching for case spikes five days in a row or increased hospitalizations over a period of time when considering any modifications under the “safer at home” phase, but also that he expected case numbers to rise with increased testing. Then to account for the incubation period of the virus, decisions would be made on a 30-day basis. Both he and Hancock said they hoped continued compliance under safer at home would keep that from happening.
“Our hope is that we don’t have to turn back,” Hancock said.
Adams and Arapahoe counties
Both Adams and Arapahoe counties will move to the safer at home phase starting Saturday as well, the Tri-County Health Department announced Tuesday afternoon.
Tri-County Health said that access to testing and PPE have improved and that it was working with health care providers to increase testing while ramping up contact tracing capacity.
The health department said testing has increased by 109% in Adams County and by 86% in Arapahoe County over the past two weeks, while the stay-at-home orders were extended.
The health department said it had also more than doubled its staff dedicated to case investigation, contact notification and outbreak response over the past two weeks.
TCHD has a “tools for businesses” page and a FAQ section on its website to lay out more guidance on safer at home. There will also be town hall events scheduled throughout the week, the health department said.
“We want to thank our entire community for the unprecedented effort made by so many to enhance our social distancing and allow us to make our communities safer during the COVID-19 epidemic: this has clearly involved social, psychological, and economic hardship for many. While COVID-19 will continue to be with us for the foreseeable future, our hospitals now have sufficient capacity and medical equipment and we have the support systems in place to deliver the best healthcare we can if a surge should take place.” said John M. Douglas, Jr., MD, Executive Director of Tri-County Health Department. “I am grateful for the sacrifices that our community has made to slow the spread of COVID-19 and we must remain vigilant to continue that trend and keep our communities safe while we gradually re-open our businesses.”
Douglas County was allowed to move to safer at home starting April 27, but Adams and Arapahoe counties did not previously because they still had increasing numbers of cases, even though all three counties are under the Tri-County Health umbrella.
Arapahoe County officials will host a virtual town hall with the Tri-County Health Department on Thursday, May 7 at 7 p.m. to discuss the plan.
The virtual town hall will be streamed live on the county’s Facebook page and website. People will also be able to call in at 1-855-436-3656.
Boulder County announced Tuesday that it would be letting its stay-at-home order expire after Friday. Boulder County Public Health said that access to testing has improved and that its disease investigation team has grown ten-fold since April 27 to conduct tracking and contact tracing.
“I feel comfortable moving forward to the more relaxed Safer-at-Home phase on May 9 since we’ve made progress on testing access, the addition of staff for contact tracing, St. Anthony’s North Hospital surge facility will be complete in the event we need it, and we’ve worked closely with our business community to develop social distancing requirements,” said BCPH Executive Director Jeff Zayach.
The health department has been working with businesses to be sure they can safely adhere to the safer at home guidance starting Saturday. The county has also put a face mask order in place that starts May 9. The county has posted safer at home guidance and best practices on its website.
Broomfield also announced Tuesday it would move to safer at home starting Saturday. The county’s public health department said testing there has improved in private clinics and through state-led efforts.
The county said it also has expanded its disease investigation team staff numbers to do more testing and contact tracing, knowing that more residents will contract COVID-19 once restrictions are eased.
The county has safer at home guidance posted here.
The county health department said while hospitalizations in the metro area have leveled off, Broomfield has “not seen the desired decline in new cases of COVID-19 among Broomfield residents.”
“Broomfield Public Health believes the increase may be due to the simultaneous improvement in access to testing to those who are symptomatic or have underlying health conditions,” the health department said in a news release.
Jefferson County will also move to the safer at home phase starting Saturday, the county health department announced Tuesday.
“Our community has taken the steps needed to help slow the spread of COVID-19 these past few months, and has continued to be diligent about social distancing precautions during the extended Stay-at-Home period in Jeffco,” said Dr. Mark B. Johnson, MD, MPH, Executive Director, Jefferson County Public Health. “It was not easy for anyone, but progress has been made, especially in these last few weeks.
Jefferson County Public Health says it will have a plan, along with the Colorado Volunteer Mobilizer, to train and expand tracking and contact tracing in the county by May 9.
The county has also worked with business leaders to develop public health guidance and best practices. That guidance can be found here, along with information about a new “Open for Business” campaign.
“With this progress, we feel more confident in easing restrictions and getting back to business,” Johnson said. “We have been working very closely with the Jefferson County business community to ensure they have the public health guidance and resources they need, and to get valuable feedback on our overall approach for safely reopening. This is an important next step in this response and as we look ahead to recovery, and we are very grateful for our partnership with business leaders.”
Pitkin County Public Health announced Monday it would move to the safer at home phase starting Sunday and said it would have a road map on the transition out later this week.
But for the rest of the week, county officials said people should continue to be in groups of five or less, only travel for essential services, adhere to social distancing requirements and wear masks when entering a business or using public transportation.
“We understand that other parts of the Roaring Fork Valley have begun their transitions already but it is very important for us that we keep our residents safe and healthy. We ask everyone to endure just a little longer so that we can ensure a smooth transition into the next phase of this pandemic,” the health department said in a statement. “…It’s important that we monitor the spread of the virus during this time to ensure that what we open, we do not have to close. Everyone has done an extraordinary job thus far and we want to make sure all that hard work and sacrifice does not go to waste. Please tuned in later this week for more info on our ‘Safer at Home’ public health order update.