DENVER – Colorado has officially handed control of COVID-19 restrictions to its 64 counties, despite the state entering a fourth wave of the pandemic as cases, hospitalizations in younger populations, and the state’s positivity rate – the metric used to determine how much the virus is spreading undetected – continue to climb.
Most Denver metro area counties are moving to Level Blue on the COVID-19 dial, meaning restaurants and gyms will operate at 100% capacity, though they will still need to maintain six feet social distancing. Kids attending K-12 in those counties will also be able to learn in-person.
Non-critical manufacturing, offices as well as critical and non-critical retail will now be able to operate at 75% capacity, while personal services and limited health care settings will be restricted to 50% or 50 people, whichever is fewer.
The state will still have control over large indoor events of more than 500 people for all 64 counties, but restrictions for outdoor events will vary depending on the county.
The statewide mask mandate is also still in place until May 3, but after that, each county will decide how to implement that order.
Counties under Tri-County Health’s purview will adopt a modified dial
If you live in either Adams, Arapahoe or Douglas counties, things might look a bit different once May rolls around.
Adams and Arapahoe counties will be implementing a two-phase plan. The first phase extends the current dial for 30 days starting Friday, April 16, which will be followed by an observation period called “Level Clear,” which will last for three months starting May 16. Under that observation period, there will be no COVID-19 restrictions, depending on hospitalizations across the Tri-County Health Department system. Mask requirements may still apply in some instances.
Douglas County has lifted all restrictions, though the statewide mask mandate, which ends on May 3, is still in effect. Additionally, the Douglas County School District will still be required to follow state guidelines. Douglas County will not be participating in TCHD’s two-phase mitigation approach.
Several other counties which will operate under this two-phased approach – first moving to Level Blue for a month before moving to an observation period lasting 90 days are: Boulder, Broomfield, and Jefferson counties.
The table below shows you where Colorado's metro area counties lie on the COVID-19 dial starting Friday. Click here to view this Infogram online.
Why is the state letting counties decide what restrictions – if any – they should adopt when cases, hospitalizations and the positivity rate are going up?
That’s a question many Coloradans are asking. During a news conference Thursday, Scott Bookman, the COVID-19 Incident Commander with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), said the time is right to transition to localized control, a sentiment shared by the CDPHE’s chief medical officer.
“The decision was that local control with the dial would be the best approach moving forward, knowing that we have adequate hospital capacity and increasing vaccination rates, and high variability across the counties,” Dr. Eric France, the CDPHE’s chief medical officer, said.
On Friday, the CDPHE released results from a survey of local public health agencies which found more than half (5.51) will have a public health order in place, and of those, 36% plan to have a modified dial or some sort of local order. Nearly a quarter of Colorado counties are staying on Level Green, and 12% will stay in Level Blue with the rest having other plans for mitigation efforts – which will affect 3.7 million Coloradans.
The CDPHE on Friday released a list showing which counties are staying somewhere in the color-coded dial and which ones are dropping restrictions altogether. To view a full list of the COVID-19 dial restrictions based on Level, click here.
Counties that will have a modified dial or local order, in addition to the state’s order:
- Clear Creek
- San Miguel
Counties that will remain in Level Yellow:
Counties that will remain in Level Blue:
- Broomfield (modified)
- Gunnison (modified)
- La Plata
Counties that will remain in Level Green:
- Kit Carson
- San Juan
Counties that will have no COVID-19 restrictions:
- El Paso
- Las Animas
- Rio Grande
The CDPHE said Garfield, Grand, Hinsdale, Jackson, Mineral, Moffat, Park, Rio Grande and Saguache counties had not yet communicated their plans to the CDPHE.
Colorado reported 1,500 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Thursday, with 87 news hospitalizations in a single day for confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19. The test positivity rate was 5.85% - more than what is recommended by federal, state and local health officials to curb the spread of the virus.