Gov. Jared Polis' announcement on Tuesday that the state was adjusting its COVID-19 dial framework threw a wrench in an already convoluted system.
The new framework adds a sixth level to the previously five-level system and updates requirements for stay-at-home orders, allowing at least 15 counties to avoid the stay-at-home order that they would have previously qualified for.
These new rules come as recent efforts to control the COVID-19 surge -- including Denver’s outdoor mask mandate and 10 p.m. restaurant closure order -- have fallen short.
In Colorado, 1 in 110 people currently have the coronavirus. In Denver, 1 in 64 have it, Polis said.
The state has called the new system a balanced approach, but what exactly is going on with COVID-19 dial and how will it affect you?
WHAT IS THE NEW SYSTEM?
Colorado’s COVID-19 dial framework now has six levels:
- Level Green: Protect Our Neighbors
- Level Blue: Caution
- Level Yellow: Concern
- Level Orange: High Risk
- Level Red: Severe Risk
- Level Purple: Extreme Risk
Previously, Level Red served as the state’s stay-at-home level. Now, Level Red has been replaced with a new set of restrictions and stay-at-home has been pushed to the new Level Purple.
Entering the new Level Red is based on a county’s number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over two weeks and its number of people on average testing positive for COVID-19.
In a significant change, a stay-at-home order (now Level Purple) no longer uses these kinds of case requirements, but instead is triggered by hospitals getting overwhelmed by patients, according to Polis.
WHERE IS DENVER ON THE DIAL?
Denver, along with over a dozen other counties, is under Level Red restrictions starting Friday. This is the second highest level of restrictions, surpassed only by the Level Purple stay-at-home order.
Neighboring counties including Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Douglas, Broomfield, Jefferson and Clear Creek also fall into this new category.
Level Red restrictions for affected counties are expected to begin Friday, according to Denver's Department of Public Health and Environment.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR SCHOOLS?
Nothing. The new restrictions don’t add any new requirements for schools. However, Denver Public Schools announced it will be going to 100% remote learning starting Nov. 30.
Under Level Red, in-person instruction is recommended for preschool through fifth grade. For grades six through eight, in-person, hybrid or remote instruction is recommended. For high school, hybrid or remote instruction is recommended.
Higher education facilities are recommended to operate remotely, with only limited in-person instruction when necessary.
Child care facilities will also remain open without change under Level Red.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR RESTAURANTS?
A lot. Under Level Red, indoor dining in restaurants is closed completely. Customers can eat outdoors but only with groups from their own household. Take out, curbside, delivery and to go are open.
Alcohol sales now end at 8 p.m. and bars that do not serve food are closed entirely. Indoor events and entertainment are also closed.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER BUSINESSES?
Offices are further limited under Level Red, lowering capacity from 25% to 10%. Remote work is strongly encouraged and high-risk workers are eligible for benefits and mandatory prioritization for remote work.
Gyms and fitness centers are cut to 10% capacity and must use a reservation system. Only 10 people are allowed per room. Outdoor fitness classes or group sports are limited to 10-person groups.
Retail stores, both critical and non-critical, remain at 50% capacity with increased curbside pick up and delivery services. Dedicated senior and at-risk hours are encouraged.
CAN I GO TO SOMEONE’S HOUSE?
No. Under Level Red, personal gatherings of any size are prohibited. You are only allowed to gather with those from your own household, meaning the people you already live with.
Personal gatherings of up to 10 people from no more than two different households are permitted under levels Blue, Yellow and Orange.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THANKSGIVING?
Maybe next year. All personal gatherings of any size are prohibited under Level Red, that includes visiting friends and family for Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving celebrations should be limited to your household only.
For places of worship, indoor functions remain at 25% capacity with a 50-person limit. Outdoor worship events must enforce 6-feet social distancing between households.
Outdoor events and entertainment remain at 25% capacity with a 75-person limit. Groups must be of the same household and maintain a 6-foot distance from other groups. Outdoor guided services have a 10-person limit.
These limitations do not apply to Broncos games, as the Mile High Stadium is still permitted to have 5,700 fans in the stands.
When asked why, Colorado's COVID-19 Incident Commander said “the Broncos have been wonderful partners throughout the course of this pandemic. We continue to be in conversations with the Broncos to make sure that we are doing all that we can to keep everyone safe.”
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The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s full level-by-level restrictions are available here: