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Colorado governor issues executive order providing details on new “safer-at-home” coronavirus phase

Gov. Jared Polis vowed to make sure Coloradans had plenty of time to digest the specifics, but his safer-at-home directive was revealed about six hours before his statewide stay-at-home order was set to expire

Customers pick up meals from the Vine Bistro restaurant in downtown Montrose on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. All restaurants and bars in Colorado are closed until at least May 26. (William Woody, Special to The Colorado Sun)
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Gov. Jared Polis on Sunday evening issued a six-page executive order outlining Colorado’s new “safer-at-home” phase of the coronavirus crisis as he begins to gradually ease restrictions on people’s movement starting Monday. 

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The directive was issued just hours before his statewide stay-at-home mandate expired Sunday at midnight. “Together, Coloradans have been effective in leveling and flattening the curve, but life will remain much more dangerous than usual these next few months and we should all wear masks when in public,” the governor said in a written statement Sunday evening. “Safer-at-home is by no means a free-for-all.”

The safer-at-home order is tentatively set to expire on May 27, but can be extended or amended at any time.

Under order, Coloradans will not be able to recreate beyond 10 miles from their homes and are prohibited from gathering in groups of 10 or more people. 

Some of the other big highlights include: 

  • Curbside retail sales can begin Monday. Real estate showings — but not open houses — can resume. 
  • Voluntary or elective medical, dental and veterinary surgeries and procedures may resume Monday if facilities are following required safety protocols. 
  • On May 1, retail stores can reopen for in-person shopping. Personal services businesses, like barbershops, salons, personal trainers and tattoo parlors, can reopen as well. All businesses must follow strict social distancing measures. 
  • On May 4, offices can reopen with up to 50% of their workforce as long as they are following strict social distancing measures. Telecommuting is strongly encouraged whenever possible. 

Employers are directed to accommodate workers with childcare responsibilities or those who live in the same house as someone vulnerable to the coronavirus by allowing them to telecommute or have a flexible schedule “to the greatest extent possible.”

MORE: Read the “safer-at-home” executive order.

Polis is directing the Colorado Civil Rights Division to provide guidance to prevent discrimination in the workplace related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. “Employers must provide reasonable accommodations and are prohibited from discriminating against employees who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or who have been in contact with a known positive case of COVID-19,” the order says.

The safer-at-home executive order will apply to only about half of the state’s population.

The rest will remain under a stay-at-home order until at least May 8 after officials in Denver, Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield and Jefferson Counties opted to keep the mandate in place while more testing and better disease tracing is put in place. The one exception is that curbside retail sales are now allowed in these areas.  

MORE: Most of Denver area to remain under stay-at-home order as governor eases statewide restrictions

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

Polis had vowed to give Coloradans plenty of heads up about what the new phase of life during coronavirus would look like, saying at an April 13 news conference that the details would be released before Sunday. “It will be a few days before and folks will know exactly what’s going and what’s not going,” Polis said on April 13.

But his safer-at-home executive order was issued about six hours before the statewide stay-at-home order, which went into effect on March 26, expired Sunday. 

The governor’s staff said a great deal of work went into the order. 

“The governor and our team have been working around the clock,” Polis’ spokesman, Conor Cahill, said in a written statement. “The governor outlined during news conferences this past week, and has been engaging with a variety of stakeholders about what the safer-at-home phase will look like for Coloradans.”

Cahill said the governor’s office shared a draft of the safer-at-home executive order with “thousands of stakeholders” on Friday to get feedback. Reporters and the public did not see the order, however, until Sunday evening.

Polis plans to hold a news conference at 1:30 p.m. Monday to further discuss the safer-at-home period.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis speaks to reporters on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

The executive order says Coloradans who are 65 years of age or older, or who have a chronic respiratory or heart condition, should stay home except for necessary activities, like grocery shopping. They can also leave should they need to perform critical government functions or to work at a critical business. 

However, people in these categories “cannot be compelled” to work in person.

MORE: Colorado’s economy is about to restart — slowly — but will customers follow?

The guidance applies, as well, to pregnant women, people who are immunocompromised and people who are determined by a licensed health care provider to be at high risk.

Beyond aspects of the order dealing with businesses, schools will continue to teach remotely through the scheduled end of the academic year. However, the order allows districts to use their buildings to distribute essential materials, equipment and food, and authorizes small in-service meetings. 

The order also allows for small-group instruction and OKs in-person counseling and special education services.

Polis has been clear that the safer-at-home phase is not a grand reopening or a return to normalcy in Colorado. Instead, he said, it’s a way to allow for some economic activity to resume. 

The governor says people should continue to stay at home as much as possible. 

If the spread of the virus spirals out of control, he has said, restrictions could be put back in place either on the local or statewide levels. 

Polis’ hope is that through a combination of mandates, mask-wearing, increased testing and infection tracing, Colorado can manage the virus and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. But doing so requires a razor-thin balance, according to modeling from the Colorado School of Public Health that Polis has been using to make decisions. 

Even a slight problem with compliance could result in the virus spreading too quickly.  

MORE: Why the end of Colorado’s stay-at-home order isn’t the end of you being stuck at home

Through Sunday, the coronavirus had killed nearly 700 people in Colorado. There were more than 13,400 confirmed and probable cases.

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