Six metro Denver counties that are still under stay-at-home orders will on Saturday join the rest of Colorado in relaxing their coronavirus restrictions.
Health officials from Denver, Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield and Jefferson counties, where about half the state’s population lives, announced on Tuesday they will follow Gov. Jared Polis’ less stringent “safer-at-home” guidance starting this weekend.
The shift means stores can reopen for in-person sales and personal services businesses, like barbershops, tattoo parlors and pet groomers, can resume serving clients. Those shops must follow strict social distancing guidelines, however.
Offices may begin welcoming back workers as well, as long as social distancing guidelines are in place and they don’t operate at more than 50% of their capacity.
Restaurants and bars will remain closed to in-person dining. Theaters, concert venues, playgrounds and recreation centers will continue to be shuttered.
“We have a consensus among the metro areas public health experts that we can begin our phased approach,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock at a Tuesday afternoon news conference. “The data we’re seeing, and guidance from public health experts, we feel comfortable at this time not extending Denver’s stay-at-home order.”
Hancock said Denver will launch a mobile coronavirus testing site and has ramped up hiring of infection tracers with a goal of soon having about 100 on staff.
“We are in a good place right now to take the next step,” said Bob McDonald, the head of Denver’s Department of Public Health and Environment. “… This last two weeks of our stay-at-home order has been really critical and I feel in a much better place than we were in a couple of weeks ago.”
McDonald credited the city’s early adoption of coronavirus restrictions for the position Denver is in now.
“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,” Dr. Mark Johnson, executive director of Jefferson County Public Health, said in a written statement. “With this progress, we feel more confident in easing restrictions and getting back to business.”
Metro area counties are taking some extra precautions, namely when it comes to masks. Polis’ has recommended that people wear face coverings, but stopped short of requiring them.
Denver is requiring mask wearing, starting Wednesday, for anyone who enters a retail store or is waiting in line to enter a business, for transportation or to seek health care services. Violators face a $999 fine, and the order applies to Denver International Airport.
Boulder County has issued an order similar to Denver’s for anyone 12 years of age or above, except the Boulder order applies to any time someone is out in public and not just when they are shopping. Violators face a fine of up to $5,000 and up to a year in jail.
Most counties outside the Denver metro area, and Douglas County, began reopening last week as they moved to follow Polis’ safer-at-home guidance.
The safer-at-home period relies on a fragile balance of public adherence, mask wearing and expanded testing and infection tracing to prevent Colorado’s health care system from being overwhelmed with patients.
The governor has warned that infections and deaths will continue until there is a vaccine or cure, which could be many months — if not years — away.
Coloradans are still encouraged to stay at home as much as possible.