Colorado health officials on Friday issued an order limiting gatherings in the state to no more than 10 people from two separate households in an effort to slow rising coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
The order goes into effect immediately and lasts for at least 30 days.
Previously, Coloradans were allowed to gather in groups of up to 25 people with no limit on how many households those people could be from.
“We are asking all Coloradans to act with an abundance of caution to reverse these worrying trends,” Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said in a written statement. “Right now, the virus is spreading when people from multiple households attend gatherings. We need to keep gatherings smaller and with people from fewer households — we are asking everyone to ‘shrink their bubble’ to reduce the spread.”
Ryan asked Coloradans to “take every effort to reduce contact with members of other households.”
“If you can work remotely, please do so to reduce contact with other individuals,” she said. “Taking action now can prevent your loved ones from getting sick, and help us save lives and avoid stricter public health orders in the future.”
There is no limit on gatherings of members of the same household. But people can forget about gathering in parks, backyards or indoors with a few other couples to socialize — at least for the time being. Same thing goes for multiple families that want to get together, even though there are more than 10 people gathering.
Colorado’s daily case numbers are higher than they’ve ever been and the state’s seven-day test positivity rate, at 5.8%, is at its highest level since June. Hospitalizations, meanwhile, are at their highest level since May 21.
Dr. Rachel Herlihy, Colorado’s top epidemiologist, has warned that if the trend is not reversed, the state’s intensive-care hospital bed capacity could be surpassed in the coming months.
Denver, as well as Adams and Arapahoe counties, last week enacted new restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. The three counties have experienced among the highest spike in the disease.
Denver now requires mask-wearing outdoors, while Adams County ordered alcohol sales at restaurants and bars to end at 10 p.m. and Arapahoe County ordered restaurants and bars to stop selling alcohol at 11 p.m.
The new statewide order on gatherings didn’t provide specifics on what penalties violators could face, only that there could be sanctions.
“This order will be enforced by all appropriate legal means,” the order said. “Local authorities are encouraged to determine the best course of action to encourage maximum compliance. Failure to comply with this order could result in penalties, including jail time, and fines, and may also be subject to discipline on a professional license based upon the applicable practice act.”
MORE: Read the order.
Counties that are in Gov. Jared Polis’ “protect our neighbors” status are automatically exempt. Those include Gunnison, Gipin, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties. (Mesa County’s “protect-our-neighbors” status was downgraded this week because of its rising caseload.)
Colorado’s 60 other counties are in the “safer-at-home” phase and their residents must abide by the gathering limitations.
There are a host of exemptions for athletics, restaurants, retail, manufacturing, health care settings, offices, critical businesses and government entities, schools, universities and places of worship.
The new gatherings order essentially only applies to social gatherings outside of a business or office setting.
The order was issued days after Polis sidestepped questions about statewide action he may take to limit spread of COVID-19, instead calling for targeted restrictions.
“It’s acting to contain the virus where it is at a moment in time,” he said Tuesday in endorsing local approaches to stopping the disease’s spread. “… There’s different measures at different times in different places depending on the conditions.”
The new order from CDPHE was unveiled in a news release. Polis’ regular Friday coronavirus briefing was moved because of wildfires impacting the state.