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Mayor Michael Hancock gives a COVID-19 update in the City and County Building's Parr-Widener Room. May 5, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Friday announced that city residents must be in their homes by 10 p.m. starting on Sunday in the latest effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Hancock is calling the mandate a “home-by-10” order. It’s aimed at restricting nighttime gatherings at bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as private gatherings.

Denverites covered by the order must stay in their homes until 5 a.m. each day. It is in effect until Dec. 7, though there are exemptions for critical businesses, employees returning home from work, first responders and people who may be traveling.

The order also prohibits Denverites from gathering recreationally with people outside of their own household. “All public and private gatherings of any number of people who are not members of a single household are prohibited,” the order says.


The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

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The gathering limitation is not in effect on Nov. 26, Thanksgiving Day.

“We’re on a very dangerous path,” Hancock said at a news conference on Friday. “… There’s another stay-at-home order in our future unless we act with urgency.”

Hancock said the order is aimed at stopping the spread of the virus, mainly, among younger adults who are asymptomatic carriers of the disease and are spreading it unknowingly to each other. City officials say people who are out walking their dog or exercising past 10 p.m. will not be subject to sanctions.

“Restricting hours where alcohol can be consumed is another part of the overall strategy since human nature, being what it is, people become less careful, less inhibited the more they drink and the later they are out,” Hancock said.

MORE: Read the public health order.

Hancock and his public health team have been sounding the alarm for weeks about rising coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Denver. He said the order is aimed at encouraging Denverites not to interact with people outside of their own households, though he said patronizing restaurants and other businesses is not being discouraged.

Businesses at the Denver Pavilions advertise to the few passersby on the 16th Street Mall on the August 24, 2020. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

Denver, Colorado’s capital and economic hub, is following in the footsteps of Pueblo, which enacted a similar curfew last week in order to slow the spread of coronavirus in southern Colorado. State health officials have said that a curfew could be a way for counties to avoid a full-blown lockdown like what was enacted in the spring.

Bob McDonald, who leads the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, warned that Denver’s hospital capacity could be overwhelmed by the end of December if the current trends continue.

“We can get this under control,” he said, “but we all have to contribute.”

Asked what proof he has that the new curfew in Denver will work, McDonald said no restrictions implemented to slow the virus’ spread are a sure thing.

“If there was an easy way to get this done, it would have already been done across the country,” he said. “There are no guarantees with any of this. It would be a lot easier if there were.”

The new public health order also has several clauses imposing other new restrictions, including:

  • Barring spectators at high school and collegiate sporting events
  • Halting recreational athletic events
  • Closing bars that aren’t able to meet “some basic criteria,” Hancock said, around mingling and food service

“More aggressive enforcement will also take place,” Hancock said.

Violators face a fine of up to $999 and up to 300 days in jail.

But, Hancock said, “we know we can’t enforce our way out of this pandemic. That’s not what this is about. This is less about enforcement and more about responsible citizens and residents deciding to take it upon themselves … to help save lives.”

On Friday evening, Tri-County Health Department announced a similar 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew for Adams County. It goes into effect on Saturday and lasts for at least 30 days.

“This new order is really a 5-alarm call to action, like an evacuation in the face of a wildfire,” said said John Douglas, who leads Tri-County Health Department.

The new restrictions in Denver and Adams County come after Gov. Jared Polis and along with Colorado’s top epidemiologist on Thursday warned coronavirus is circulating in the state at its highest rate since the pandemic began.

MORE: Coronavirus is circulating in Colorado at its highest rate since the pandemic began, health officials say

Polis urged Coloradans not to spend time with people outside of their own households for the next several weeks. He said that if the trend doesn’t abate, Colorado could become the next New York City.

“Colorado, I love you,” Polis said. “This is an intervention.”

Updated at 5:56 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020: This story has been updated to correct that the public health order is in effect until Dec. 7. It has also been updated to clarify that a limitation on gatherings among people from different households is temporarily suspended on Thanksgiving Day.

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....