Colorado Gov. Jared Polis late Wednesday announced that he will loosen coronavirus restrictions in areas across the state that had been forced to ban personal gatherings and shut down indoor dining in recent weeks.
The Democrat said he is asking the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to move counties that had been under level-red restrictions — including the entire Denver area and El Paso County — to level-orange restrictions starting on Monday.
Under level-orange restrictions, counties will be able to allow personal gatherings of up to 10 people from two different households and restaurants can offer indoor dining at up to 25% of their capacity or 50 people.
“In reviewing the data, Colorado has been in a sustained decline for 13 days, and only 73% of (intensive care unit) beds statewide are in use,” Polis said on Twitter in announcing the shift.
The move, announced on social media hours after he held a news conference earlier in the day, comes even as Colorado this week detected a case of a coronavirus variant that is thought to be as much as 70% more transmissible. The variant has wreaked havoc in the U.K.
Also, because of the coronavirus’ incubation period and the turnaround time for test results, Colorado health officials have previously said it takes about 10 days to two weeks before infections acquired at a specific time begin showing up in the state’s data. That means the state won’t have a clear picture of whether there is a surge of cases tied to Christmas and New Year’s celebrations before it lowers the restrictions in the counties.
Finally, the dial system is supposed to be determined by an individual county’s coronavirus situation. This is the second time Polis has changed the dial parameters after he unveiled an alteration in November aimed at preventing lockdowns across the state.
However, Colorado’s seven-day average of new cases has been declining since Dec. 4. The state’s test positivity rate is at its lowest levels since October. Hospitalizations have steadily dropped since Dec. 1.
Colorado’s coronavirus situation — in terms of daily case counts and hospitalizations — remains perilously above numbers the state saw in the spring when the virus was first detected in Colorado. And the state’s declines come after the worst stretch it has endured since the pandemic began.
Polis and his health deputies have pleaded with the public to adhere to social-distancing and mask-wearing guidelines. The governor doubled down on those requests Wednesday.
“To save lives, maybe even your own, it is more important than ever that Coloradans not gather outside of their household to celebrate the New Year, and to continue to take the basic steps to protect themselves and others,” Polis said Wednesday night.