Colorado next week will once again loosen its coronavirus dial system by making it easier for counties to relax restrictions on businesses, office space and restaurants and by allowing bars to reopen across the majority of the state.
The changes were announced Friday night by the Colorado Department of Public Heath and Environment, which is seeking comments on the alterations through midday Monday. The new dial system goes into effect on Wednesday.
The “Dial 3.0” comes as an increasing number of Coloradans are receiving doses of a coronavirus vaccine. Nearly 80% of people 70 and older have been fully vaccinated. The age bracket has made up 38% of the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations.
Among the biggest changes to the dial will be:
- Counties will be able to move into level green, the most lenient level, if they have up to 35 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, up from 15 cases per 100,000 people.
- Counties will be able to move into level blue, the second most lenient level, if they have up to 100 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people.
- Most restrictions in level green are removed, though bars, gyms, and indoor events must still adhere to a 50% capacity limit or a 500-person cap, whichever is fewer.
- Bars can now open under level blue — which most of the state is under — with a capacity limit of 25% or 75 people, whichever is fewer.
- Retail, offices and non-critical manufacturing in level-blue counties may now open to 75% capacity, up from 50%.
Outdoor event capacity limits will no longer be in effect for counties in levels green and blue.
The state’s mask order could be eased starting on April 4 for counties in level green and blue.
Counties in level green would have a mask order in schools, among congregate care visitors and other high risk settings. Those at level blue and above would have an indoor mask order for 10 or more unrelated people mixing indoors in public settings.
Colorado is also removing its limit on personal gathering sizes, though CDPHE notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still strongly recommends avoiding larger gatherings and crowds to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“With more Coloradans receiving their vaccine, the state aims to offer greater flexibility,” the state Health Department said in a news release. “By mid-April, CDPHE intends to move to a more local model, allowing local public health agencies to assume more control over capacity restrictions that are currently determined by the dial.”
Still, health officials have warned that Colorado’s COVID-19 cases have plateaued at a high level.
“We are at this plateau that is higher than we’d like it to be,” Dr. Jon Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health, said this week.
CDPHE has also warned that coronavirus variants could throw Colorado off of its current trajectory and send the state into another span of rising cases and hospitalizations.