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'Please stay home': Denver moves to tighter COVID-19 restrictions

Denver moves to level red at 5 p.m. Friday and will remain at the level until at least the week ending Dec. 18.

DENVER — While Denver is not under a stay-at-home order, Mayor Michael Hancock and public health leaders urged everyone to stay home as much as possible over the next 30 days.

"I know this is hard. I know you hate this," said Hancock during a briefing Friday morning. "I hate this, but we are doing our best to avoid a complete shut down of our economy. I'm pleading with everyone, please stay home. Please only go out for essential services."

Earlier this week, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) updated its COVID-19 response dial to include a new level of purple, which is known as "extreme risk."

By Sunday, 20 counties including Denver will be moved to level red, known as "severe risk," which is one level before the new purple level. 

RELATED: 20 counties moving to 'severe risk' level on state's COVID-19 dial

RELATED: What the new purple level means on the state's COVID-19 dial

"This was unwelcome news," said Hancock. "But we understand what the governor and state officials are trying to do and that is curb infections and save lives and protect an already stressed healthcare system from imploding, a circumstance that would have catastrophic impacts."

Watch the full news conference:

The new restrictions go into effect at 5 p.m. Friday for Denver and will be in effect until at least the week ending Dec. 18, Hancock said.

Under the new red level, all restaurants will have to temporarily close to indoor dining, but takeout is still an option. Outdoor seating is also an option but is limited to single-family seating, not groups. Last call will be at 8 p.m.

Denver office buildings must limit capacity to 10%, and everyone who can work at home is encouraged to do so. Gyms will be able to remain open but will be limited to 10% capacity with reservations. No gatherings or indoor events are allowed.

RELATED: After Sunday, Broncos won't have fans for final 3 home games

Hancock said there is hope with the recent news about two promising COVID-19 vaccinations, but in the meantime residents can't let their guard down.

"We're about to enter the hardest phase of the pandemic," he said. "If this virus continues to spread like it is right now, it won't just mean another stay-at-home order. It will mean more easily preventable loss of life. It will also mean further devastation to our economy."

Hancock was joined by Bob McDonald, the executive director of the Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE) for Friday's briefing. McDonald said on Thursday alone, an additional 90 people were hospitalized in the state due to COVID-19. He acknowledged that while numbers have gone up, the strategies such as face coverings and physical distancing need to continue.

"Even though the cases have gone up, the strategies are proven, they work," said McDonald. "We're going to get through this. I'm confident we'll start to see the curve move in the right direction."

The city also announced Friday that they're opening a new COVID-19 testing site at Ruby Hill Park on Nov. 23. which they said they hope will alleviate some of the overcrowding issues they've had at the Paco Sanchez Park site. With that additional site, officials said that some of the days and times for the testing sites will be changing. Anyone who needs testing is encouraged to visit the city's website for the most current information prior to visiting any location.

Ski resorts will be able to operate under level red, but under stricter restrictions such as no indoor dining and lower capacity in buildings, according to CDPHE.

> You can find the different restrictions for each level here.

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