DENVER — Several counties have extended or are considering extending stay-at-home orders after the statewide order transitions to a safer-at-home plan this week, which will allow some businesses to reopen with strict guidelines in place.
Gov. Jared Polis’ option calls for a gradual reopening of businesses throughout the state. Beginning Monday, April 27, for example, retail businesses can offer curbside service. Elective surgeries can begin again, and salons can re-open with strict protocols. Restaurant dining rooms will remain closed.
The Colorado Department of Health and Environment outlines the options available to local governments as things move forward:
- Local governments can implement the guidelines of safer-at-home to match the state.
- Local governments can go farther than the state, including but not limited to extended stay-at-home orders or additional protective measures.
- Local governments can relax guidelines more than the state. To do so, they will need to demonstrate proof of 14 consecutive days of a decline in COVID-19 infections in the county. They also must submit an application to CDPHE that includes a written COVID-19 suppression plan approved by the appropriate local public health authority, all hospitals within the jurisdiction and elected leadership.
Polis plans to formalize the process for asking for a county variance in an executive order in the coming days. Counties that are out of compliance will be in jeopardy of losing state emergency preparedness grants.
Here's a look at how some health departments are handling the issue.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced Friday, April 24 at a news conference that the city will extend its stay-at-home order through at least Friday, May 8.
“This is a marathon, we’re going to be in this for the long haul, and we’re going to roll out accordingly where we’re going to be safe,” Hancock said.
Bob McDonald, executive director of the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, said the city will work in partnership with Denver Health to expand testing to 1,000 a day.
Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) has issued a public health order extending the county's stay-at-home order through Friday, May 8.
The Jefferson County extension allows non-critical businesses to begin to offer curbside delivery of products. Additionally, travel to pick up these goods is included in the definition of necessary travel.
JCPH said the extension is necessary because, unlike some areas of the state that have less population density, Jeffco hasn't seen a decline in daily COVID-19 cases. They also said they don't have sufficient testing capacity or data about community compliance.
Both of those factors were key in the decision, according to JCPH.
The additional time will allow health officials to develop and implement strategies on how to safely reopen.
Adams and Arapahoe counties
Adams and Arapahoe counties have announced they will extend their stay-at-home orders until Friday, May 8.
Both counties are under the jurisdiction of the Tri-County Health Department. Under the extended order, non-critical businesses will be allowed to offer curbside delivery of products so they can reopen. People will also be able to drive to pick up these products.
The City of Brighton sent a letter to Tri-County Health in opposition to the extension. In the letter, Mayor Greg Mills says he was "disappointed and frustrated" to learn that Tri-County does not support Governor Polis' "safer at home" approach, while allowing an exemption for Douglas County.
Mills cites frustration for the public and businesses trying to keep track of overlapping public health orders and says "we need to balance the ability to provide safe regulations and provide hope."
The mayor also cites positive reports from local hospital Platte Valley Medical Center, which says it is under its capacity for treating COVID-19 patients.
Mills requested an exemption for the city from Tri-County's stay-at-home order, offering to provide a detailed plan to validate the request.
Tri-County said it appreciated Mills' frustrations, and that it would be communicating directly with Brighton regarding their concerns and request.
Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman also voiced opposition to Tri-County's decision in a series of Tweets on Saturday, April 25. Coffman said he doesn't understand why Douglas County was not included in Tri-County's order, and offered the explanation that it was left out because of opposition from elected officials.
Tri-County responded by saying its decision was based on public health data, not political considerations.
Like Adams and Arapahoe counties, Douglas County is under the jurisdiction of the Tri-County Health Department. Because cases have leveled off there, Dougco will fall under the statewide safer-at-home order, according to a release from the health department.
Boulder County Public Health said they will extend their stay-at-home order to Friday, May 8.
There is one important difference between the statewide stay-at-home order and the Boulder County extension. Beginning on Monday, April 27, non-critical businesses may offer curbside delivery of products, and travel to pick up these goods will be considered necessary travel.
Health officials said residents must continue to follow social distancing guidelines, stay at home as much as possible, wear a face covering, and practice abundant personal hygiene and cleanliness.
Broomfield City and County
The City and County of Broomfield voted to extend its stay-at-home order until Friday, May 8, with the exception of allowing retail businesses to offer curbside service.
The changes will go into effect starting on Monday, April 27.
The Broomfield Board of Health approved the amended order Friday, April 24.
The announcement also said that Broomfield "intends to allow for the guided opening of businesses on May 9 for in-person shopping, with public health precautions in place."
“The Denver metro region is seeing a much more concerning coronavirus environment than other areas in Colorado," said Broomfield Public Health Director Jason Vahling. "It’s critical that we work together with our neighboring communities to protect the health and safety of our community.
“Moving too quickly out of the stay-at-home order, without the necessary public health and public safety protections in place could be detrimental to slowing the spread of the virus in Broomfield and the region.”
Larimer County Public Health said April 24 it will slowly allow businesses to reopen under the new safer-at-home guidance that Polis will be releasing soon.
Larimer County said it would adopt Polis' safer-at-home orders with local guidance, education and enforcement.
Officials said even when businesses reopen, everyone must maintaining social distances of 6 feet, wear face coverings in public near other people, and restrict gatherings to 10 people or less.
“We need to be cautious with this move to the safer-at-home order. We don’t want to move too fast and see COVID-19 cases surge in our hospitals. We work closely with our hospitals and they will help us determine if we are moving too fast in this next phase," said Tom Gonzales, public health director for Larimer County.
The new guidelines will only allow these businesses to operate in a limited capacity at this time, according to health officials.
There are some areas, like the Estes Valley, that will be more closely monitored. While travel is still not encouraged, accommodations are being allowed to re-open on a limited basis after being closed through a local order. This is to help them get ready for business in this new limited capacity and not to encourage a resurgence of travel to the area.
The previous orders closed accommodations from March 23 through April 26, to limit visitors to the Estes Valley and help slow the spread of COVID-19, coinciding with broad stay-at-home orders.
From April 27 through May 31, the new orders allow a guest occupancy of 50 percent of units within multiple-unit lodging facilities. Single-unit accommodations, such as vacation rental homes and bed and breakfast inns, must limit occupancy to no more than eight individuals. State and local lodging regulations, when more strict, must be followed.
No common amenities or areas may be accessible to guests except for check-in and check-out areas. Restrictions may be extended or amended in response to the pandemic.
Non-essential travel will still be prohibited.
Huerfano and Las Animas counties
The stay-at-home order will remain in effect through Thursday, April 30, according to the Las Animas-Huerfano Counties District Health Department.
In a Facebook post on Friday, April 24, the agency said a second resident of Huerfano County tested positive for COVID-19.
On Thursday, April 23, Polis approved a local request from Eagle County to reduce some restrictions of the stay-at-home order early. The county made that request before Polis announced the safer-at-home guidelines set to begin next week.
A release from Eagle County on Friday, April 24 said the county is moving toward a more sustainable social distancing model to open businesses and recreation that are currently restricted.
The primary focus, according to the release, is opening businesses that have not been defined as critical, essential or governmental, while requiring those businesses to implement a social distancing protocol.
Here is a list of changes under the updated public health order, as outlined in the release:
- Allows gatherings of up to 10 people, as long as social distancing requirements are met.
- Allows some outdoor recreational facilities to reopen.
- Restricts short-term lodging operations, except if necessary for an essential service or business, for emergency purposes or for medical care.
- Allows more businesses to open in addition to previously allowed essential businesses, as long as the business can meet the requirements of the order. All businesses must create and visibly post a Social Distancing Protocol, explaining how the business is achieving all social distancing, sanitizing and cleaning, and other requirements.
- Limits travel into or around Eagle County to local residents only. “Local residents” are defined as persons who own, maintain, or live in a home or residence in Eagle County.
Weld County has plans to adopt a safer-at-work plan that would allow all businesses to open, if they choose to do so, under certain guidelines.
The chairman of Weld County's board of commissioners, Mike Freeman, told 1310 KFKA Radio that the county will not direct businesses to open, but it will provide guidelines for all of them to open if they choose.
“This will be for businesses, in general, to open across the board,” he said. “I think the governor's been pretty clear all along that his orders are unenforceable.”
Freeman also said that this does not mean “business as usual.” The county’s guidelines include limiting groups to 10 people, keeping 6 feet between individuals, and a recommendation for physical barriers.
The county will also consider publishing more industry-specific guidelines for places like restaurants, Freeman told KFKA. He said commissioners will not tell long-term care facilities how to handle visitors, but people should remember that the elderly are considered vulnerable.
Freeman said they had not consulted with Polis or state health officials.
A spokesman for Polis said counties that are out of compliance with public health orders "are in jeopardy of losing state emergency preparedness grants."
On Friday, April 24, the Weld County Board of Commissioners issued the following statement:
Weld County Government is not opening any businesses, just as Weld County Government did not close any businesses. That said, each commissioner has received comments from constituents struggling to make ends meet, pay their bills, and take care of their families who have said they are going to open their businesses.
So, Weld County Government took the proactive response of preparing best practices and guidance that could be used as business owners look to reopen – whenever they feel comfortable to do so. An informed public is a strong public.
The same preventative measures need to be heeded – we’ve said that. Expectations need to be managed – we’re doing that. What we aren’t going to do is pick winners and losers as to who gets to restart their livelihoods.
And at the end of the day, everyone has freedoms: freedom to stay home, freedom to go out, and freedom to support whatever business they want to support.
Officials for the City of Greeley announced Friday, April 24 they are extending the widespread public closures of city facilities until Tuesday, June 2.
A release said city leaders want to get the community and economy back on track safely, and they think the state's safer-at-home plan outlines the best path forward.
“Based on the medical and scientific data, and the high number of cases in Weld County, the City of Greeley strongly supports following the ‘safer-at-home’ philosophy,” said Greeley Mayor John Gates. “This approach protects lives, flattens the curve, and is a step in the right direction for getting our community back to a fully operational economy.”
The release said through June 2, all non-emergency city facilities will remain closed to the public. All city playgrounds, skate parks, restrooms, drinking fountains and athletic fields for any group sports will remain closed.
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