Colorado prepares to lift most COVID restrictions by May 16

John Frank
·2 min read

Data: JHU; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The Denver area is dialing back COVID-19 restrictions and preparing to completely reopen in May — but some counties are moving faster and others are expressing concern about the pace.

Driving the news: Five counties — Denver, Jefferson, Boulder, Adams and Broomfield — are easing public health limits by moving to "Level Blue," even as case counts remain elevated.

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Context: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis' administration is downgrading its public health "dial" order to guidance, effective Friday, and letting local authorities set their own rules.

  • Denver Mayor Michael Hancock told John that the lesser local restrictions are warranted because vaccines are becoming more prevalent and "the city has to be open for business."

  • Dozens of counties already are moving to "Level Green" — including Arapahoe — which will allow them to bypass the state's mask mandate.

Yes, but: Predictably, the state's move is creating chaos about what rules apply where and it will make compliance difficult. And public health officials are raising concerns about moving too quickly.

  • "Anytime we have counties that are close or surrounding Denver that throw requirements out the window, it presents an elevated risk to Denver," the city's public health director Bob MacDonald told John.

The move to "Level Blue" allows:

  • Restaurants, gyms and certain event spaces to operate at full capacity with 6-foot distancing.

  • Alcohol sales until 2am.

  • Offices and shops to open at 75% capacity.

  • Bars to operate at 25% capacity.

  • No mask-wearing outdoors.

Reality check: The state's mask order will still apply to schools, hospitals and certain indoor settings, but is set to expire May 3. The state will still set parameters on large events.

What's next: If all goes well, metro counties are poised to shift May 16 to a newly created phase, Level Clear — dubbed the "new normal" with no restrictions, except possibly masks.

  • Denver officials wouldn't commit to moving to "Level Clear," saying they would re-evaluate closer to the time.

  • Douglas County isn't waiting to fully reopen. The county commissioners declared Tuesday that the "pandemic is over" and dropped all public health restrictions.

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