Colorado governor reveals brand-new coronavirus restrictions aimed at preventing lockdowns


Colorado News

Gov. Jared Polis announced new coronavirus restrictions Tuesday aimed — at least temporarily — at preventing about half of Colorado’s counties from being forced into lockdown as COVID-19 sickens more people and fills more hospital beds each day.

The new mandates are intended to give counties with a worsening COVID-19 situation another chance to improve before returning to an all-out stay-at-home order as the Democrat issued in the spring. 

Coronavirus is running so rampant in many counties — including Denver, Adams and Jefferson — that they should already be locked down under metrics defining the state’s old dial system. Roughly half of the state’s counties Tuesday morning were teetering on the edge of having such bad rates of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations that they would meet the criteria for a lockdown.


The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

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  • MAP: Cases and deaths in Colorado.
  • TESTING: Here’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • STORY: It could take up to a year before every Coloradan who wants a coronavirus vaccine can get one


“We clearly need a more drastic shift in behavior,” Polis said at a news conference at the governor’s mansion in downtown Denver where he announced the new restrictions. “Absent intervention, it just keeps getting worse.”

Polis changed the state’s dial system to make the red level — which used to be the point at which counties were forced to lock down — less severe.

Counties at that level must now shutter indoor dining. Other businesses will only be able to operate at minimal capacity. Counties at the red level are not, however, required to fully lock down.

It wasn’t immediately clear on Tuesday afternoon which counties would be moving to the red level. Polis said an executive order laying out the details of the changes is forthcoming.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says a new level — purple — will be added to the bottom of the dial for counties facing an even worse coronavirus situation. The changes to the dial will be effective on Friday.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who was also at Tuesday’s news conference with Polis, asked people to follow the new rules to prevent further restrictions from being enacted.

Polis and local officials have resisted the idea of issuing new lockdown orders for weeks, fearful, mainly, of economic fallout. Instead, they’ve been pleading with the public to adhere to mask-wearing restrictions and social-distancing guidelines. 

Gov. Jared Polis speaks to reporters at a news conference on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Recently, Coloradans have even been urged — and required in some places, including Denver — to cancel plans with people outside of their households.

None of those requests or last-ditch mandates, however, have been effective, and Polis was forced last week to prepare in earnest for hospital capacity to be surpassed in the coming weeks. 

As of Tuesday morning, about 1,300 Coloradans were hospitalized because of the coronavirus — by far the highest number since the pandemic began. The state’s seven-day average daily case count has surpassed 4,000, another record. Colorado’s test positivity rate average over the past week is 12.61%, well above the 5% level considered acceptable by the World Health Organization. 

“Do I expect these case numbers to be dropping in the next week?” Dr. Eric France, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s chief medical officer, said on Thursday. “I don’t know that they will.”

Also on Tuesday, Polis confirmed that he will call a special session of the Colorado legislature, urging lawmakers to swiftly pass bills that can help people weather the economic effects of the new restrictions. He said the state has been forced to act in lieu of new federal relief. 

Polis said he hopes the legislation will “bridge us to the vaccine.”

The governor said the details of the special session are still being ironed out, but that they are expected to be finalized before the end of the week.

Among the topics state lawmakers are expected to tackle are:

  • Small business relief in the form of delayed tax payments and direct emergency assistance 
  • Housing and rental aid
  • Child care support
  • Expanded broadband access

This is a developing story that will be updated.

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