Denver applies extra coronavirus limitations as cases hospitalizations remain to rise


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Denver is shutting down its gyms and forcing businesses and offices to reduce their capacity on Wednesday because of rising coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the city.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced on Tuesday that the state has downgraded the city to Colorado’s safer-at-home Level 3 status, one step above returning to a full-fledged lockdown like what was put in place this spring.


The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

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  • STORY: Colorado has had coronavirus spikes before. Here’s why the current one could be different.


“The numbers are the numbers,” Hancock said of Denver’s coronavirus case situation. “They don’t lie.”

Under the safer-at-home Level 3 status, Denver gyms can only offer virtual or outdoor classes. Businesses, including restaurants and retail, as well as places of warship and offices can only operate at 25% of their capacity — down from 50% — and indoor events are capped at 25 people.

Outdoor events have a 75 person limit.

The state recommends that counties under safer-at-home Level 3 status move K-12 schools to either fully remote learning or to a hybrid remote-and-in-person scheme. Health officials recommend limiting in-person learning “as appropriate.”

Voting service centers will not be affected by the new restrictions. Hancock said variances that allow for greater capacity at Denver’s cultural instiutions will not be changed.

Denver will be under safer-at-home Level 3 status for at least several weeks until it can prove to state health officials over a sustained period of time that its cases, hospitalizations and positive test rate has been reduced.

Bob McDonald, executive director of the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, said Denver’s two-week cumulative case rate is 385 per 100,000 people. The city must reduce that to 175 per 100,000 people over two weeks for things to return the way they were.

“We’re seeing an increase for all age groups,” McDonald said.

McDonald said intensive-care unit capacity is going down as hospitalizations rise.

“Hospital systems could be overwhelmed in the next couple of weeks,” McDonald said. “It could happen that soon. We need to act quickly here.”

McDonald said that Denver faces a real risk of being forced into returning to a stay-at-home lockdown status if the trend doesn’t change. “That’s a real possibility here,” he said.

Bob McDonald, executive director of Denver’s Department of Public Health and Environment, speaks during a COVID-19 update in the City and County Building’s Parr-Widener Room. May 5, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Hancock said Denverites need to do everything possible to ensure the city’s economy isn’t forced to shut down again. The mayor said that businesses have already let him know that the new restrictions, as Denver slides into safer-at-home Level 3 status, will be tough for them.

“We can get this thing back under control, but we’re going to have to take more of a serious approach,” Hancock said.

Denver tried to slow the spread of COVID-19 in recent weeks by requiring mask-wearing outdoors and limiting gatherings to no more than five people in the city. Those measures don’t appear to have worked.

Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are rising across the state, following a trend across the U.S. On Friday, Gov. Jared Polis’ administration restricted gatherings to no more than 10 people from two households in 60 of Colorado’s 64 counties.

The counties that are exempt are under the state’s protect-our-neighbors status.

Denver isn’t the only county that has slid into the safer-at-home Level 3 status. Logan and Adams counties have also been moved to that level by state health officials.

Polis is scheduled to hold a coronavirus briefing on Tuesday at 12:30 p.m.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

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