As Colorado Stay At Home Order Expires, Polis Issues New Rules For What Can Open, What Can’t

Jared Polis Coronavirus Presser 200417
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis updates the news media Friday, April 17, 2020 from the governor’s residence at Boettcher Mansion in Denver on the state’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

Gov. Jared Polis released guidance on Sunday for reopening just before the statewide stay-at-home order lifts.

Under the next phase of Colorado’s COVID-19 response, billed as "Safer At Home" by Polis, retail businesses can reopen with curbside pickup on Monday. As of now, retail shops will then be allowed to reopen their doors to customers on Friday with strict precautions. On May 4, commercial businesses can open with up to 50 percent of employees working in-person.

Critical and non-critical businesses and retailers with over 50 employees in one location should implement symptom screening like temperature checks. Gatherings of 10 people or more are still not allowed.

Elective surgeries may resume, also under certain restrictions, and the order governing that makes clear that healthcare facilities that do resume those procedures have "a plan to reduce or stop elective surgeries or procedures if there is a surge of COVID-19 infections in the county or municipality in which the facility is located."

Monday isn't a free-for-all, Polis pointed out, and depending on the county, each person will have a different reality for what life will look like for the next weeks or month. Some counties plan to stick with statewide guidelines while others have extended their own stay-at-home order. Weld County commissioners have taken no action of their own, and no action to be exempted from Polis’s executive orders, meaning that the county will continue to be covered by the state’s restrictions. The commissioners have sent conflicting messages about how closely they will enforce state rules under what they call their own “safer at work” program.

According to the executive order, individual counties are allowed to implement stricter measures to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. Counties who want fewer restrictions than what the statewide order calls for must ask the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. They have to prove to the state that the county has seen a consecutive 14-day decrease in reported COVID-19 cases among other requirements. Counties who are out of compliance with the statewide order are at risk of losing state funding for COVID-19, the executive order states.

Regardless of the county, Polis said the message remains the same statewide. People should still wear a mask, only leave home if it’s absolutely necessary and continue to practice social distancing. The month of May will still likely look the same as April for seniors and other at-risk groups.

Local public health experts have cautioned against removing restrictions before widespread testing and contact tracing are in place.

“I think before we can really move to a next phase, we're going to have to greatly expand testing capability,” Dr. David Markenson, president of the Colorado Medical Society, told CPR News (just two weeks ago) in mid-April.

Polis has said additional tests are on the way to Colorado, but has not revealed a plan to greatly expand testing.

Under the stay-at-home order, Colorado residents who have not been considered essential workers have been instructed to stay at home unless they need to do things like shop for food or recreate outside. Although disobeying the stay-at-home order has been illegal, many law enforcement agencies said their role was more about education than enforcement.
In mid-March, life in Colorado came to a slow halt as Polis ordered schools, bars and restaurants, beauty shops and other businesses closed one after another. Some Colorado counties and cities issued their own stay-at-home orders before the statewide executive order was announced.

Another part of the executive order formalized the creation of something the governor has called the New Normal Advisory Board, whose mandate is to address "how local jurisdictions and local public health agencies can coordinate with the State on public education efforts that aim to maximize compliance and enforcement efforts for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic."

The board will be appointed by the governor, but the order specifies that they'll mostly be people who've already been elected -- a mayor from a city larger than 100,000 people and one from a municpality smaller than that; a county commissioner from a county of over 250,000 people and one from a county smaller than that, for example. There are also spots for law enforcement officials, a fire chief and a public health appointee.