Gov. Jared Polis outlined why now was the time to lift Colorado’s statewide stay-at-home order and gave an update on “Level Two” of the state’s COVID-19 response: Safer-at-Home.
“Why now?” Polis said on Monday from the state Capitol. “Our modeling shows that we can handle the caseload and that we need to figure out how to do this in a sustainable way.”
This phase is a step toward reopening some businesses in the state. The new executive order keeps many of the same recommendations — like wearing a mask when you go out on essential travel, and maintaining social distance — but adds more clarity to what a gradual reopening looks like.
“We bought time to build our healthcare capacity,” Polis said, referring to the now-lifted stay-at-home order. That includes purchasing masks, gloves, face shields and other personal protective equipment and hiring medical staff. “The goal was never to eradicate the virus in the United States. It’s unrealistic."
Starting Monday, retail businesses can reopen with curbside pickup, and are allowed to reopen their doors to customers on Friday with strict precautions. In-person real estate showings are allowed to resume as well, but not open houses.
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."
The state has made guidance available online. The safer-at-home order isn't a free-for-all, Polis pointed out once again.
People 65 and older and those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 must continue to stay home. 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.
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 in mid-April.
Polis has said additional tests are on the way to Colorado but has not revealed a plan to greatly expand testing.