Gov. Jared Polis issued new draft guidelines Monday that loosen restrictions on business operations as some areas of Colorado move toward the even less restrictive third phase of reopening next month.
Polis attributed the progress and more fully re-opening the state to downward trends in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
The goal of the third phase, known as Protect Our Neighbors, is to flatten the curve of a possible second wave of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. A second wave of infection is expected in the fall, according to the state health department’s modeling.
Colorado counties that demonstrate strong public health and health care systems, as well as low virus levels, can have more control over reopening plans, Polis said. Underlying virus levels, public health capacity, and health care capacity to respond to cases and outbreaks will determine whether a community stays under the current Safer at Home guidelines, moves on to the Protect Our Neighbors phase, or returns to the more restrictive Stay at Home guidance.
The Protect Our Neighbors phase allows eligible counties to hold activities at 50 percent of pre-pandemic capacity, as long as social distancing is practiced, with no more than 500 people in one setting. The 50 percent threshold may be increased if a region holds transmission levels steady and demonstrates it is capable of increasing treatment, testing, and contact tracing, according to the state.
"There might be some local county fairs," Polis said of the third phase, but cautioned mass gatherings will remain prohibited until a vaccine or cure is available.
Polis said during a Monday news conference he hopes some Colorado counties will be able to enter the third phase by the first week of July.
He also adapted guidelines for the current Safer at Home phase, which will remain in effect through June. The changes allow personal services to resume additional operations, such as salons that offer beard shaves, lip waxing and facials, which haven't been allowed because of face mask requirements.
Under the loosened guidelines, residential summer camps can reopen, indoor events such as conferences, receptions and museums can resume, as well as outdoor events such as concerts, fairs and rodeos. Bars can reopen and allow up to 25% of capacity or up to 50 people. Personal services such as shaves and facials can resume and noncritical manufacturing facilities can expand in-person workforce.
“Restaurants, places of worship, higher education — these kinds of activities need a way that they can function without jeopardizing the lives of those who attend," Polis said. "There’s risk in all activities and some Coloradans won’t engage in them, which is a wise step to take for those who are over 65.”
The refined guidelines for the current phase go into effect Thursday. The public can send feedback about the guidelines at coloradosaferathome.com.
Polis reiterated the importance of wearing masks and social distancing in public even through the Protect Our Neighbors phase.
“We know things are going to get more challenging,” Polis said of the potential second wave of infections, which could coincide with flu season. “The more we wear masks in public, the more we deliberately try to be six feet from others when we interact, the more successful we will be and the greater our economic activity will be. Human behavior is what separates us from failure and success.”
Polis said the state’s goals are to obtain more personal protection equipment, and expand coronavirus testing, contact tracing and tracking as fall approaches. The key to a successful reopening of the economy is to have strong local healthcare systems in place and to stop localized outbreaks at facilities, he said.
In Boulder, a person who attended a June 4 Black Lives Matter protest at the University of Colorado tested positive for coronavirus, according to a Monday statement from Boulder County Public Health.
The person wore a mask, but was experiencing mild symptoms including no ability to taste or smell at the time of the protest, according to the health department. Officials asked that everyone who attended the event monitor for symptoms, self-isolate and get tested if they develop symptoms. Those who were exposed but do not have symptoms should consider testing after one week after exposure, according to the department.
The Gazette's Erin Prater contributed to this article.