Denver COVID testing

Days after Gov. Jared Polis announced that counties across the state would have restrictions eased, Denver on Monday reopened restaurants for indoor dining while loosening other capacity limitations.

Under the new limits, restaurants can have as many as 50 people eating indoors at once.

Gyms and fitness centers can max out at 25 people (or 25%, whichever is fewer).

Last-call at bars and restaurants is at 10 p.m., offices can open up to 25% of their capacity, and retail businesses can allow 50% of their capacity to shop at once.

In a news release announcing the move, Denver health officials warned that the county would face vigorous measures again should case rates spike.

Denver had been in Level Red -- the state's second-highest level of COVID restrictions -- since November, when Polis announced that several counties would not face stay-at-home orders but instead would face further restrictions.

But in the weeks since, the situation in Denver has improved markedly.

On Nov. 20, the county was averaging 1,341 cases per 100,000 people over a two-week period.

That number has fallen to roughly 416 as of Sunday. Hospitalizations, at peak and concerning levels just a month ago, have also fallen, as has the number of deaths reported.

Polis announced last week that all Level Red counties, which included several in the metro area, would be moved into the orange, third-highest tier by Monday.

He indicated his decision was in part motivated by the battering facing restaurants that have frequently seen their capacity and dining options change throughout the pandemic. 

The situation has improved not just in Denver but statewide. Whereas the state was averaging several thousand new cases every day in November and early December, it's averaged fewer than 2,000 over the past week.

Hospitalizations are as low as they've been since early November, after threatening to overrun hospitals and intensive care units across the state.

The positivity rate, once teetering around 13%, now stands at 7.7% over the past week. 

Elsewhere in Denver on Monday, Denver Public Schools announced it was still on track to welcome students back for in-person learning later this month.

Students up through the fifth grade will return on Jan. 11. Between Jan. 19 and Jan. 29, secondary students will begin to return in phases.

All students who are participating in classroom learning this semester will be back in school by Feb. 1. 

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