Denver issues new mask rules, cuts gatherings from 10 to 5 people amid rising COVID-19 cases

michael hancock
Posted at 11:00 AM, Oct 16, 2020

DENVER — City officials on Friday issued new COVID-19 restrictions as cases and hospitalizations have been on the rise in recent weeks, with masks now required in more settings and private gathering limits cut in half.

Masks will now be required outdoors for anyone who is with someone not from their household and when social distancing is not possible. The new mandate went into effect Friday and will be in place through Nov. 16.

The city also reduced the number of non-related people allowed to gather in an unregulated setting from 10 to five.

The gathering limit is aimed to reduce the number of attendees at private gatherings or when spending time in a park or at a meeting in a non-critical business office, for example.

“Over the past several weeks, we have worked hard to reduce our caseloads and keep hospitalizations from increasing,” Mayor Michael Hancock said. “But we need to do more. With the holidays on the horizon, we must take these additional steps over the next 30 days and knuckle down together to do the hard work that needs to be done so we can all enjoy this upcoming holiday season.”

The new restrictions Friday do not impact the current rules for restaurants and indoor dining, though city officials warned Monday that Denver restaurants and businesses could face tighter restrictions again if city COVID-19 trends don't change.

If Denver case numbers continue to rise, the city may trigger level 3 on the state's safer-at-home dial, “which will directly impact operating capacities for office-based business, retail, manufacturing, personal services, limited healthcare settings, restaurants, houses of worship, indoor events, outdoor events, organized sports, gyms, and outdoor guided events," officials said.

State officials have also warned of rising case numbers, with Gov. Jared Polis saying Colorado is a "critical juncture" as daily case numbers exceeded 1,000 this week.

Denver officials were holding a press conference at 11 a.m. Friday to discuss the new restrictions.

Hancock in the news conference called Denver's COVID-19 data "concerning" and said the numbers are "higher than we've ever been over the course of this pandemic."

With the new rules, "We're trying to strike a balance between keeping people healthy and keeping Denver's economy alive," Hancock said.

Denver public health director Bob McDonald said residents should still feel safe eating at restaurants, as long as they wear a mask to and from, taking it off while dining.

McDonald also said the city's hospital capacity is doing OK, but a critical part of maintaining that stability will be getting a flu shot to prevent hospitalizations heading into flu season.

Organized sports, such as high school football and youth football, are exempt from the new restrictions, but pickup games of football and basketball, for example, will be subject to the mask requirement and gathering limit of five people.