DENVER, Colo. — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced on Tuesday afternoon that 10 to 15 Colorado counties will move to Level Red: Severe Risk on the state's updated COVID-19 dial, including Denver, Jefferson and Arapahoe counties, on Friday.
By Tuesday evening, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced the full list of counties that were moving to the highest risk level before stay-at-home orders are implemented, beginning Friday:
- Clear Creek
- La Plata
By Thursday evening, the CDPHE announced five more counties would be moving to Level Red:
In addition, the state will add a Level Purple: Extreme Risk to the dial. This new level will sit after Level Red. The upgraded dial goes into effect on Friday.
The new Level Purple will be used to indicate that hospitals are being overwhelmed. Under the new Level Purple, no indoor or outdoor dining will be allowed. Capacity will be greatly limited at churches and non-essential manufacturing, personal services and outdoor events and entertainment will close. No counties are at this level as of Tuesday afternoon, Polis said.
In the updated Level Red, indoor dining is temporarily closed, however, takeout, delivery and outdoor dining options are still available. Polis said they are expecting up to 15 counties to move to Level Red and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock confirmed that will include Denver County.
Counties will have until Friday to decide to move to a lockdown or stay in Level Red. Therefore, the exact counties expected to move to Level Red isn't clear. Following the Tuesday press conference, Jefferson and Arapahoe counties confirmed they will move to Level Red as well.
Hancock added that unlike March and April, Denver is more prepared to handle COVID-19 with resources, but a lack of staffing is becoming an issue for the local health care system.
Bars will remain closed and last call at restaurants serving alcohol will move from 10 p.m. to 8 p.m. Gyms are allowed to operate at 10% capacity, Polis said about Level Red. Childcare will remain open. Indoor seated events will close. Offices are encouraged to switch to remote work, if possible, or have only 10% capacity in the building. Personal gatherings of any size will not be allowed.
Polis said even under Level Red, the state recommends K-5 to remain in-person, but middle school and high school should consider hybrid or remote learning models.
At-risk individuals should stay home as much as possible, he said.
"It's just not the time to see friends or be out," Polis said.
Polis said he hopes that these steps will stop a "more devastating lockdown" and will instead minimize disruptions to the economy while breaking the exponential growth of the virus. He said he believes Colorado's economy can stay open during this time and doesn't anticipate any lockdowns in the next week.
Colorado's dial previously had five levels and counties moved back and forth as conditions improved and worsened.
The levels, including the new Level Purple, are as follows, from least restrictive to most restrictive:
- Level Green: Protect Our Neighbors
- Level Blue: Cautious
- Level Yellow: Concern
- Level Orange: High Risk
- Level Red: Severe Risk
- Level Purple: Extreme Risk
The levels are based on several factors, including number of new cases, percent positivity of COVID tests and impact on hospitals, plus local considerations.
In order for a county to move to a less restrictive level, it must meet and sustain all three metrics for two weeks. As of Tuesday, Colorado counties were ticking up in cases and Coloradans need to do their part to stop that exponential growth, Polis said.
He noted that the COVID-19 dial is a tool, but doesn't want the public to get caught up on the colors and levels.
"There is a risk everywhere in our entire state," Polis said. "This is the riskiest time for the virus everywhere in Colorado that we have had from the very start, so no matter where you live, you should avoid interacting, to the extent possible, with people outside your household. You should wear a mask around others more than you ever have before and you should have social distancing, wash your hands when you get back if you do have to go out."
To learn more about the COVID-19 dial, click here to visit the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's website.
In addition to announcing the new COVID-19 dial an changes in store for multiple counties, Polis said he is calling a special session to encourage the legislature to help as the state waits for federal relief from Congress.