Colorado to relax social, business coronavirus restrictions with new ‘Protect our Neighbors’ phase of response
Associated Press/Report for America
DENVER (AP) — Colorado will soon enter a new phase with loosened coronavirus-related social and business restrictions, Gov. Jared Polis announced Monday.
Under the next phase, which the Democratic governor calls “Protect our Neighbors,” individual counties will be able to make their own decisions to reopen businesses or social gatherings at the end of June or early July — if they have the adequate public health capabilities to respond to possible outbreaks.
The new guidelines are subject to public feedback and will be formalized by the end of this week, Polis said.
“If we can empower our local public health agencies and partners to meet the needs of communities across Colorado, then we truly can rely on these tools to flatten the potential second wave,” he said.
The new measures include allowing the resumption, with conditions to be determined, of indoor and outdoor events or venues like conferences, museums, fairs and concerts.
He also announced that residential summer camps can open with as many as 10 children in individual indoor settings and 25 outdoors. Bars can also open at 25% capacity, or up to 50 people.
As part of the next phase, Polis said several counties can choose to band together to combine their public health resources as a more effective means of containing the coronavirus. The governor called local health agencies the “first line of defense” to close sites of outbreaks, conduct testing and contact tracing. If outbreaks worsen, the state can get involved, Polis said.
“If they fail to address it or the trend continues to move in the wrong direction, counties would backslide from ‘Protect our Neighbors’ back to ‘Safer at Home,’ or in an extreme life-threatening situation, to ‘Stay at Home,’” Polis said. He was referring to the original statewide measure he ordered severely restricting business and social gatherings, as well as the relaxed measures currently in effect.
In recent weeks, Colorado has seen a downward trend in new cases of the coronavirus and in hospitalizations. As of Monday, the state had more than 29,000 cases and more than 1,300 deaths.
That contrasts with new spikes of cases in neighboring Arizona and Utah, and Polis once again said he was “concerned and deeply worried” about developments in those two states.
“Human behavior is the variable and Coloradans thus far have been extremely responsible,” he said.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in two to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems can face severe illness and death. The vast majority of people recover.
Nieberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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