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What the color levels of ‘safer at home’ mean in Colorado

As coronavirus cases rise, some counties institute tighter COVID-19 restrictions

A state public health order has simplified the state’s level system to use a commonly understood color code system.

As Colorado coronavirus cases rise, some counties are instituting tighter COVID-19 restrictions – and that means they’re moving backward on the state’s updated color-coded scale for measuring openness during the pandemic.

Colorado has three phases of restrictions for counties:

Stay at home, the most restrictive.Safer at homeProtect our neighbors, the least restrictive.And within Phase 2 safer at home, there are three levels of restrictions. The higher the level, the closer that county is to going backward, to stay at home.

Here’s a breakdown.

Stay at home: Red

On March 26, Gov. Jared Polis issued a statewide stay-at-home order, requiring Colorado’s 5.7 million residents to avoid going out unless absolutely necessary, and to, well, stay home.

Many schools went remote, places of worship held virtual services, restaurants were open for takeout or delivery only, people were urged to shop for groceries only once a week, and things like elective surgeries haircuts and massages were suspended.

Colorado was under this restriction for 30 days – until April 26. After that, the state moved into different versions of safer at home.

Safer at home: Orange (high risk)

This is what the state calls “high risk.” In other words, it’s just one step down from a stay-at-home order.

Under Orange, personal gatherings are limited to 10 people and personal services, retail and restaurants are capped at 25% capacity, as are houses of worship.

Denver has decided to allow bars to remain open, but last call has been moved to 10 p.m.

Outdoor events are capped at 75 people, indoor events are capped at 50.

Gyms are allowed to operate in person, with a 25-person max. Previously, the gym rule was outdoors or virtually only.

In Orange, no new variances are granted, but counties can keep the ones they currently have.

At this level, schools are encouraged to move to remote learning, but the state is leaving that decision up to each district or campus.

Safer at home: Yellow (concern)

This is what the state refers to as “Concern.”

In Yellow, some outdoor variances can be approved, capacity for places like personal services and retail can go up to 50%, and restaurants and houses of worship can host up to 100 people.

Outdoor events and indoor events have higher capacity limits at this level as well, at 175 and 100 people, respectively.

Outdoor guided activities like rafting are capped at 10 people. Gyms are allowed to operate at 25% capacity.

In education, the same suggestions around remote learning apply.

Safer at home: Blue (cautious)

The state calls this level “Cautious.” This is the closest level to the least restrictive phase, which is protect our neighbors.

Under Blue, counties are eligible for indoor and outdoor variances.

This level used to allow personal gatherings of up to 25 people, but as concerns have grown about the role private events may play in spreading the virus, the state has imposed new limits. A new, statewide health order limits personal gatherings for all levels in the safer-at-home phase to no more than 10 people from at most two households.

In Blue, capacity at houses of worship and restaurants goes up further, to 175 people.

Indoor events are capped at 175, outdoor events are capped at 250 and outdoor guided services can increase to 25 people.

Protect our neighbors: Green (least restrictive)

Under the Protect Our Neighbors, the size of personal gatherings are determined by county.

In-person learning is recommended, and businesses like restaurants, gyms retail and salons can all operate at a much larger capacity. That capacity increases by 5% each month the county stays in this phase, eventually capping out at 500 people.

Same with indoor and outdoor events – those are all capped at 500.

At all phases and levels, no matter what the capacity limits are, the state requires mask-wearing indoors. Counties can impose stricter rules though.

Continue to respect social distancing measures, and – say it with me – wash your hands, whatever level or phase you’re living in.

The Colorado Department of Health and Environment map is updated every day at 4 p.m.