COVID-19 restrictions set to loosen in many counties on the morning of Feb. 6

    BRIEF

    Wait staff at Briar Common Brewery & Eatery in Denver pour and deliver drinks to patrons on Jan. 7, 2021. (Moe Clark/Colorado Newsline)

    Major changes to Colorado’s COVID-19 dial system — used to determine restrictions on economic and social activities based on the spread of the coronavirus — will mean many counties can open their businesses to more patrons starting at 9 a.m. Feb. 6.

    “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve used the latest data to drive decisions about how best to save lives, slow the spread of COVID-19, keep our economy open, and with each new phase of the pandemic we learn more and these efforts look a little bit different,” Polis said at a Feb. 5 news briefing, where officials announced the previously proposed dial changes would take effect the following day.

    COVID-19 dial map
    This screenshot from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s website shows each county’s COVID-19 dial level as of Feb. 5, 2021. (CDPHE)

    As of Feb. 5, most of the state was under the orange level of the dial. The orange level — until Feb. 6 — is associated with a case incidence of 175 to 350 new cases per 100,000 people, reported over two weeks.

    But after the dial update, orange will be associated with 300 to 500 new cases per 100,000 people over one week. Since many counties that were in orange as of Feb. 5 have an incidence rate below 300 cases per week (or 600 per two weeks), they’ll move to yellow, which has fewer restrictions on businesses and social gatherings.

    The state’s orange-level restrictions include:

    • Restaurants are limited to 25% of pre-COVID indoor capacity or 50 people, whichever is fewer
    • Last call for alcohol no later than 10 p.m.
    • Gyms and fitness centers are limited to 25% capacity or 50 people
    • Non-critical manufacturing limited to 25% or 50 people
    • Offices limited to 25% of pre-COVID capacity
    • Personal services (such as salons) limited to 25% capacity or 25 people

    Yellow-level restrictions include:

    • Restaurants are limited to 25% of pre-COVID indoor capacity or up to 150 people using the state’s social distancing calculator
    • Last call for alcohol no later than 11 p.m.
    • Gyms and fitness centers are limited to 50% capacity or 50 people
    • Non-critical manufacturing limited to 50% or up to 100 people using the social distancing calculator
    • Offices limited to 50% of pre-COVID capacity
    • Personal services limited to 50% capacity or 50 people

    The state hasn’t always adhered to the dial framework in determining when to move counties between levels. But in an interview with Newsline on Feb. 1, Gov. Jared Polis said he thought the changes included in “Dial 2.0” would “hit closer to the mark” in dictating when to tighten or loosen restrictions.

    The changes also include looking at metrics by week instead of for a two-week period. This means the state will move counties more quickly to a more restrictive level. It won’t wait for a county to submit a mitigation plan — some of which have included measures such as curfews intended to slow the spread of the virus — and then wait to see if the mitigation plan works before moving the county between levels.

    “We found out in October, November, that (waiting for mitigation plans) just made the dial more sluggish,” CDPHE Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan said at the news briefing. “By the time … a county was in the next level on the dial, we didn’t really have a lot of luck with mitigation plans, and it was more successful just to move the county to the next level of restrictions.”