Denver will move to the second-highest level of restrictions meant to control COVID-19, shuttering gyms and forcing most businesses to operate at a quarter of their capacity.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock will announce the switch at an 11:30 a.m. news conference.
Michael Strott, a spokesperson for Hancock, confirmed the impending change. Strott said the change goes into effect immediately, and businesses will have until the end of Wednesday to adjust.
Guidance from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment advises counties in the orange level on the state’s color-coded dial to consider offering K-12 and college classes online or in a hybrid form. Gyms can only offer virtual or outdoor services, most businesses can only operate at 25% of capacity and no more than 25 people may participate in most indoor events.
The announcement comes one day after a tweet from the City and County of Denver warned of a possible stay-at-home order on the horizon, if transmission of the new coronavirus isn’t brought under control. Denver, Adams County and six other counties have enough new cases that they could be pushed into new stay-at-homes order under the state’s dial framework if they can’t get the virus’ spread under control.
The state has a color-coded, five-level framework, with increasing restrictions if cases, the percentage of tests coming back positive and hospitalizations rise. Like much of the state, Denver started in the middle (yellow) level. If a county’s numbers go too high, it gets two weeks or longer to try targeted measures before the state health department pushes for broader restrictions.
Denver placed more restrictions on colleges in late September to try to stop spread there, but that didn’t curb the number of new cases. The city also limited gatherings to no more than five people and ordered residents and visitors to wear masks in more public places starting Oct. 16, but that has yet to show an impact.
Adams County announced Friday that it would move to the orange level, with new restrictions taking effect at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Douglas and Jefferson counties also have enough cases to cross into the orange level, but they will get several weeks before the state health department could order more restrictions.
On Monday, Denver Public Health reported the county averaged 227.6 cases per day over the previous week. That’s an increase of 38% in one week, and more than double the average daily cases at the start of October.
Sunday had the most reported cases in Denver since the pandemic began, with 375.
Hospitalizations also have risen steadily in Denver. An average of 73 people were receiving hospital care for COVID-19 each day for the last week, which is more than twice the number who were at the start of the month.
About 77% of intensive-care beds in the Denver metro region were occupied Monday. Denver Public Health starts raising concerns about capacity when 80% of beds are full.
About 8.1% of tests came back positive over the last week. Experts advise that no more than 5% of tests should be positive, because as the rate rises, it’s more likely a county or state are missing infections.
Cases are at their highest level statewide since Colorado has had reliable data, and more people are hospitalized for COVID-19 than at any point since mid-May. On Friday, the state health department limited gatherings to no more than 10 people from two households, with exceptions for a handful of counties with few cases.