How to Safely Enjoy Colorado’s Reopening
By Emily Krempholtz
For months now, we’ve been cooped up at home, wearing face masks at the grocery store, homeschooling our kids, and socializing with our friends and family via FaceTime or Zoom. It hasn’t been an easy road, and the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet by any means, but life in Colorado is beginning to resume a bit of normalcy. On April 27, Governor Polis began transitioning the state from a “Stay at Home” order to a “Safer at Home” policy, though many cities and local governments maintained restrictions for longer. Here’s what “Safer at Home” really means for you and your ability to get back to enjoying what you love:
What is Still Closed?
We’ll get right to it. Gyms, movie theaters, ski resorts, playgrounds, amusement parks, hot springs, concert venues, and indoor recreation facilities are still closed. Even in businesses that are opening back up, restrictions are in place.
Some nonessential retail businesses are opening their doors again, but whether you’re getting your hair cut shopping for a new shirt, things won’t be the same as they were before coronavirus for quite some time. Businesses are required to implement measures for 6-foot distancing, so expect to see a lot of signs on the floor telling you where to stand in line, and employees and customers alike should all be wearing masks. Many businesses are implementing their own rules as well, such as limited hours, limited capacities, appointment-only policies for salons, one-way traffic flows on aisles, and other rules. As a customer, know that businesses are doing this to keep both themselves and YOU safe, so please respect their efforts.
Restaurants and Bars
As of this writing, seated dining at bars and restaurants is still a no-no. Polis has indicated he will evaluate the data from the reduced restrictions of the safer at home level at the end of May, and make a decision regarding restaurants in early June, but as of right now, there are no concrete plans. But this doesn’t mean you can’t eat from your favorite restaurant. Many establishments are offering orders for pick up or delivery, and some are even playing with operating as a pop-up restaurant, with limited menus and to-go options for food and even cocktails that you can grab and go eat at home. You can also support your favorite businesses by buying gift cards so you can stop in and enjoy your favorite restaurant once things go back to normal.
The Great Outdoors
We’re so sorry about spring ski season, you guys. The hard truth is, no one really knows whether you’re going to be able to squeeze in a few more days on the slopes, though the governor has indicated he will make a decision about ski resorts in the near future.
The good news is, as the weather starts to warm up and hiking season gets going, you should still have some great options for getting out and about in the mountains. Rocky Mountain National Park recently announced its plans to reopen on May 27… but with restrictions. A reduced number of visitors will be allowed into the park, and visitors will be required to buy an entry permit in advance for a specific day and time to make sure the park is never too crowded at any one time.
As for Colorado state parks, campgrounds are starting to open again this month. Group and private campground facilities are being phased in over time at reduced density, and with lots of restrictions and rules in place for hygiene. For safety, would-be campers should only go camping with people from your own household. Any supplies like food, water, gas, and others should be secured in your home community before you leave to prevent community spread and protect smaller towns from unnecessary exposure. As always, but especially now, trash and waste needs to be packed out when you leave.
Getting outside and hiking can be one of the most wonderful and least risky ways to recreate this summer, but popular trailheads are being packed 7 days a week by people looking to get out of their homes, so you need to be sure you’re able to socially distance on the trail. Lots of popular trails are being damaged by these efforts, with people stepping off-trail to avoid proximity to other hikers and damaging the wildlife or turning the trail into a wide, muddy mess from overuse. To avoid crowds and potentially-damaging situations for the environment, choose trails that are less crowded, and try to go hiking at off-peak hours, like early in the morning or in the late afternoon (Just keep an eye on the weather forecast. Thunderstorm season is almost upon us!). However, you should also be staying as close to home as possible to prevent cross-community spread. Under the Safer at Home leve, Coloradans are discouraged from traveling more than 10 miles from home, and as a representative from Jefferson County Open Space recently said, “If you have to get in your car to go hiking, you’re trying too hard.” We know, it’s frustrating, but there’s a method to this madness, and remember, these guidelines are there to keep us safe.
Red Rocks has already canceled or postponed many of their events through the summer, Denver’s Jazz in the Park has canceled the entire season, and venues all over the state have closed their doors to wait out the storm. Some, unfortunately, have even shuttered forever.
Events and festivals are being canceled as well due to concerns about crowds and social distancing, and even private events like weddings are becoming a changing landscape—couples everywhere are postponing their dates or eloping in small, private ceremonies with family members watching on Zoom or Skype.
Due to the very nature of events like these, we’re sad to say that large events and public gatherings are probably going to be some of the very last things to return to normal.
Under Safer at Home, Colorado still advises you avoid socializing with people outside of your household. Gatherings of more than 10 people are outright prohibited, and if you must meet with people you don’t live with, you should still be adhering to social distancing requirements, like physical distancing, frequent handwashing, and mask usage.
Safer at Home
Above all, remember that while the Safer at Home level means Coloradans are no longer required to stay at home, it still means that, if you can, you should still be staying at home. If you do have to go out, stay within 10 miles of your home if at all possible, keep 6 feet between you and other people outside of your household, and wear a mask when you’re in public. If you need to go grocery shopping, do it on your own, without your roommates, spouse, or kids. Shopping in groups just means more crowds and more exposure.
If you are an at-risk individual—for example, if you are immunocompromised or over the age of 65—you should continue staying at home whenever possible, and avoid any nonessential contact with others outside your household.
As a general rule, if you feel sick in any way, or if you have been interacting with someone who begins to feel sick, then stay home. If you don’t have to go out, then stay home. Safer at Home is the next step in returning to normalcy, but if cases spike, the governor will go back to the stricter Stay at Home measures. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the start of the summer season in the safest way we can.