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FAQ: Larimer County got the OK for lighter coronavirus restrictions. What does it mean?

Jennifer Hefty
Fort Collins Coloradoan
Published 12:10 PM EDT May 24, 2020

Editor’s note: This story on lighter coronavirus restrictions in Larimer County is being provided free as a public service. To ensure we can keep reporting important stories like this, support the Coloradoan with a digital subscription today.

Larimer County received a partial approval to its variance request Saturday for lighter coronavirus than the state’s safer-at-home rules.

The county’s request asked for variances in 12 areas, generally requiring people to continue physical distancing and mask-wearing and reopening businesses — like restaurants and gyms — ahead of current state guidance.

Here are a few frequently asked questions on the new guidelines: 

What was approved and what is the new guidance? 

Most of Larimer County’s request was approved. Let’s take a look at each sector, what was asked for and the approval status. 

To view the full guidelines, visit

Public gatherings

Larimer County’s request: Allow for public gatherings of more than 10 people if participants can maintain 6 feet of distance from others at all times. Gatherings would still not exceed 50 people, face coverings would still be required and some sort of registration system would be in place to allow for contact tracing if necessary. The plan also states that it would re-evaluate larger gatherings on June 30 to make a plan moving forward.

Status: Approved by the state

Larimer County’s request: Allow stores in malls with only interior entrances to open. The mall manager would be required to submit a plan to the health department showing how they’d enforce physical distancing and mask-wearing for customers and how they’d stop people from congregating in seating or play areas. Employees would be required to wear masks and be screened for symptoms at the start of each shift and more regularly clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces. Retailers would only be allowed to have 50% capacity of customers inside the stores. Restaurants and food courts would be limited to takeout food and drink only.

Approved, with conditions: The state emphasized the need for the manager to submit a detailed plan to the health department before opening. “It is critical that the indoor common areas be well-managed at all times such that no gatherings are occurring and instead customers are moving from one destination to the next,” state health department executive director Jill Hunsaker Ryan wrote. Any confined indoor space is limited to 50% of the posted occupancy code limit, and businesses must ensure that there is a minimum of 28 square feet per person, with no more than 175 people in any indoor space at a given time. 

Personal services

Larimer County’s request: Allow personal services, like salons and spas, to submit plans to the county for increasing their capacity to 30% — an increase from the current limit of 10 people inside the business — as long as distancing can be maintained, cleaning is increased and everyone wears masks. Customers may remove masks only when the mask inhibits the service. Employees would have to screen clients for symptoms, keep a detailed appointment log for contact tracing and clean all equipment between clients. 

Status: Approved

Restaurants and bars

Larimer County’s request: In addition to takeout and curbside food and alcohol services, restaurants and bars would be allowed to resume limited in-person service. The county asked to open restaurants, breweries, bars, wineries and the like for in-person service limited to 30% capacity. These businesses can ask for an allowance of up to 60% capacity if seating can be provided in an outdoor, unenclosed space, such as a parking lot or a city-approved closed roadway to accommodate more seating. All seating must maintain 6 feet of distance between patrons and bar seating will remain closed. Restaurants should take online or telephone reservations and employees should contact customers when their table is ready — no waiting in a lobby or by the door. Customers would have to wear masks at all times except for when they are sitting at their tables, and will be asked if they have symptoms of COVID-19. Anyone with symptoms would not be allowed in the establishment.

Status: Approved for restaurants only. No changes approved for breweries and bars.

Larimer County’s request: Allow recreation programs and facilities to reopen that allow for maintained physical distancing, limited gathering sizes and increased cleaning. Employees would be screened for symptoms and required to wear masks. These programs would be required to operate at 50% capacity or less. Camping would be permitted at open campsites in your local area and limited to one household per campsite. Group camping would not be allowed in the same general area, including group or individual campsites, and campers should stock up on all supplies before leaving your community. 

Rental equipment for outdoor recreation would be allowed if they were thoroughly cleaned between uses and physical distancing is maintained — this includes kayaking, boating, biking and golfing.

Status: Approved.

Outdoor group activities

Larimer County’s request: Practices for organized outdoor sports, like baseball, softball, swimming and non-contact sports, would be allowed with physical distancing followed at all times, but competitions and games would not be permitted. No contact sports would be allowed. No shared equipment, food or water should be allowed, and parents should practice distancing when they are watching activities. Pools can open for practices and fitness classes with physical distancing implemented. Open swim and public use of pools must remain closed.

Status: Pools approved. Other requests in this section not approved.

Gyms, movie theaters and other entertainment facilities

Larimer County’s request: Allow gyms to reopen at 30% capacity, unless the facility is able to expand outside. Clients must wear face coverings at all times, unless it inhibits the participant’s ability to do the physical activity. People may not use machines within 6 feet of another person and equipment must be cleaned frequently. Clients would be screened for symptoms before entering the facility. Group classes in enclosed rooms would be allowed if they are limited to four participants plus the instructor, unless the gym submits a written plan to the health department outlining the facility’s square footage and plans to maintain social distancing. Saunas and shared spaces would remain closed.

Theaters could also open with groups of patrons sitting at least 6 feet apart, tape on the floor to help patrons maintain physical distancing, and increased cleaning of all high-touch areas, including seats and armrests. Employees must be present in each theater to ensure social distancing guidelines are enforced.

Bowling alleys could reopen with strict physical distancing enforced through tape on the floor and staggering of lanes. Employees would also hand bowling balls and shoes to customers directly and frequently clean high-touch areas in each lane after each group’s use. Groups would be limited to six people per lane and reservations would be required to prevent people from waiting in a lobby area. Face coverings would be required of all patrons and employees. 

Status: Approved

Education and child care

Larimer County’s request: Districts could apply for a graduation waiver under this request, allowing for in-person ceremonies as long as physical distancing is maintained, guests are limited and diplomas are mailed.

Child care services could operate as long as all high-touch surfaces are cleaned frequently, all employees wear cloth face masks, co-workers maintain 6-foot physical distance from each other, physical distancing is implemented in common areas, sharing of toys and utensils is limited, and symptomatic children stay home.

Outdoor or mobile-based day camps for children would also resume as long as groups are limited to 10 people or less, high-touch surfaces in vans or buses are cleaned frequently, all children wear face coverings, and symptomatic children stay home. Camps involving outdoor recreation must also follow those guidelines. 

Status: Graduation variance approved as long as a detailed plan is provided to health department. Requests for day camps and child care are not approved.

Long-term care facilities

Larimer County’s request: After months of lockdown and no visitors, the county reports facilities have said residents are suffering from depression and their health is deteriorating. The county requests allowing facilities to submit plans for limited safe social interactions again if the facility has been coronavirus-free for 14 days. Residents could resume eating lunch and/or dinner in the dining rooms after being screened for respiratory symptoms. Residents would wear masks to and from the dining room and eat at seats 6 feet apart. Activities could also resume in a group setting as long as physical distancing is maintained.

Status: Not approved.

Places of worship

Larimer County’s request: Places of worship are encouraged to continue doing drive-up or online services under this request, but in-person services could resume at 50% capacity. Symptomatic people must not attend; participants need to wear face coverings; employees must be screened for symptoms; and cleaning must be done frequently. Social distancing procedures, including markings on the floor to maintain 6 feet of distance where lines form and one-way aisles, would also be required.

Status: Approved.

Vacation and short-term rentals

Larimer County’s request: Because hotels and other lodging is open, the county argues there is a safe way to reopen vacation and short-term rentals, like Airbnb and VRBO. Guests would be informed of local restrictions prior to arrival, owners would have to provide cleaning supplies to visitors, and groups larger than 10 from different households would not be allowed.

Status: Approved

Larimer County’s request: ​​​​​Libraries would be able to operate at a maximum of 50% capacity, with staff available to monitor the library for compliance. Employees and patrons would have to wear face coverings at all times. All returned materials would be quarantined for 72 hours before being put back on the shelves, and shared equipment like computers must be cleaned frequently. A shield or barrier must be placed at the checkout and information counters, and physical distancing must be maintained. Curbside pickup is encouraged as a primary way of distributing materials. Group areas would remain closed and no classes or programming would be permitted.

Status: Approved

More: Map: Where in Colorado has coronavirus been detected?

When is it effective? 

The new guidelines were effective immediately on Saturday, May 23, and last until the final expiration of the state’s safer at home order, which Ryan notes will be extended in some capacity beyond its initial expiration date of May 26.

If something wasn’t approved, what are the guidelines? 

Any variance not approved, or any sector which was not part of this variance request, must follow the state’s safer-at-home regulations. 

►►More on safer-at-home guidelines: Colorado’s current coronavirus restrictions

Could the restrictions be tightened or could the variance be rescinded? 

Yes. The county reserves the right to tighten any and all of these variances, as necessary, “if, at any time, it is determined that Larimer County hospitals are experiencing any type of capacity issues related to COVID-19,” health department spokeswoman Katie O’Donnell said.

According to the state, if any of the following trigger points occur, the variance approval is automatically rescinded. 

On the other hand, if the state relaxes its public health orders to be less restrictive in any of these areas, O’Donnell said, the county will default to the state rules.

More: Tracking Coronavirus in Colorado: Larimer sees four new cases

Read the full approval letter

Coloradoan reporter Sady Swanson contributed to this report.

Jennifer Hefty is an editor at the Coloradoan. Reach her at or follow her on Twitter @jenniferhefty. Support her work and the work of the Coloradoan’s 15 other journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

This content was originally published here.