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With coronavirus stay-at-home order successful, Polis outlines plans to reopen Colorado

Sady Swanson
Fort Collins Coloradoan
Published 7:40 PM EDT Apr 20, 2020

As Colorado prepares to move from a stay-at-home order to a safer-at-home reality, state models show social distancing alone won’t be enough to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed by the coronavirus outbreak. 

Colorado surpassed 10,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus Monday, but state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy said they estimate 65,000-75,000 Coloradans have or had the virus — just above 1% of the state’s population.

Colorado has achieved about 75-80% social distancing during the stay-at-home order, Gov. Jared Polis said Monday, and has effectively lowered the curve of new cases in the state. In the next phase, which Polis called “safer at home,” the goal will be for Coloradans to maintain 60-65% social distancing, with vulnerable residents continuing to shelter in place.

“We need to figure out how to run the marathon now that we’ve run the sprint,” Polis said. “… Our job isn’t finished and your job isn’t finished, not by a long shot.”

More: Tracking Coronavirus in Colorado: State cases top 10,000; 13 deaths in Larimer

The goal with phasing out of the closures and continuing social distancing and other practices is to ensure everyone who needs an ICU bed gets one and that coronavirus cases do not overwhelm Colorado’s health care system, Polis said.

The stay-at-home order lifts on April 27, and Polis said the state will work with non-essential businesses on guidelines to phase in reopening beginning May 1, with Polis’s recommendation being they open May 4. In the safer-at-home phase, here’s what will happen:

Some social distancing measures will likely stay in place through much of 2020, according to state models. But other strategies, in addition to social distancing, will be necessary in the coming months:

“We need to use everything that we have,” said Jon Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health, in a Monday afternoon news conference.

Larimer County has not yet announced its plans for reopening or if it will extend the stay-at-home order at the county level past its set expiration date on April 26.

State models suggest, if cases continue to be manageable by the health care system, social distancing measures could be relaxed to 40-45% in early or mid-June, Samet said.

Outbreaks at facilities or in counties are possible, Polis said, and could lead to temporarily adding restrictions back to some areas if necessary, but hopefully nothing at the state level.

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

Testing remains key to plans outlined by state health officials to prevent the state’s health care system from being overwhelmed, and the state is currently working on a system to complete mass testing when that becomes possible, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health Jill Ryan said during Monday’s news conference.

Mass testing is not currently possible in the state because, while the state receives testing supplies, it is unpredictable, Ryan said. That is why state officials are prioritizing tests for first responders, health care workers and those who are hospitalized. 

“There’s simply not enough supplies to go around anywhere,” Ryan said. “… It’s why we need social distancing, and it’s why we need it at such a high level.”

Editor’s note: As the coronavirus outbreak continues to evolve, we don’t want you to panic. In fact, quite the opposite. That’s why the Coloradoan is committed to providing you with accurate, up-to-date information so you can make informed decisions on issues affecting you and the people you love. As such, this story, and many others, are being provided free for all to read. Help us continue this important work by subscribing to the Coloradoan. 

Sady Swanson covers crime, courts, public safety and more throughout Northern Colorado. You can send your story ideas to her at or on Twitter at @sadyswan. Support our work and local journalism with a digital subscription at

This content was originally published here.