Aurora set to move to Level Orange and eased restrictions Monday

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A previous version of this article indicated Arapahoe County businesses approved in the Five Star program could operate at level Yellow. Arapahoe County now says they are still determining if that’s the case. 

AURORA | Aurora is set to have pandemic restrictions ease on Monday, per direction from Gov. Jared Polis, who said Wednesday evening decreasing case numbers and hospitalizations warrant the change. 

“Throughout this pandemic, we have had to walk a difficult line between the public health crisis and the economic crisis. In reviewing the data today, Colorado has been in a sustained decline for 13 days, and only 73% of ICU beds statewide are in use,” Polis said in a statement on social media. “This is a direct result of Coloradans stepping up and taking the steps to protect themselves and others. In light of this and based on the data, I’m asking (the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) to move counties in Red on the dial to Orange, effective Monday, January 4, 2021.” 

A map of current Stay at Home level restrictions across Colorado. On Wednesday, Gov. Jared Polis directed the state health department to move Red counties to level Orange beginning on Monday, Jan. 4. Screenshot via CDPHE

With the announcement, Polis is over-riding some virus metrics on the dial to move Arapahoe, Adams and Douglas counties to relaxed rules. Restrictions in level Orange include: 

  • The ability to meet with up to 10 people (In Red, only two households are allowed to mingle) 
  • Restaurants can allow inside dining at 25% capacity and gyms can open to 25% capacity
  • Restaurants can move last call to 10 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. required in level Red
  •  Indoor events can resume at 25% capacity 

The announcement comes as the COVID-19 incidence rate — a measure of how many people have the virus in a two-week period — remains well above the level Red threshold of 350 cases per 100,000 people in all three of Aurora’s counties. 

On Thursday morning, that measure was 609 in Adams County, 509 in Arapahoe County and 400 in Douglas County.

However, all three counties had seen 8-11 days of “declining or stable” levels of new admissions to hospitals, according to CDPHE data.

Polis announced the decision to move Red counties to Orange hours after Arapahoe County officials announced an approved Five-Star Recovery Partner Program, which allows businesses to implement extra COVID-19 protections and win special exemptions to the usual rules, including the current ban on in-person dining. 

The program allows for those designated businesses to operate at one level above the Stay at Home dial level they are in. State officials are still determining whether under the Five Star program will be able to operate at level Yellow. 

Counties across Colorado, including Denver, are also expected to roll out similar programs. Adams County officials have yet to announce whether they’ll roll out a program there. 

While cases are declining in Aurora and across the state, numbers are still above where they were over the summer. This week state officials said an outbreak at the newly-opened Aurora In-N-Out grew to 80 people. That outbreak occurred despite patrons being served largely in drive-thru lines.

The state also saw the nation’s first cases of a more-contagious variant of COVID-19. Polis did not address the variant in his statement, but earlier in the day Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said more spread could mean hospitals may become overwhelmed.

The state avoided a spike after Thanksgiving, but health officials continue to warn of a “surge on surge” slamming the region’s hospitals after the holidays. 

— Staff writer Grant Stringer contributed to this report