Denver will impose new COVID-19 restrictions on Friday, Mayor Hancock said. The state is moving the city to a higher level of restrictions but stopped short of ordering another stay-at-home order.
On Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis, Mayor Michael Hancock and other lawmakers announced the new rules, which apply to Denver and 14 other counties: Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Douglas, Jefferson, La Plata, Logan, Mesa, Morgan, Routt, Summit and Washington.
The new temporary restrictions will ban dining inside restaurants — takeout and delivery will still be available — and will limit capacity in gyms to 10 percent. Bars and restaurants will hold last call at 8 p.m. under the new level of restrictions, though a city spokesperson said Denver is still waiting for an official directive from the state.
“We’re celebrating the good news of a vaccine…but we aren’t there yet,” Hancock said. “We have to buckle down and do what we need to do so ultimately, once again, in very short order, we’ll be able to do what we want to.”
Hancock said healthcare providers have a better understanding of the virus than they did in the spring, but there is now a shortage of healthcare workers.
Polis encouraged kindergarten through fifth-grade students to continue learning in person but advised that older high school students continue learning online.
Denver’s COVID-19 infections continue to grow and hospital capacity continues to shrink. According to the latest figures to the state health department, an average of 1,057 positive cases are recorded per every 100,000 residents every two weeks; anything more than 350 cases pushes a county towards total lockdown territory. Denver’s positivity rate sits at about 12 percent, which is higher than it’s ever been. On Tuesday, Polis said one out of 64 Denverites was positive with COVID-19.
“This growth is skyrocketing,” Polis said Tuesday.
Local lawmakers and doctors have grappled with the necessity of another stay-at-home order, which would severely restrict businesses. Hancock and others said that’s the reason the city stopped short of issuing another stay-at-home order.
“People have lost their jobs and families and livelihoods have been devastated as a result,” Mayor Michael Hancock told Denverite last week. “While some companies and businesses have found a way to come back, some have not. And we know that for even those that came back, another stay-at-home order could potentially be the death knell for them.”
Gov. Polis also made it official: He will call the legislature back for a special session to pass a package of bills on COVID-19 economic relief and efforts to stimulate the state’s economy.
The special session will take place ahead of lawmakers’ regular session, which begins on January 13, 2021.
“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary actions,” Polis said, explaining the timing and further details of the session will be announced in the coming days.
Some of the proposals include allowing restaurants and bars to retain sales taxes, direct relief for small businesses, housing and rental assistance, and assistance to child care centers. Polis is also proposing $20 million to expand broadband access to help school districts provide internet access for students and educators, and pay to connect students who are not able to afford it. In announcing the session, Polis and the legislature’s Democratic leaders blasted Congress for not approving any coronavirus aid since the summer.
This story will be updated as new information becomes available.