Earlier this week, Gov. Jared Polis and Mayor Michael Hancock announced the state would impose new restrictions in certain counties, including Denver, to stop the unprecedented rise in coronavirus cases.
On Friday, Hancock clarified how those restrictions would impact businesses, personal gatherings, gyms and more. He asked that people avoid gatherings — things like dinner parties, game nights, Thanksgiving celebrations — with people outside of their household for the next 30 days.
The new rules will go into effect at 5 p.m. Friday and last until at least Dec. 18. They include:
- No indoor dining at restaurants, however outdoor patios, takeout and delivery will be allowed
- Offices may only operate at 10 percent capacity or less.
- Gyms, fitness centers and yoga studios are limited to 10 percent capacity.
- Retail is limited to 50 percent capacity.
- Last call will be moved from 10 p.m. to 8 p.m. (That rule applies to outdoor patios.) Alcohol consumption has to be completed by 10 p.m.
Hancock said he’s directed the city’s finance department to explore relief for local businesses and workers “to ease the burden of capacity restrictions.”
On Tuesday, Polis announced he was calling 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.
Bob McDonald, executive director of the Department of Public Health and Environment, offered some good news about testing and vaccines.
For a few months over the summer, the city offered COVID-19 testing at the Ball Center (formerly the Pepsi Center). But at the end of September, it transitioned to smaller testing sites around the city, focusing on neighborhoods with more Latinx and Black residents, two groups that experienced a disproportionate number of positive cases.
McDonald said that strategy has increased testing in Latinx and Black populations by 40 percent and threefold, respectively.
“Among people served at the Pepsi Center, 23 percent identified as Latinx, and 3.5 percent identified as Black,” said Tammy Vigil, a spokesperson for the city’s health department, later on Friday. “Compared to the sites, we are now seeing 32 percent of people identifying as Latinx, (nearly a 40 percent increase over the Pepsi Center) and 10 percent of people served identify as Black/African-American.”
He also said a new testing site would open at Ruby Hill Park on Nov. 23.
“(We’re) hoping that offloads some concerns surrounding Paco Sanchez Park” — another community testing site — “and the wait times there.” The testing site at Paco Sanchez Park will be closed from Nov. 23-29.
He stressed that anyone trying to get tested at a city site should check the city’s website for times and whether or not the site is open. Sites have had to close last-minute in the past because of high wind or snow.
“As we move into next week, we’ll be moving some resources around,” McDonald said. “That’ll affect days and times it’ll be open. Check before you go.”
McDonald said he was optimistic about several vaccines that have proven effective in trials at keeping people safe from COVID-19. The longtime public health official said scientists have been working for years on a vaccine to fight severe respiratory diseases that act similar to COVID-19.
“Researchers didn’t have to start over with trying to develop a vaccine for this,” McDonald said. “They picked up where they left off with the development of a vaccine for (COVID-19).
“We’re in for a rough few months here,” he continued. “But I see a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify restrictions on dining.