DENVER (CBS4)- The City and County of Denver announced several changes regarding COVID-19 restrictions Wednesday, including a lifting of the outdoor mask requirement and the further loosening of capacity limits for businesses. The changes come as the State of Colorado moves to lift its COVID-19 dial framework and pass control of restrictions over to local jurisdictions on Friday.
"It's a balancing act between being able to reopen public life and being able to maintain public health," said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.
In a news conference Wednesday morning, Hancock and Denver Department of Public Health and Environment Executive Director Bob McDonald detailed the city's current COVID-19 outlook and upcoming changes.
Starting Wednesday, Denver will lift its outdoor mask requirement. Face coverings will still be required in indoor, public settings, as well as on public transportation. The order will last for 30 days.
Hancock and McDonald also outlined updates to citywide COVID-19 restrictions. Starting Friday, Denver will allow businesses to operate at Level Blue capacity restrictions with some modifications.
Under Level Blue, restaurants and gyms can operate at 100% capacity with 6 feet of spacing between groups. Offices, retail, and manufacturing businesses can operate at 75% capacity.
While state recommendations for Level Blue allow for no capacity limit at outdoor events, Hancock and McDonald said Denver will keep some restrictions. Outdoor events of under 5,000 people will require a mitigation plan for social distancing, while outdoor events with more than 5,000 people will need to consult with DDPHE.
The updated public health order will also be in effect for at least 30 days. After that, city officials say they will re-evaluate it.
Denver's changes largely fall in line with the upcoming restriction changes announced by several other Denver metro area counties.
A Metro Denver Partnership for Health has been created to help map out what happens post-pandemic for Coloradans. The counties participating are Boulder, Broomfield, Jefferson, Adams, Arapahoe and Denver.
"We are very much in alignment, all moving to blue," McDonald said. "For one month, evaluating our face coverings orders are in alignment, and that's key because one of the things that leads to a higher level of noncompliance is confusion."
Douglas County, which is covered by Tri-County Health, will not follow similar restrictions. On Wednesday, county commissioners unanimously voted to opt-out of Tri-County's framework.
"I think it's a mistake to move from whatever level of compliance that we have on the dial to nothing. It think that's too fast, I think it needs to be phased, and that's exactly what we're doing throughout the region. That's the right balance to take," said McDonald.
Several of those metro area counties have included a 90-day observation period with fewer restrictions that would begin in May. Denver officials said the city does not plan to do the same.
Hancock and McDonald said the best way to beat the virus and continue loosening restrictions is for community members to get vaccinated. So far, around 40 percent of Denver residents have received at least one shot of the vaccine, they said.
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