Here are answers to many questions related to the “safer-at-home” phase of Colorado and Larimer County’s coronavirus response.


Editor’s note: This story on potential lighter coronavirus restrictions in Larimer County is being provided free as a public service. To ensure we can keep reporting important stories like this, support the Coloradoan with a digital subscription today.

Larimer County submitted a variance request to the Colorado health department Friday asking to phase-in reopening of many county businesses and facilities ahead of the relaxing of state orders. 

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said at the beginning of the safer-at-home phase in late April that if counties showed they were able to significantly slow and contain the spread of the coronavirus, variances to the statewide order would be considered on a case-by-case basis. Nine counties have have had plans approved since then, including Eagle, El Paso and Mesa counties.

The request must include a plan for how each sector would function under less-stringent restrictions and how the county would monitor the local health care system for strain due to increased coronavirus cases. 

“All the public health measures and sacrifices we have taken in Larimer County have been successful in flattening the curve by decreasing the number of deaths, hospitalizations, and ICU utilizations. Unfortunately the curve does not go away,” Larimer County Public Health Director Tom Gonzales said in a news release Monday. “The health department will continue to collaborate with our hospitals daily to monitor capacity triggers and are pleased that we can slowly reopen business ahead of the statewide safer at home restrictions.”

The county submitted their plan May 15 and is awaiting approval from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment before it can move forward

Larimer County’s request asks for variances in 12 areas. The plan generally requires people to continue physical distancing and mask wearing and would reopen several businesses — like restaurants and gyms — ahead of current state guidance. Anyone who is symptomatic would be asked to stay home and get tested for the coronavirus.

Here are the variances the county has requested, and what could reopen under lighter restrictions if the plan is approved by the state:

Public gatherings

Allow for public gatherings of more than 10 people if participants can maintain 6 feet of distance from others at all times. Gatherings would still not exceed 50 people, face coverings would still be required and some sort of registration system would be in place to allow for contact tracing if necessary. The plan also states that it would re-evaluate larger gatherings on June 30 to make a plan moving forward.

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


Under the statewide order, currently only stores in malls with exterior entrances are allowed to be open. The county is seeking to open stores in malls with only interior entrances. 

The mall manager would be required to submit a plan to the health department showing how they’d enforce physical distancing and mask-wearing for customers and how they’d stop people from congregating in seating or play areas. Employees would be required to wear masks and be screened for symptoms at the start of each shift and more regularly clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces. 

As part of the requirements, retailers would only be allowed to have 50% capacity of customers inside the stores. Restaurants and food courts would be limited to takeout food and drink only.

More: Tracking Coronavirus in Colorado: All symptomatic Coloradans can get tested

Personal services

Allow personal services, like salons and spas, to submit plans to the county for increasing their capacity to 30% — an increase from the current limit of 10 people inside the business — as long as distancing can be maintained, cleaning is increased and everyone wears masks. Customers may remove masks only when the mask inhibits the service. Employees would have to screen clients for symptoms, keep a detailed appointment log for contact tracing and clean all equipment between clients. 

Restaurants and bars

In addition to takeout and curbside food an alcohol services, restaurants and bars would be allowed to resume limited in-person service. The county asked to open restaurants, breweries, bars, wineries and the like for in-person service limited to 30% capacity. These businesses can ask for an allowance of up to 60% capacity if seating can be provided in an outdoor, unenclosed space, such as a parking lot or a city-approved closed roadway to accommodate more seating. All seating must maintain 6 feet of distance between patrons and bar seating will remain closed.

Restaurants should take online or telephone reservations and employees should contact customers when their table is ready — no waiting in a lobby or by the door. Customers would have to wear masks at all times except for when they are sitting at their tables, and will be asked if they have symptoms of COVID-19. Anyone with symptoms would not be allowed in the establishment.

More: 1 in 5 Fort Collins restaurants could close amid coronavirus pandemic

Outdoor recreation and camping

Allow recreation programs and facilities to reopen that allow for maintained physical distancing, limited gathering sizes and increased cleaning. Employees would be screened for symptoms and required wear masks. These programs would be required to operate at 50% capacity or less.

Camping would be permitted at open campsites in your local area and limited to one household per campsite. Group camping would not be allowed in the same general area, including group or individual campsites, and campers should stock up on all supplies before leaving your community. 

Practices for organized outdoor sports, like baseball, softball, swimming and non-contact sports, would be allowed with physical distancing followed at all times, but competitions and games would not be permitted. No contact sports would be allowed. No shared equipment, food or water should be allowed, and parents should practice distancing when they are watching activities. 

Rental equipment for outdoor recreation would be allowed if they were thoroughly cleaned between uses and physical distancing is maintained — this includes kayaking, boating, biking and golfing.

Pools can open for practices and fitness classes with physical distancing implemented. Open swim and public use of pools must remain closed.

More: Wonder how a coronavirus test works? Watch Colorado Gov. Polis get a COVID-19 test

Gyms, movie theaters and other entertainment facilities

Allow gyms to reopen at 30% capacity, unless the facility is able to expand outside. Clients must wear face coverings at all times, unless it inhibits the participant’s ability to do the physical activity. People may not use machines within 6 feet of another person and equipment must be cleaned frequently. Clients would be screened for symptoms before entering the facility. Group classes in enclosed rooms would be allowed if they are limited to four participants plus the instructor, unless the gym submits a written plan to the health department outlining the facility’s square footage and plans to maintain social distancing. Saunas and shared spaces would remain closed.

Theaters could also open with groups of patrons sitting at least 6 feet apart, tape on the floor to help patrons maintain physical distancing, and increased cleaning of all high-touch areas, including seats and armrests. Employees must be present in each theater to ensure social distancing guidelines are enforced.

Bowling alleys could reopen with strict physical distancing enforced through tape on the floor and staggering of lanes. Employees would also hand bowling balls and shoes to customers directly and frequently clean high-touch areas in each lane after each group’s use. Groups would also be limited to six people per lane and reservations would be required to prevent people from waiting in a lobby area. Face coverings would be required of all patrons and employees. 


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Education and child care

Districts could apply for a graduation waiver under this request, allowing for in-person ceremonies as long as physical distancing is maintained, guests are limited and diplomas are mailed.

Child care services could operate as long as all high-touch surfaces are cleaned frequently, all employees wear cloth face masks, co-workers maintain 6-foot physical distance from each other, physical distancing is implemented in common areas, sharing of toys and utensils is limited, and symptomatic children stay home.

Outdoor or mobile-based day camps for children would also resume as long as groups are limited to 10 people or less, high-touch surfaces in vans or buses are cleaned frequently, all children wear face coverings, and symptomatic children stay home. Camps involving outdoor recreation must also follow those guidelines. 

Long-term care facilities

After months of lockdown and no visitors, the county reports facilities have said residents are suffering from depression and their health is deteriorating. The county requests allowing facilities to submit plans for limited safe social interactions again if the facility has been coronavirus-free for 14 days. Residents could resume eating lunch and/or dinner in the dining rooms after being screened for respiratory symptoms. Residents would wear masks to and from the dining room and eat at seats 6 feet apart. Activities could also resume in a group setting as long as physical distancing is maintained.

Places of worship

Places of worship are encouraged to continue doing drive-up or online services under this request, but in-person services could resume at a limited capacity. Symptomatic people must not attend; participants need to wear face coverings; employees must be screened for symptoms; and cleaning must be done frequently. Social distancing procedures, including markings on the floor to maintain 6 feet of distance where lines form and one-way aisles would also be required.

Vacation and short-term rentals

Because hotels and other lodging is open, the county argues there is a safe way to reopen vacation and short-term rentals, like Airbnb and VRBO. Guests would be informed of local restrictions prior to arrival, owners would have to provide cleaning supplies to visitors, and groups larger than 10 from different households would not be allowed.

More: Gov. Jared Polis: Colorado on track to meet coronavirus testing goals in safer-at-home


​​​​​Libraries would be able to operate at a maximum of 50% capacity, with staff available to monitor the library for compliance. Employees and patrons would have to wear face coverings at all times. All returned material would be quarantined for 72 hours before being put back on the shelves, and shared equipment like computers must be cleaned frequently. A shield or barrier must be placed at the checkout and information counters, and physical distancing must be maintained. Curbside pickup is encouraged as a primary way of distributing materials. 

Group areas would remain closed and no classes or programming would be permitted.

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

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