Denver gets approval for 5 Star program but don’t expect it right away

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DENVER — Colorado health officials have granted Denver a contingent approval for the state’s 5 Star program, which would allow businesses and restaurants to increase capacity limits, but it’s likely to be weeks until the program goes into effect, as the city needs to see a downward trend in COVID-19 cases.

Hancock said Denver will begin pre-certifying businesses soon, though the 5 Star program can’t begin in Denver until the city sustains seven days of downward COVID-19 cases.

Denver’s number of COVID-19 cases has increased by 5.1% over the last week, on average, though hospitalizations are down 5.4% and deaths are down 69.2% over the last two weeks, on average, according to data from Denver Health.

Denver’s COVID-19 status has been downgraded from a “severe” outbreak, city health director Bob McDonald said, but Denver still needs to get below a two-week case rate of 350 per 100,000 residents — and sustain that for a week on average — before the 5 Star program can go into effect. Denver’s current two-week case rate was 520 per 100,000 residents, McDonald said.

In the meantime, the city will begin pre-certifying businesses within the next couple weeks.

Still, the announcement of Denver’s tentative approval for the program was likely welcome news for restaurants, which recently were able to re-open indoor dining but only at a capacity of 25%. The 5 Star program — which will apply to restaurants and businesses that are certified, not automatically across the board — will allow for capacity limits up to 50%, effectively allowing restaurants to operate under Level Yellow restrictions on the state’s COVID-19 dial.

Some counties in Colorado, including Broomfield, have begun the 5 Star program this week, but Denver would be the largest rollout of the program so far.

Hancock and McDonald still cautioned Denver residents to continue wearing masks and staying socially distant, when possible.

McDonald said that while Denver’s COVID-19 numbers have stabilized somewhat, “it won’t take much to get back to [higher levels of cases].”