Your guide to Colorado’s newly-loosened COVID-19 restrictions

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More than 1.4 million Coloradans have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and nearly 900,000 are fully immunized, according to the state health department. 

And, now, with mass vaccination sites opening across the state to administer the 400,000 weekly doses estimated to be sent here by the end of next month, Colorado officially loosened restrictions on its color-coded COVID-19 dial on Wednesday, giving way to big changes in counties operating under the dial’s lowest levels.

In Larimer County, which is currently operating at the third-lowest Level Yellow, Wednesday’s shift to the state’s new Dial 3.0 framework means capacity restrictions on personal gatherings — and select businesses, restaurants and events certified through the county’s Level Up program — are officially lifted. 

This marks the last planned devolution of Colorado’s COVID-19 dial, which is expected to be retired next month — there’s more below on what’s coming next.

But until then, here’s how Larimer County currently looks under the state’s new Dial 3.0.

COVID-19 vaccine FAQ:Guide to the coronavirus vaccination process in Larimer County

Back to 100% capacity

One of the biggest changes Larimer County will start seeing Wednesday is the loosening of capacity restrictions at certified restaurants and businesses.

Under Dial 3.0, restaurants, gyms and outdoor events that are certified to operate under Level Blue restrictions — like those certified through Larimer County’s Level Up program — can officially open back up to 100% capacity with six-foot spacing.

Bars that don’t serve food, which have largely been closed since the start of COVID-19, can also officially reopen under Wednesday’s Dial 3.0 change as long as they are certified through Level Up. They can reopen to 25% capacity or 75 people — whichever is fewer.

Restaurants that are not certified through Level Up must wait until Larimer County as a whole moves down to Level Blue to open with 100% capacity. 

When vaccine and restaurant news combine:Larimer County COVID-19 vaccine event vaccinates 1,000 restaurant workers

Personal gathering restrictions, be gone

Under Dial 3.0, counties in Levels Blue and Yellow can officially lift restrictions on indoor and outdoor personal gatherings — meaning they are no longer capped at a maximum of 10 people from no more than two different households.

Despite this change, personal gatherings involving any people not fully vaccinated for COVID-19 should still follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Stay home if you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19, have symptoms of it, have been exposed to it or are awaiting test results for it.
  • Prioritize outdoor activities and gatherings over indoor ones and avoid attending gatherings or events outside your local community.
  • Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet or more from people who don’t live in your household and avoid physical contact.
  • Wear a mask when interacting with others (and bring extras). Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol in it.

A relaxation of outdoor events 

Under the new dial framework, outdoor events will be able to move to zero capacity restrictions with six-foot spacing in Level Yellow counties as  long as the event is approved through the respective county’s 5-star — or in Larimer County’s case, Level Up — program. 

Life under Level Blue

While Larimer County remains at Level Yellow, it will likely move down to Level Blue once its seven-day case rate lowers to below 100 cases per 100,000, according to Larimer County health department spokesperson Kori Wilford. But once that happens, several more restrictions will loosen up for the county with Dial 3.0 changes. Here’s what life will look like under Level Blue, according to the state health department:

  • Offices, retail and manufacturing can operate at 75% capacity.
  • All restaurants can operate at 100% capacity with 6-foot spacing. All bars that do not serve food can operate at 25% capacity (and not exceed 75 people).
  • All outdoor events can operate fully, with no capacity restrictions, but are still subject to local limits
  • Recreation can return to 100% operations with 6-foot distancing
  • Outdoor guided activities can operate fully but are subject to local limits.

The latest on outbreaks:13 new COVID-19 outbreaks reported in Larimer County, but sizes of outbreaks begin to wane

The future of the COVID-19 dial 

The introduction of the newly loosened Dial 3.0 restrictions marks possibly the last devolution of the state’s dial system, which was first implemented back in September. Dial 3.0 restrictions are expected to stay in effect into mid-April, at which point the state plans to retire the dial and issue a new public health order handing control of COVID-19 restrictions back to local public health agencies, according to the state health department. 

The Larimer County health department is working with the county board of health as well as county and city leaders to determine what COVID-19 restrictions will look like in Larimer County starting next month, Wilford said. It’s still unknown if the respective cities within Larimer County will choose to implement different restrictions, but they are allowed to enact restrictions that are stricter than those laid out by the state and county, Wilford said. “That certainly is a possibility,” she added, “but no decisions have been made on that yet.” 

What does this mean for masks? 

The shift to Dial 3.0 does not effect Colorado’s current mask order, which is set to expire April 3. When it expires Gov. Jared Polis may choose to make modifications to the order, according to a news release from the state health department. In the meantime, feedback provided on possible mask modifications will be considered prior to April 3, the department said. 

Stay in the know:Larimer County and Colorado COVID-19 case, vaccine and hospital data for March 2021

Erin Udell reports on news, culture, history and more for the Coloradoan. Contact her at ErinUdell@coloradoan.com. The only way she can keep doing what she does is with your support. If you subscribe, thank you. If not, sign up for a digital subscription to the Coloradoan today.