Last updated October 21, 2021.
As of April 16, 2021, the following guidelines and restrictions no longer apply at the state level. This page is being preserved for archival and reference purposes only. Counties may use the former statewide dial framework as a model for implementing their own regulations. Please visit our public health and executive orders page for all current orders.
- Colorado’s dial framework has six color levels to provide guidance to counties.
- Counties can move back and forth between levels, depending primarily on three metrics.
- Levels are based on the number of new cases, the percent positivity of COVID-19 tests, and the impact on hospitals, as well as local considerations. As the dial moves left, toward Protect Our Neighbors, more people can participate in various activities.
- This framework gives communities a tool to make life in the pandemic more sustainable.
COVID-19 dial dashboard
The COVID-19 dial dashboard tracks the progress of each county using key metrics. Communities will move between levels based on the metrics.
What are the metrics we use to determine levels?
- New cases: How much the virus is circulating in a county.
- Percent positivity: Whether there is sufficient COVID-19 testing to capture the level of virus transmission.
- Impact on hospitalizations: Whether hospitalizations are increasing, stable, or declining.
To move to a less restrictive level (e.g., Level Yellow to Blue), counties need to meet and sustain all three metrics for one week. Counties must engage in a consultation process with CDPHE, which may entail moving to a more restrictive level when they are out of compliance with any of the metrics for more than one week.
What are the metrics at each level?
The dial adds simplicity, transparency, and predictability to how we open -- or close -- based on virus transmission levels. The dial makes it possible for all counties to achieve many of the increased capacity allowances that were granted to various counties under the original variance process. Additionally, the dial mitigation process typically gives counties one week to implement mitigation measures. This process and metric criteria are less restrictive and create more flexibility for disease incidence fluctuations.
Under all levels, you should take preventive actions to limit your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. These actions include:
- Staying home when sick.
- Wearing a mask when out in public.
- Washing hands frequently.
- Keeping at least 6 feet of distance from people who don’t live with you.
- Following local orders in the community where you live or visit.
- Avoiding social interactions.
- Carefully considering the risks of activities you choose to participate in.
Essential work and essential activities are allowed under all levels. All levels require us to continue to support and protect people who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including older adults and people with underlying medical conditions.
Each level allows for different amounts of economic and social activity, depending on how the disease is spreading in specific communities.
Find your county’s level on the COVID-19 Dial Dashboard.
People should be aware of and follow the rules in their local community and in the communities they are visiting. The most restrictive state or local orders apply.
Follow the orders in the community in which you are physically present. For example, if you work and live in different counties, follow each county’s rules when you are in that county.
Colorado law requires compliance with executive and public health orders. Not following these orders is breaking the law. We all must do our part to mitigate the virus, and we ask everyone to voluntarily comply with guidance because it is what will keep you safer. Law enforcement or legal involvement is reserved for the most serious circumstances.
If you suspect that a person or business is violating orders, you should first contact your local public health agency to report any concerns.
Counties with a current site-specific variance or a variance with allowances that exceed the new framework will retain those variance(s). Under the new dial framework, counties will be able to apply for new or additional site-specific variances approved by their LPHA, but CDPHE will not accept county-wide variances in this new framework.
Site-specific variances allow indoor and outdoor venues that meet specific criteria to operate after receiving approvals from the county’s local public health agency and then CDPHE. These variances are for individual venues -- they are not county-wide. Learn more about site-specific variances guidelines. Previously approved county-wide variances apply to all venues in a particular sector or industry across a county. CDPHE will not accept county-wide variances in this new framework.
Yes. Counties no longer need to follow a certification process in order to enter Protect Our Neighbors. They must only meet the required metrics.
Yes. Counties are welcome to form regional collaboratives for the purpose of transitioning between dial levels. This would mean level metrics are measured on a region-wide (as opposed to county-wide) basis, and all counties within the region transition across levels together.
Yes, all of the best practices recommended in sector guidance still apply to counties in Level Blue: Caution, Level Yellow: Concern, and Level Orange: High Risk, as well as Level Green. However, the capacity percentages and caps adjust according to whatever dial level the county is currently in. Learn more about how capacity caps differ based on dial level.
To move to a less restrictive level (e.g., Level Yellow to Level Blue), the county needs to meet and sustain all three metrics for a one-week period. Once the county meets those metrics, the LPHA must formally notify CDPHE if it would like to move to a less restrictive level.
Form submissions should include a letter co-signed by the required stakeholders, or a series of letters from the required stakeholders. Those stakeholders include:
- The local public health agency.
- All hospitals within the county or region (unless there are no hospitals located in the county).
- Hospitals must verify that they have the capacity to serve all people needing their care.
- A majority of county commissioners.
- Sovereign nations, if applicable.
This framework will replace the general variance process in most cases. At the outset, all variances remain intact, either because the variance fits under the dial framework, or because they are still recognized. Future changes occur according to the dial.
Variances that remain intact
While general variances, such as for restaurants or gyms, are replaced by the dial framework, there still is a process for site-specific variances, for places like extra-large venues or events. Read more about the process.
|Adams||Gaylord of the Rockies|
|Douglas||Park Meadows Mall|
Great Wolf Lodge Indoor Water Park
Manitou Cliff Dwellings
Flying W Ranch
Iron Mountain Hot Springs
Glenwood Hot Springs
Frequently asked questions about local variances
These variances allow indoor and outdoor venues that meet specific criteria to operate after receiving approvals from the county’s local public health agency and then, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).
- A county can apply with the state for up to 10 variances per 100,000 people for indoor and outdoor venues after first getting approval from the county’s local public health agency.
- The variances apply to venues that are 30,000 square feet or larger. Other venues fit within existing capacity limits.
- Counties that are in Level Blue on the dial may apply for outdoor and indoor site-specific variances.
- Counties that are in Level Yellow on the dial may only apply for outdoor site-specific variances.
CDPHE will not grant any variances that:
- Seek a higher capacity than 50%.
- Seek to be removed from the requirements of the state’s orders generally.
- Reduce or eliminate protections for people at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, as defined in state’s orders. These groups are specifically protected by the state’s orders.
- Seek variances for Public Health Order 20-29: Voluntary and Elective Surgeries and Procedures or PHO 20-20: Restricting Visitors at all Colorado Skilled Nursing Facilities, Assisted Living Residences, and Intermediate Care Facilities.
- Seek variances from the mask order.
Counties that have reviewed and supported a request for a site-specific variance may have their local public health agency submit a complete variance form to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. When completing the application, make sure to:
- Clearly indicate which site and capacity limitation the county is requesting a variance from.
- Describe preventive measures the county will require to meet the state’s orders.
- Use the social distancing space calculator to determine capacity.
- Use the outdoor and indoor event guidance to create designated spaces within the site.
Two COVID-19 cases linked to a site automatically require a mitigation plan. The variance may be suspended at any time by CDPHE, if deemed necessary, to mitigate disease spread.