Frequently asked questions for all levels

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All levels

When the state or a community moves from Stay-at-Home to Safer-at-Home and from Safer-at Home to Protect Our Neighbors, it is to enable a more sustainable way of living for Coloradans during this pandemic while continuing to control the spread of COVID-19 and protect people at higher risk. 

  • Stay-at-Home: There is exponential community spread of COVID-19, the state is near capacity in its hospital systems, and many lives could be lost. All non-critical businesses are closed, and people are required to stay home except for essential activities and work at critical businesses. Communities across the state are focused on limiting the transmission of the disease and increasing hospital and public health capacity. Stay-at-Home orders can apply to the whole state or to specific communities, but there is no county variance process with the state.
  • Safer-at-Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors: COVID-19 is limited to clusters and outbreaks that are not community-wide. Most businesses can open at limited (25%-50%) capacity, with caps on the sizes of gatherings for different activities. Large and mass gatherings are prohibited. Public health and health care systems are still scaling up, and Safer-At-Home allows them to do so. Communities with lower disease burden can apply for a county variance from the statewide order. Safer-at-Home can apply to the whole state or to specific communities.
  • Protect Our Neighbors: Communities where disease prevalance is low, outbreaks are manageable, and hospitals can serve all who need care without being overwhelmed by COVID-19 surges, can qualify for this status. Communities (either counties or regions) that qualify can permit all activities to occur at 50% capacity, with physical distancing between patrons, and a limit of 500 people in one setting at one time. Protect Our Neighbors is community-specific, and different communities will be at different phases, based on local conditions and capabilities. Communities may need to tighten restrictions again to Safer-at-Home or Stay-at-Home levels if they see case increases, outbreaks, or a surge on their hospital systems.

  • Under all levels, people who have a positive COVID-19 test or symptoms must isolate, and people who think they have been exposed should get tested and quarantine.
  • Under all levels, people should take preventive actions to limit their risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. These actions include:
    • Staying home when sick.
    • Wearing a face covering when out in public.
    • Washing hands frequently.
    • Keeping at least six feet of distance between yourself and people who don’t live with you.
    • Following local orders in the community where you live and or visit.
    • Limiting social interactions. Under Stay-at-Home, people stay home except for essential activities and essential work. Under Safer-at-Home and in the Great, Vast Outdoors and Protect Our Neighbors, people aim to limit social interactions to about 60% of pre-pandemic levels.
  • People should carefully consider the risks of activities they choose to participate in. Here are some guidelines.
  • 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. Safer-at-Home allows more economic activity, while Protect Our Neighbors extends the size of gatherings in specific communities that qualify for that level.

  • People should be aware of and follow the rules in their specific community and in the communities they are visiting. Local public health agencies are a good source of information.
  • The most restrictive terms of either a state or local order apply. If a city or county’s order is more restrictive, follow the city or county order.
  • 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; therefore, not following these orders is breaking the law. We all must do our part to ensure success, and call upon all people in Colorado to voluntarily comply. Law enforcement 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. Local law enforcement is expected to enforce local ordinances related to public health as applicable.

No. You will not be fined or jailed. People are advised to wear a non-medical cloth face covering that covers the nose and mouth whenever in public, but it is not a requirement. We are calling on all Coloradans to voluntarily comply with the orders and recommendations.


Everyone who is not an essential worker is required to stay at home except for grocery shopping, medical care, exercise, and necessary activities. Some communities in Colorado may be in this phase depending on their case counts and health care capacity.

Only critical businesses, as defined in Public Health Order 20-24, are open, including hospitals, grocery stores, media outlets and essential government agencies.

This level is necessary when there is widespread community transmission, hospitals may be overwhelmed by the number of patients, and many lives may be unnecessarily lost. While this level has a severe impact on the economy, it is necessary to save lives and protect our health care system.


Everyone should minimize social interactions and stay home as much as possible. Most businesses are open at reduced capacity and should be following guidelines. Most activities are permitted with prevention precautions. 

  • Most businesses are open, and should be following guidelines for reduced capacity. Most activities are allowed with prevention precautions. Mass gatherings, like large concerts and sports events, are prohibited. For a complete list of sector-specific guidance visit

  • All open businesses must operate in accordance with industry/business specific guidance, or general guidance from CDPHE concerning group limitations, social distancing requirements, and disinfection and cleaning protocols. Please see the  guidance here, under "Guidance by Sector," and reference the most recent Public Health Orders for specific information.

This level is necessary when there are still clusters and outbreaks of disease, but they are not community-wide. It allows for more economic activity while health care and local public health are still working to have sufficient capacity to handle potential surges in COVID-19 cases. Counties can apply for variances from the Safer-at-Home level.

Gov. Polis extended Safer at Home through July 30. The order continues to be in effect for counties that do not have approved variances. Starting the week of July 6, communities can request to qualify and be certified to move to Protect Our Neighbors level. This change is on a community-by-community basis, rather than a blanket, statewide lifting of restrictions. This means different communities will be under different levels during the pandemic. Local public health agencies are a good source of information to check local restrictions.

  • Colorado residents should follow the state’s guidance unless their local government is enforcing more restrictive orders than the state, has received a variance from the state, or has qualified for Protect Our Neighbors. 
  • In Colorado, local governments can choose to have different rules from the state in some cases. There are three ways a local government or local public health agency can deviate from the state’s orders:
  1. A local public health order: Local public health orders are more protective than the state orders.
  2. A variance: Variances are less protective than the state orders.
  3. Qualifying for Protect Our Neighbors, which allows more activity than Safer-at-Home.

Indoor and outdoor events and private gatherings are allowed.

  • Outdoor events with small numbers of people present the least amount of risk.

  • People should carefully consider the risks of activities they choose to participate in. Here are some guidelines.

  • People should stay home when they are sick.  When attending any events or activities, people should remember the big 3: 

    • Wear a face covering.

    • Wash your hands frequently.

    • Maintain 6 feet of physical distance from others.

  • All gatherings should adhere to all social distancing requirements and recommendations. Please see the guidance for indoor events and outdoor events.

A medical grade face mask is also called a surgical mask. These are disposable fluid resistant masks that provide the wearer protection against large droplets, splashes, or sprays of bodily or other hazardous fluids. They also protect others from the wearer’s respiratory emissions.  Surgical masks do not provide the wearer reliable protection from inhaling smaller airborne particles. N95 or other types of respirators should be considered if the wearer seeks protection from small particle aerosols.

Non-critical health care services providers are required to wear disposable patient examination gloves such as nitrile, rubber, polychloroprene, or vinyl gloves. Personal service providers (e.g., hair stylists) are recommended to wear the same.

Depending upon the industry, additional personal protective equipment (PPE) may be required. OSHA information for specific industries:


Protect Our Neighbors means that communities that meet certain criteria have less stringent restrictions than under Stay-At-Home and Safer-At-Home. Communities may permit activities at 50% of pre-pandemic capacity, with at least 6 feet between non-household members, and no more than 500 people in one setting at a time. Communities that can demonstrate strong public health and health care systems -- paired with low virus levels -- should take on more control over their own reopening plans. Strong local public health and health care systems are the key to reopening the economy. Different communities will be at different phases, based on local conditions and capabilities.

Starting the week of July 6, communities can request to qualify and be certified to move to this level. Protect Our Neighbors will go into effect on a community-by-community basis, rather than a blanket, statewide lifting of restrictions.

A county may seek to qualify for Protect Our Neighbors by themselves, or form a “region” with neighboring counties who chose to submit for a certification together. 

Communities need to take two steps:

  1. Certify qualification according to the scientific metrics.
  2. Submit a mitigation and containment plan on what the county or region will do if they fall out of compliance with any of the metrics. The plan must also include how counties will promote public compliance with the guidelines; increase mask-wearing in public settings; and increase flu vaccine uptake, to ensure we don’t lose health care system capacity needed for COVID-19.

Communities must have:

  • The capacity to manage a 20% surge in hospital admissions/patient transfers.
  • Two weeks of PPE available.
  • Stable or declining COVID-19 hospitalizations 
    • Stable (no greater than 25% increase)
    • OR
    • Declining counts of new confirmed hospitalizations in the last 14 days or no more than 2 new admissions on a single day in the last 14 days.
  • Fewer new cases
    • 25 or fewer new cases per 100,000 people, OR 7 or fewer cases for a county/jurisdiction with a population of less than 30,000. (Both scenarios apply to the last 2 weeks and exclude cases among residents of congregate facilities experiencing outbreaks.)
    • OR
    • 2-week average molecular test positivity rate of less than 5% AND county is meeting minimum testing rate (0.75 per 1,000 population).
  • The capacity to test 15 people per 10,000 residents per day.
  • The ability to conduct case investigation and contact tracing for at least 85% of assigned cases within 24 hours.
  • A plan that documents the ability to investigate and contact trace their share, based on population, of our state’s overall 500 cases per day goal. (Up to 8.7 cases per 100,000 population per day).
  • Strategies to offer testing to close contacts of outbreak-associated cases.

This level allows for local solutions using a statewide, scientific approach. For communities that qualify, it  means more economic and social activity based on geographic differentiation, while ensuring public health and safety. If local communities are successful in controlling outbreaks locally, the state will not have to rely extreme statewide shutdowns. 

The state is making additional federal CARES Act funding available. 

  1. Planning Grant of up to $50,000 to engage consultants and community partners, and to fund community engagement efforts with communities impacted by and at increased risk.  
  2. Infrastructure Strengthening Grants of up to $300,000 (up to $150,000 in state funds + local match) to invest in technology; community resource coordination; communication activities to increase compliance with the public health orders; funding for community-based partners and cultural brokers; and enhanced prevention and containment efforts.