Ongoing mitigation guidance

Last updated April 20, 2021.

Available languages: Español 

On April 16, the COVID-19 Dial evolved into Public Health Order 20-38: Limited COVID-19 Restrictions, which allows counties to implement regulations at the local level while still maintaining some limited requirements across the state. Counties may use the statewide dial framework as a model for implementing their own regulations.

Mandatory statewide restrictions

Under Public Health Order 20-38: Limited COVID-19 Restrictions, the following restrictions are in place across the state.

  • When more than 100 people are gathered in a public indoor space, the venue may operate at 100% capacity not to exceed 500 people, with 6 feet distancing required between parties of unvaccinated people or people whose vaccination status is unknown. 
  • Venues may apply to their local public health agency for a variance to exceed 500 people, to be finally approved by CDPHE.  
  • Existing approved variances remain in effect, including 5 Star Program approvals granted by a county. 
  • These requirements do not apply to the following sectors: 
    • Places of worship and associated ceremonies.
    • Retail services.
    • Restaurants that have sit-down dining and do not have unseated areas where 100 or more people could gather (such as dance floors or common gathering areas). 
    • School proms and graduations that wish to exceed these thresholds shall be subject to review and approval by local public health agencies in accordance with CDPHE prom and graduation guidance. 
  • Masks are required for all attendees at a mass indoor gathering, except in the following circumstances: 
    • People 10 years old or younger. 
    • People who cannot medically tolerate a mask. 
    • People otherwise exempt from wearing a mask as listed in CDPHE’s mask guidance.
  • Outdoor ticketed, seated event venues in excess of 30,000 square feet require CDPHE approval, in consultation with the local public health agency. Existing approved variances, including 5 Star Program approvals granted by a county, remain in effect.
  • CDPHE may require counties whose resident hospitalizations threaten to exceed 85% of hospital or hospital system capacity to implement additional restrictions to mitigate disease transmission.


Recommended ongoing mitigation guidance

While the following guidance is not required under the public health order, the state still strongly recommends that businesses and other entities follow best practices for preventing the spread of COVID-19. 

The purpose of the following guidance is to provide across-the-board recommendations based on whether an activity is taking place indoors or outdoors, whether it’s seated or unseated, whether it involves removing masks or keeping them on, and whether it involves forced exhalation (heavy breathing) or not. All of these factors contribute to the amount of risk in a given setting.

Indoor guidance

All indoor activities should follow either seated or unseated guidance. If it isn’t clear which guidance is more applicable, use unseated guidance. A venue should follow the guidance that most closely fits. This means that the same physical space may follow different guidance for different uses or events.

Seated activities
  • Use seated guidance for offices, restaurants, seated concerts, graduations, and other seated activities such as sporting events where spectators are primarily sitting down.
  • An event or activity is considered seated if attendees are primarily sitting down. Some movement, like getting up to purchase concessions or use the restroom, is expected during a seated activity.
  • Seated activities should ensure 6 feet of distance between parties from different households.  
  • Some counties may have stricter capacity limits at the local level. Consult your local public health agency for more information about local regulations.
Unseated activities
  • Use unseated guidance for retail, manufacturing, grocery stores, some personal services, gyms and fitness centers, museums, and other activities and venues that do not qualify as seated.
  • Unseated activities increase the possibility of interaction among multiple people as they move around the space. The distancing calculator builds in additional distancing recommendations to account for this movement.
  • At a minimum, everyone at the unseated event or activity should be able to maintain 6 feet of distancing from all members of other households.
  • If a permitted activity cannot be performed while maintaining 6 feet of distance (e.g. hair styling services, acupuncture service, etc.), then the following apply: 
    • Maintain 6 feet of distance between people from different households whenever possible. 
    • If a customer must remove their mask during an activity (e.g. for a beard trimming service), then the person performing the service must wear a medical grade mask, gloves, and a face shield. 
    • Change gloves between customers and wash hands. 
    • Clean and disinfect the area between each service/appointment.
  • Some counties may have stricter capacity limits at the local level. Consult your local public health agency for more information about local regulations.

If an event involves both a seated and an unseated portion, it should calculate capacity for the non-seated portion using the Social Distancing Space Calculator.

Indoor activities involving forced exhalation
  • Because of the increased risk of transmission associated with forced exhalation, masks and distancing are particularly important in this context. It is recommended for those engaged in forced exhalation activities to bring multiple spare masks to replace sweaty masks as needed.
  • Masks should not be worn only in the following circumstances: 
    • Aquatics/swimming, where a wet mask would be a choking hazard; 
    • Wrestling, where a mask could easily be caught or dislodged; 
    • Gymnastics (including) Spirit, only during high-intensity maneuvers where the mask might get caught or dislodged; 
    • Athletes in professional league sports as approved by CDPHE while competing or practicing those sports; 
    • In a school setting for limited purpose of playing an instrument that cannot otherwise by played while wearing a face covering; 
    • When someone is giving a speech (for broadcast, religious service, or life rights) or other similar performance as permitted by the public health order. The person giving the speech should be 25 feet away from others.
  • Performers: 
    • If the performer is wearing a mask, performances with vocal speech or singing, wind or brass instruments, or activities that cause heavy breathing should be 12 feet from patrons. 
    • If the performer is unmasked, 25 feet of distance is recommended. 
    • Participants (e.g., players, performers, actors, competitors, entertainers, etc.) in events should have their symptoms checked before participating. Participants who have been in close contact with an exposed or symptomatic person should not participate and should self-quarantine. 
    • Adopt seating and spacing modifications to increase physical distance from a performer. 
    • Where necessary, install barriers to minimize travel of aerosolized particles from performers, or implement alternative placement of performers. 
    • Maximize physical spacing between performers on-stage. 
    • Performers should use a separate entrance/exit than patrons where possible.
  • Under the statewide mask order, masks are required in schools (including extracurricular activities), child care centers, indoor children’s camps, public-facing state government facilities, emergency medical and other healthcare settings, personal services and limited healthcare settings as defined by Public Health Order (PHO) 20-36, congregate care facilities, prisons, and jails. 
  • In counties with one-week disease incidence rates over 35 per 100,000 -- which were known in the dial as blue, yellow, orange, red, and purple counties -- masks must also be worn in public indoor settings where 10 or more unvaccinated individuals or individuals of unknown vaccination status are present. 
  • Local communities may have additional mask restrictions.
  • For more information, visit our mask guidance webpage.
Organizing a space to reduce risk
  • Create a queue at entrances that ensure a minimum of 6 feet of physical distancing between individuals. Pace entry to prevent congestion.
  • Operate on a one-in-one-out basis when at capacity.
  • Remind patrons to observe 6 feet of physical distancing before, during, and after events and activities.
  • Post signage with easy-to-interpret graphics in commonly used languages reminding everyone to maintain 6 feet of distance, wear masks, wash hands, etc.
  • Establish single-direction traffic flow in and out of large venues and seating areas. Consider separate entrances and exits.
  • Enhance cleaning and disinfection of common touch points (doors, stairwell handles, light switch, elevator switch, etc.). (CDC cleaning guidance)
  • Ensure ventilation at the venue is in line with or exceeds OSHA guidance, if applicable.
  • If OSHA guidance is not applicable, maximize ventilation by using fans and opening windows, wherever possible.
  • Install touchless hand sanitizing stations at entrances and in high-traffic areas.
  • Deploy plexiglass barriers where appropriate, for example, at checkout stations.
  • Lower or turn off volume on any audio system when possible to reduce the need to speak loudly as forced exhalation increases the risk of transmission
  • Provide dedicated visit hours, events, or services for people at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, as possible.
Common/shared spaces
  • Communal gathering spaces, such as communal locker/changing rooms, should not be used. If locker rooms or changing rooms must be used for safety or hygiene reasons, surfaces should be routinely cleaned every hour. Take actions, such as closing off a series of lockers, to promote physical distancing and reduce gatherings
  • Break rooms for employees are permitted, with the following provisions: The space provided for breaks should have adequate room to allow physical distancing of at least 6 feet between individuals who are on their breaks at the same time. Reducing the number of chairs in break rooms or around tables can encourage less congregating.
  • Break areas should include handwashing/sanitizing facilities, particularly if break times are used by workers for eating, smoking, and/or tobacco use where hand-to-mouth contact will occur more frequently. 
  • If applicable, additional clock-in/clock-out stations for any employees should be installed to reduce congregation at shift changes.
  • Booths or vendors at events should:
    • Allow spacing for vendor load-in and loadout such that vendors and staff can maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from each other as much as possible.
      • Add a minimum of 6 feet in between booths.
      • Create a single line of booths instead of double rows. If this is not possible, create at least a 10 feet thoroughfare between the two sides allowing for a single file, one-way path down the middle.  
      • Encourage vendors to have market booth layouts that promote social distancing. Provide them with the space to do this. 
      • Create one-way traffic flow through the booths to prevent crowding or mingling.
      • Use ropes, cones or tape to define the entrance, exit and flow.
Contact tracing and additional risk reduction 
  • Collect contact information of guests or attendees through tactics like taking reservations, requiring RSVPs, or having sign-in sheets, and times of arrival and departure to help with potential exposure notification whenever possible.
  • Use a reservation system or use pre-existing electronic capacity monitoring systems if feasible to space out and limit participants gathered at one time.
  • Provide generous and flexible cancellation policies so that if guests start experiencing symptoms, they can cancel.

Outdoor guidance

This guidance is intended to address risk reduction for all activities, businesses, and gatherings within any outdoor space.

  • Each county determines local capacity restrictions for outdoor events and activities. For more information about local capacity limits, contact your local public health agency.
Physical distancing
  • Everyone should keep at least 6 feet of physical distance from people outside of their households. Activities should be modified as much as possible to encourage physical distancing (i.e. it is strongly encouraged to limit outdoor pool activities to lap swim).
  • There may be temporary situations in which maintaining 6 feet of distance is not safe or practicable, such as to ensure someone’s safety or to determine the outcome of a competitive sport. Consider extending facility hours, requiring reservations, and eliminating open seating or seat-yourself options to help ensure people can maintain enough physical distance from non-household members.
  • Masks are strongly recommended outdoors, especially when it’s not possible to keep 6 feet of distance from others. Please check to see if there are local orders in your area that require masks in outdoor settings.
  • Do not spit (including saliva, sunflower seeds, chewing tobacco, etc.) or share food or beverages with others outside of your household.
  • Facilities should disinfect all shared and high-touch equipment between uses. This includes sporting equipment, rafts, saddles, etc. Frequently disinfect high-touch surfaces such as handles, chairs, and park benches.
Common/shared spaces
  • Common areas that are conducive to gatherings and that do not allow for sufficient distancing should remain closed. This includes picnic tables, park pavilions, cabins, locker rooms, etc.
Organized activities and events
  • Event organizers and venues should establish single-direction traffic flow and separate entrances and exits in and out of the venue, activity areas, and seating areas in order to reduce contact between non-household members. 
  • If an event involves spectators, spectators should remain at least 12 feet from performers/athletes/etc. at all times. 
  • If there are multiple activities occurring in an outdoor area, such as multiple games with spectators, or separate areas like a rodeo ring and a petting zoo at the same event, then those separate activities should occur in separate areas that are separated by 50 feet. Individuals at each activity should not mix or mingle with individuals from another designated activity area.
  • Multiple sports games occurring at the same complex do not need to be distanced 50 feet apart if there are no spectators. Only one activity should take place per designated area at a time.
Extreme weather and other emergencies
  • In the case of an extreme weather event, injury, or other emergency, an outdoor facility or area may prioritize the immediate safety and sheltering needs of guests and staff when in conflict with this guidance. 
  • In the case of such an emergency, the outdoor facility should consider how to collect the contact information of guests and staff who shelter together in one space to ensure contact tracing ability. 
  • The outdoor facility should coordinate with their LPHA when there is a need to shelter individuals in the event of an emergency. The facility should report the date, time, duration, event type, location(s), individuals impacted/included, and any other relevant details of the event. 
  • During the emergency, physical distancing, masking, and hygiene protocols should be followed to the greatest extent possible.

The state’s primary goal has always been to keep the statewide hospital system from being overwhelmed. People age 70 and older account for 38% of all hospitalizations. Over 80% of this age group is now fully vaccinated. Vaccines are also now available to all Coloradans over the age of 16. 

The state’s role in mandating statewide restrictions is lessening and the role of local communities to regulate and manage the virus is increasing. This does not mean that people should stop taking precautions, especially if they are not yet vaccinated. Different counties have different levels of disease transmission, and so the role of managing the pandemic through restrictions is starting to shift from a state to a local responsibility.  

The state is carefully monitoring the transmission of COVID-19, including its variants. We have a safety net of policies as the state begins to open in case we start to see a new surge in disease transmission.

The 5 Star Program will continue under the oversight of each county’s 5 Star Committees, local public health, and local elected officials. The new public health order removes state oversight from the program, giving counties greater flexibility to modify their own requirements for 5 Star certified businesses. Existing approved variances remain in effect, including 5 Star Program approvals granted by a county. 

Yes, in some situations. Under the most recent mask order, masks are always required in preschool through grade 12 schools (including extracurricular activities), child care centers and services, and indoor children’s camps; public areas of state government facilities, and areas in state government facilities where members of the public come into contact with state government employees; congregate care facilities, including nursing facilities, assisted living residences, intermediate care facilities, and group homes; prisons; jails; emergency medical and other healthcare settings; personal services; and limited healthcare settings.

In counties with one-week disease incidence rates in excess of 35 per 100,000, masks are required to be worn when entering or within public indoor spaces where 10 or more unvaccinated individuals or individuals of unknown vaccination status are present.

For more information about when and where masks are required, visit CDPHE’s Guidance for wearing masks webpage.