Guidance for outdoor events

Updated November 30, 2020.

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Outdoor receptions, events, fairs, rodeos, non-critical auctions, concerts, outdoor markets, or other outdoor venues not covered in other guidances where these guidelines and adherence to physical distance can be maintained. This guidance does not apply to activities covered under guidelines for restaurants, houses of worship, personal recreation, or outdoor recreation.

IF THERE IS A CONFIRMED CASE OF COVID-19 IN THE COMMUNITY

Venue

  • Limit capacity depending on venue size accounting for usable square footage* and appropriate limits in the current county dial level.
    • Level Green - Protect Our Neighbors: outdoor events, both seated and unseated, may be conducted at 50% capacity not to exceed 500 people per designated activity or area.

    • Level Blue - Caution: 50% capacity up to 250 people per designated activity or area, for both seated and unseated events.

    • Level Yellow - Concern: for unseated events, 50% capacity or up to 175 people within the usable space calculated using the Distancing Space Calculator, excluding staff, per designated activity or area. For seated events, 50% capacity or up to 175 people with 6 feet distancing between non-household contacts.

    • Level Orange: High Risk: for unseated events, 25% capacity or up to 75 people within the usable space calculated using the Distancing Space Calculator, excluding staff, per designated activity or area. For seated events, 25% capacity or up to 75 people with 6 feet distancing between non-household contacts.

    • Level Red - Severe Risk: attend only with members of your own household. For unseated events, 25% capacity or up to 75 people within their usable space calculated using the Distancing Space Calculator, excluding staff, per designated activity or area. For seated events, 25% capacity or up to 75 people with 6 feet distancing between parties.

    • Level Purple - Extreme Risk: closed.

  • Calculate capacity for square footage of usable space using the Social Distancing Space Calculator.
  • An event is considered “seated” if the attendees have minimal movement, such as purchasing concessions or using the restroom facilities.
  • Collect contact information for guests or attendees through ticket sales, reservations, RSVPs, or having sign-in sheets. Include times of arrival and departure, to help with potential exposure notification.
  • Provide generous and flexible cancellation policies so that if guests start experiencing symptoms, they can cancel.
  • Ensure 6 feet or more distance between all employees, customers, contractors and visitors.
  • Create a queue at entrances and exits that ensures a minimum of 6 feet of physical distance between individuals and pace entry and exit to prevent congestion.
  • Establish single-direction traffic flow in and out of venue and seating areas. Consider separate entrances and exits.
  • Consider staggered guest arrival and departure times to avoid congregating at entrances and exits.
  • Give reminders to observe at least 6 feet social distance before, during, and after events.
  • Provide signage, announcements, and other reminders that face coverings are highly recommended to reduce COVID transmission.
  • Seating at events must be appropriately spaced, to reduce mingling and reinforce the necessary distance between individuals in different households.
  • Enhance cleaning and sanitization of common touch points (doors, stairwell handles, light switches, elevator switches, etc.).
  • Catering services or food services should be seated-only. Food and drink services must follow the same guidelines as restaurants and bars.
  • Install hand sanitizing stations at entrances and in high-traffic areas.
  • Consider shorter event duration times or limited admission windows to reduce the need for patrons to use restroom facilities, which can be a source of transmission.
  • Install plexiglass barriers where appropriate.
  • Remove games or activities that require or encourage mingling, congregating and sharing materials. This includes things like board or recreational games, bounce houses, ball pits, shared dance floors (not for performances), and amusement booths and  rides at fairs.
  • Booths or vendors at events must:
    • 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 16 feet thoroughfare between the two sides allowing for a single file, one-way path down the middle.  
    • Require 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 tap

Vendors/employees

  • The venue operator for an event with multiple vendors and/or performers/competitors is responsible for ensuring all vendors/performance groups are aware of and adhering to COVID-19 policies and procedures.
  • Vendors should be familiar with the CDPHE Workplace Outbreak Guidance and apply all recommendations for prevention and mitigation that are outlined in that document to their operation.
    • Vendors and employees must wear face coverings unless doing so would inhibit the individual’s health, in which case reasonable accommodations should be pursued to maintain the safety and health of all parties.
  • Train employees in proper use of protective equipment, and emphasize that they should refrain from face-touching. Keep documentation of this training and make it available upon request of the local public health agency.
  • Require handwashing upon arrival, departure and frequently throughout the day. 
  • Implement symptom monitoring protocols (including workplace temperature monitoring and symptom screening questions where possible) (Additional Guidance) and encourage sick employees to use the CDPHE symptom support tool.
  • Employees who have been in close contact with a person suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 (generally within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes, depending on level of exposure) should not report to work and should self-quarantine.
  • Group employees into teams or shifts that stick together to limit mixing between different teams or shifts.
  • Provide contactless payment methods.
  • Do not allow multiple people to handle objects unless you can disinfect objects between each person.
  • Extend setup timelines to allow vendors more time to set up and not overlap.

Performers/competitors

  • Performances with vocal speech or singing, wind or brass instruments, or activities that cause heavy breathing must be 25ft from patrons.** Performances with no forced exhalation as in the prior examples, like a piano, harp, or organ player, must be a minimum of 6ft from patrons, but 25ft is preferred.
  • Participants (e.g., players, performers, actors, competitors, entertainers, etc.) in events must be checked for fevers, symptoms, and exposures before or at arrival. 
  • Participants (e.g., players, performers, actors) who have been in close contact with a person suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 should not participate and should self-quarantine.
  • Where necessary, implement alternative placement of performers. If spacing is not possible, in some situations it may be suitable to install barriers to minimize transmission of aerosolized particles.
  • Maximize physical spacing between performers on-stage.
  • Require all employees to wear face coverings, unless doing so would inhibit the individual’s health.
  • Performers should use a separate entrance/exit than patrons where possible.
  • Performers are not included in capacity limits as long as they do not join the spectator/patron areas at any time and remain at least 25 feet  from attendees. If performers join the patron spaces, they must be included in the capacity limit numbers.
  • Disinfect high touch areas and equipment such as microphones, instruments, props, etc. between uses.

Hosts/attendees

  • Encourage attendees to stay home if sick or exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. Consider screening attendees for fever, symptoms, or exposures before or at their arrival.
  • Encourage attendees who have been in close contact with a person suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 (generally within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes, depending on the level of exposure) to stay home and self-quarantine. 
  • Encourage frequent handwashing.
  • Attendees should refrain from mixing and mingling with others not in their household during events as much as possible.
  • Attendees should maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance from others as much as possible.
  • Attendees must wear face coverings unless doing so would inhibit the individual’s health, in which case reasonable accommodations should be pursued to maintain the safety and health of all parties.
  • Populations at higher risk for severe COVID-19 should consider additional protections or staying home during this time per CDPHE guidance.
  • Encourage remote participation whenever possible.

*Venues that have multiple designated activities/events that are physically separated, such as a fair with activities taking place in separate buildings or arenas, may have the maximum capacity in each setting,and  must implement additional prevention measures, such as one-way traffic, as attendees move from one activity or event to the next. The designated activities must occur a minimum of 50 feet from each other, maintain separate entrances and exits, and must minimize the use of shared facilities like restrooms.

**Research and the CDC suggest that activities like singing may project respiratory droplets in greater quantity and over greater distance, increasing the risk of COVID-19 transmission, particularly with prolonged exposure.

Frequently asked questions

These calculations are based on what we know about transmission of COVID-19 and what businesses and organizations told us about how they are able to maintain social distancing in their specific settings. 
We received extensive feedback on the proposed capacity limits. Some stakeholders said they felt too restrictive and were concerned about the economic impact of these restrictions. Other stakeholders said they felt we were loosening too quickly and could be setting ourselves up for increased outbreaks and spread. 

Regardless of whether they said they thought the limits were too strict or too lax, stakeholders unanimously asked us to explain the logic behind the size caps. Some critiqued the methods underlying how we calculated 28 square feet. We assumed each person needed a radius of about 3 feet around them, to account for needing to be about 6 feet from the closest other person. Stakeholders observed this may work in a setting where people are not moving around, like a restaurant or house of worship. , But events where people move around need a different calculation to allow people to maintain 6 feet of separation. This helpful point pushed us to reconsider these calculations for these activities.

Social distancing calculator for indoor and outdoor events

Many stakeholders offered suggestions for alternative ways to calculate the number of people a venue could hold. Boulder County Public Health offered the use of their capacity calculator, a tool stakeholders can use to factor in the size of their specific facility. This tool demonstrates that a 12-foot grid is required to theoretically keep individuals appropriately distanced, 6 feet from each other, in a setting where individuals may be moving around. This doesn’t mean event operators need to always keep people this far apart from each other, depending on the features of the event. For example, a family could attend an event and be closer to each other than 6 feet, since they already share a household. However, this does give us a clearer basis for determining the overall capacity of an event, which should be based on the ability for all attendees to maintain this distance.

In all of these scenarios, it is important to note that while some facilities may be able to hold larger numbers of people and maintain this distance, these caps reflect the purpose of the Safer-at-Home phase: to allow some reopening while ensuring outbreaks do not become so large that they overwhelm local public health and health care systems as they are being built. This current capacity building will  support broader reopening under Protect Our Neighbors. Additional details on how to qualify for Protect Our Neighbors, which will allow significantly increased capacity limits, will be released at the end of June.

Events are inherently different. Restaurants operating according to the guidelines are seated activities where people primarily sit in one place for the duration of their meal. In contrast, at an event like a fair, people are moving around, going from one place to another. As a result, the capacity guidelines need to take this into consideration. While some aspects of events may be seated, other aspects involve people moving around.

Staff are required to ensure the successful implementation of these guidelines and the safety of participants. Therefore, staff do not contribute to the capacity limit. Performers, competitors, actors, entertainers, or players are not included in capacity limits as long as they do not join the spectator/patron areas at any time and keep  at least 25 feet of separation from spectators. If performers join the patron spaces, they must be included in the capacity limit numbers.

Parades may operate according to these guidelines; however, it is important to note that the physical distance and capacity limit requirements would apply to both people marching in the parades and spectators -- unless there is 25 feet in between people in the parade and spectators at all times. In that case, then those marching in the parade would not contribute to the capacity limits.
 
A parade could progress from one group of spectators to another, as long as each group was appropriately distanced -- at least 50 feet from each other. In addition, these groups would have to have clearly marked and distinct entrances and exits to prevent mingling and would have very limited shared facilities (concessions, restrooms, etc).

Fairs may operate according to these guidelines. However, to limit mingling, congregating and sharing of items, amusement games and rides are prohibited under Safer-at-Home. Fairs may host  attractions, educational displays, 4H/4FA events, vendors, and arts and crafts as long as these events are “no-touch”. All activities should conform to these guidelines.

Exhibitors must wear a mask up until the time they compete. Masks can be removed prior to entering the arena or event area and be put back on after the event. Please use the calculator to determine how many people may warm up in an event space like a ring at any given point in time. This distance should be observed at all times, except in cases of safety for participants, spectators, or animals.

All food and beverage service at fairs must follow the restaurants and bars guidelines

Vendors may offer samples or allow people to try products only if they can be done in a “no-touch” way. For example, a food sample can be given out with a toothpick that is only touched by one patron then discarded.

Fairs that have multiple designated activities/events that are physically separated, such as a fair with activities taking place in separate buildings or arenas, may have the maximum capacity in each setting and must implement additional prevention measures, such as one-way traffic, as attendees move from one activity or event to the next. The designated activities must occur a minimum of 50 feet from each other, maintain separate entrances and exits, and must minimize the use of shared facilities like restrooms. Additional precautions must be taken in any areas where people may transition from one event area to another to ensure people can maintain at least 6 feet of distance at all times and do not mingle or gather.

Yes; however, all vendors must abide by these guidelines, including regular symptom monitoring. 

Rodeos may operate so long as they adhere to these guidelines. If competitors and support staff stay fully separate (waiting/practice areas, competition areas), then they do not count towards the total capacity. However, if competitors and support staff enter the spectator area, then they do count towards the total. 

Competitors must wear a mask up until the time they compete. Masks can be removed prior to entering the arena or event area, but must be put back on after the event. Please use the calculator to determine how many people may warm up in an event space like a ring at any given point in time. This distance should be observed at all times, except in cases of safety for participants, spectators, or animals.

Rodeos that have multiple designated activities/events that are physically separated, such as a competition taking place in separate buildings or arenas, may have the maximum capacity in each setting and must implement additional prevention measures, such as one-way traffic, as attendees move from one activity or event to the next. The designated activities must occur a minimum of 50 feet from each other, maintain separate entrances and exits, and must minimize the use of shared facilities like restrooms. Additional precautions must be taken in any areas where people may transition from one event area to another to ensure that people can maintain at least 6 feet of distance at all times and do not mingle or gather.

Please review guidance from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, which may have more detailed best practices on how to implement distancing guidelines. 

In some cases, yes. Venues that have multiple designated activities/events that are physically separated, such as a fair with activities taking place in separate buildings or arenas, may have the maximum capacity in each setting and must implement additional prevention measures, such as one-way traffic, as attendees move from one activity or event to the next. The designated activities must occur a minimum of 50 feet from each other, maintain separate entrances and exits, and must minimize the use of shared facilities like restrooms.

No. This guidance is not applicable to personal recreation. Youth sport leagues are still required to operate in maximum groups of 25. Sports -- especially contact sports -- are substantially different from outdoor events. In addition to heavy breathing, which can spread the virus further, sports participants are often in direct physical contact. Youth sports leagues must still follow the personal recreation guidance.

No. This guidance is not applicable to personal recreation.  Recreational activities are substantially different than outdoor events. The virus can be propelled by the heavy breathing that often occurs while exercising. Gyms must still follow the personal recreation guidance.

Outdoor markets may use this guidance to set up their markets, and have different designated areas of activity. Individuals retailers within outdoor markets must follow retail guidance.

The Safer at Home phase includes caps on the total number of people that can be in any one place at a time. This is because, during this phase, we are still building the public health surge capacity to investigate and contain outbreaks. So, these caps are primarily about keeping exposures limited to smaller numbers, more so than the actual size of the facility. This is critical because once we have our public health and health care systems scaled, we can expand to a greater degree of reopening. That is why the Protect Our Neighbors phase makes available to qualified communities a much greater expansion.

Yes, arcade games are permitted at both indoor and outdoor events when following the best practices described in the indoor and outdoor events guidance. 

  • Indoor arcades themselves may open up to 50% capacity or a maximum of 50 people per room, whichever is fewer. 

    • Extra large venues that would like more than 50 patrons may use the calculator for indoor events to determine how many additional patrons they can accommodate indoors, up to 100 patrons total per room, which is the indoor variance limit for “medium” viral transmission.

  • Arcades with food service should follow restaurant guidance for designated dining areas. 

    • Dining areas and activities should be separated from gaming areas as much as possible. 

  • Disinfect high-touch areas and equipment such as: gaming machines and equipment, microphones, instruments, props, etc. between uses.

  • Limit gaming group size to no more than 4 people and maintain at least 6 feet distancing between groups.

  • Lower or turn off volume on games to reduce the need to speak loudly as forced exhalation increases the risk of transmission