Public health & executive orders explained

There have been a number of executive orders and public health orders released by the governor this month and the legal language used can be hard to understand. We have provided this information, written for the rest of us, about what they mean and who is affected.

All public health & executive orders

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What it does:

  • Orders people to stay at home unless they are engaged in certain necessary activities.
  • Outlines what business and activities are exempt from the order.
  • Requires people to follow Social Distancing Requirements when going out for necessary activities.
  • Requires people to self-isolate if they have symptoms of COVID-19.


The order is intended to minimize contact between people as much as possible to minimize the spread of COVID-19. It also effectively limits the opportunities for people to come in contact with potentially contaminated surfaces. These actions are necessary to slow the spread of disease, reduce the number of people who become severely ill or die, and protect our health care system.

What does it apply to?

The order applies to all people, places and activities other than the ones listed in the public health order. Businesses and facilities listed in Public Health Order 20-22 are still closed. 

What does it not apply to?

It’s important for Coloradans to know the order does not apply to 

  • Grocery stores
  • Gas stations
  • Pharmacies
  • Police stations
  • Fire stations 
  • Hospitals, clinics and healthcare operations 
  • Garbage/sanitation 
  • Public transportation 
  • Public benefits (i.e. SNAP, Medicaid) hotlines
  • Grocery and meal delivery, drive-through, and takeout options.
  • Liquor and cannabis stores.
    • Please note that cities and counties may have specific rules around the purchase, consumption, and delivery of liquor and cannabis. Please check your local government website to see if they have more specific rules. 
  • Health care. 
  • Transportation. 
  • Please see the order itself for the full list of exempted businesses. 

Questions and answers

What does this order mean for the average person in Colorado?

It means:

  • You must stay home whenever possible. You can leave your home to do a limited number of specific things.
  • When you go out, you must follow Social Distancing Requirements, which are below, in a separate question.
  • People at high-risk of severe illness from COVID-19 are strongly encouraged to stay in their residence at all times, except when they need to get necessary medical care. Necessary medical care does not include most “elective,” procedures, which currently are prohibited.
  • People who have COVID-19 symptoms must self-isolate or have a negative test result . Testing is still limited at this time, so isolating when you are mildly ill is the best course of action for many people. Please read How to Isolate, which includes symptoms.
  • All but necessary travel is prohibited. 
What are necessary activities?

These are activities, tasks and errands you must do to keep you and your family and household members safe and healthy. Necessary activities include:

  • Getting essential medical care, medical supplies and equipment, and medicine.
  • Getting food and supplies for yourself, your animals, your family, and your household members. That means the supplies you need to live a healthy life, keep a safe and healthy home, and get supplies you need to work or learn at home.
  • Caring for a family member, vulnerable person, or animals that are in a different location than your home.
  • Walking your dog or feeding animals.
  • Outdoor activities that you engage in by yourself or with your household members, such as walking, hiking, cross-country skiing, running, etc. Group sports or activities that would break Social Distancing Requirements are prohibited. You can’t, for example, gather with groups of friends at the park. 
  • Going to work or providing essential products and services for a critical business or critical government function. It can be hard to figure out what is considered essential or critical. We encourage people to understand what’s in the order and follow it closely. Don’t try to find ways to get around it. We can’t protect people and build up our health care system without everyone doing their part. We especially encourage businesses and employers to read the public health order and consult a lawyer if you need to, to figure out how you fit in.
What are social distancing requirements?
  • Keeping 6 feet between all people at all times. The 6-foot rule does not apply to people who live in the same house as you, in other words,  your roommates and family. But if you, your family, or your roomates get sick, they must self-isolate.
  • Washing hands as often as you can. Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Covering coughs and sneezes. Use a tissue, then throw the tissue away. Use your sleeve or inner elbow if a tissue is not available.
What is necessary travel?
  • Travel from your home to places you need to go to do necessary tasks, errands and activities, get food or necessary equipment and supplies, or work in a critical business or government function.
  • If you aren’t absolutely sure you need or are required by your work with a critical business to do it, you probably don’t need to do it.
What does this mean for businesses?
  • Critical businesses, listed in the public health order,  can continue to operate.
  • Critical businesses must take all steps possible to comply with the Social Distancing Requirements. 
  • Other businesses are closed to in-person work. Employers are encouraged to keep as many people working remotely as possible. In the public health order, there is language about “minimum basic operations.” People who run critical businesses should read the public health order to find out what that means.  
What does “home” mean?

It means the place where you live, whether that is a house, apartment, hotel, motel, or other place that you rent. 

My employer says I have to come to work anyway. What should I do?

Businesses that are not critical are no longer authorized to bring employees into the workplace.  This is the law in Colorado through April 11, 2020, due to the governor’s order.  If your employer does not operate a critical business, local officials can enforce closing down the business to in-person work, and if the employer fails to do so, court action may be filed.  Contact local law enforcement or your local public health agency if you believe your employer is violating the order by staying open and requiring employees to come to work.

What about people who are experiencing homelessness?

We encourage people experiencing homelessness to obtain shelter, and we urge government and other entities to make as much shelter as they can available as soon as possible. People experiencing homelessness must also follow Social Distancing Requirements.

How long does this last?

This order starts at 6 a.m. on March 26, 2020 and lasts until 11:59 p.m. on April 11, 2020. It may be extended, changed, ended or replaced, so it is important to follow local sources of good information, like the website

Is my business a critical business?

Read the lists in the relevant executive order and public health order to determine if your business is critical. If you are unsure, err on the side of protecting public health. If you still cannot decide, you may want to consult a lawyer.

Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) Guidance on Critical vs. Non-Critical Business Professions

I have a critical business. What do I need to do?

Implement and practice the Social Distancing Requirements to keep your employees and customers healthy. This means keeping people 6 feet apart from each other, practicing frequent and correct handwashing,, cleaning high-touch surfaces frequently, and remembering not to shake hands. Take some time to understand what this means. There are many resources on this website, in particular, on this page.

My city or county also has a stay-at-home order. Which one should I follow?

The most restrictive terms of the orders apply.  So if the city or county’s order is more restrictive than the state order, follow the city or county order.

Is it OK to go outside and exercise or play?

It is physically and mentally healthy to be outdoors. Be outdoors at times and in places where you can maintain 6 feet of space between yourself and others.  Do not gather in groups.

What about parks and playgrounds? Are they open?

State parks are open for walking, biking, etc., but all playgrounds, picnic areas, campgrounds, and other areas where groups might gather are closed. For city and county parks, check with your local government or parks department.  At this time, if a playground is open, we recommend you do not use it.

Will I be fined or jailed if I don’t follow the stay-at-home order?

This Executive Order makes this the law, therefore breaking the order is breaking the law.  Success depends on all of us doing our part to slow the spread of the virus and ultimately, save lives. We are calling for voluntary compliance by all affected, however, local law enforcement agencies have the authority to enforce this law. Enforcement of public health orders will be performed by local law enforcement. State law enforcement will assist and support in any way requested, but our hope is that involvement by law enforcement is reserved only for the most aggravated circumstances.  We are calling on people to individually do their part. Your employer may be fined if they are not following the rules outlined in this order.

I want to know more about enforcement of these orders.

Please see the guidance on the State Attorney General’s website.

How can I get medical care if I need it? 

If you need medical attention, call your doctor, a nurse hotline, any telehealth hotline set up specifically for COVID-19 (check with your insurance company) or an urgent care center. If you are experiencing symptoms or are currently in isolation, stay at home and follow the guidelines on how to isolate.  Do not call 911 or go to an emergency room unless necessary. Non-essential medical care like eye exams and teeth-cleaning should be postponed. When possible, health care visits should be done remotely. Contact your healthcare provider to see what tele-health services they provide or look at these options

Can I get a prescription filled or other healthcare needs?

Yes. Pharmacies and other medical services will remain open.  You should request for your prescriptions to be delivered to your home if that is possible.  

Will public transportation and ridesharing be available?

Public transportation and ridesharing should be used for essential travel only. When possible, walk or drive yourself.  

Will roads be closed?

No, the roads will not be closed. You should only travel if it is essential to your work or health or that of your household members, family, or animals. 

Can I take a flight out of state?  

Planes and any other form of travel should only be used for essential travel. 

What if my home is not a safe environment? 

If it is not safe for you to remain home, you are able and urged to find another safe place to stay during this order.  Call the domestic violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or contact your local law enforcement agency. 

What it does:

The order requires everyone in Colorado to stay at home and orders the state public health department (CDPHE) to define what activities and businesses are exempt.


Actions taken thus for to limit and control the spread of COVID-19 have not been effective, and stricter measures are needed. 

Read the full executive order. | Spanish

Read more in the Governor’s FAQ on the Executive Order. | Spanish



Business closings


What it does

Closes certain types of businesses where people tend to gather in groups, and restricts food service to carry-out, delivery, drive-up, and room service.


To limit the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that spreads through person-to-person contact, or (less likely) by contact with surfaces contaminated with the virus. People infected with COVID-19 may become symptomatic anywhere from 2 to 14 days after exposure. Limiting the number of people gathered in one area limits the spread of disease, reduces the number of people who become severely ill, and protects our health care system.

Who does it apply to?
  • Restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses, and other places that serve food and drink to the public onsite.

  • Bars, taverns, brew pubs, breweries, microbreweries, distillery pubs, wineries, tasting rooms, special licensees, clubs, and other public places that serve alcoholic beverages onsite. 

  • Cigar, tobacco and hookah bars.

  • Gymnasiums and other places that offer fitness, dance, and group exercise classes.

  • Recreation centers, bowling alleys, pools, and other indoor athletic facilities. 

  • Movie and performance theaters, opera houses, concert and music halls.

  • Casinos.

  • Non-essential personal services facilities. This includes hair salons, barbers, nail salons, spas, and tattoo parlors.

  • Horse tracks

  • Off-track betting facilities.​​

Who does it not apply to?
  • Grocery stores, markets, and convenience stores

  • Pharmacies and drug stores.

  • Hardware stores.

  • Food pantries.

  • Room service in hotels.

  • Health care facilities, residential care facilities, congregate care facilities, and juvenile justice facilities.

  • Airport markets and restaurants. 

  • College and other higher education dining halls that students and staff members access using campus identification. These facilities must have social distancing measures that keep at least six feet between people.

  • Grab-and-go food services at higher education institutions. These facilities must have social distancing measures that keep at least six feet between people.

  • Fitness centers and nonessential personal services included in residential facilities, such as hotels, apartments, or condominium complexes or similar housing arrangements. These fitness centers and personal services must be used only by hotel guests or residents of the housing. These places also must follow social distancing requirements of at least 6 feet between individuals, and hotel or property managers must perform frequent environmental cleaning.

  • Any emergency facilities necessary for responding to COVID-19 in Colorado.

Other frequently asked questions

What qualifies as a gymnasium?

Gymnasiums include all buildings or rooms used for indoor sports or exercise.  This includes individual or group fitness or training sessions, dance studios, basketball courts, tennis courts, pools, recreation centers, ice rinks, and bowling alleys.


Can my gymnasium remain open if I only provide personal training services or teach classes with fewer than (10) individuals?

No, gymnasiums and fitness studios are closed regardless of the number of individuals participating in an activity.


Can I serve drinks at my restaurant or bar to people who are picking up their to-go orders?

No, food or drinks may NOT be consumed on the premises of restaurants or bars.


Does a salon include a barber shop?



Does the order apply to hardware stores?

No. Hardware stores can remain open, but must take measures to increase social distancing.


Does this order define what essential services are?

No, it closes non-essential personal services, like nail or hair salons, but does not otherwise define what is an essential service.


Does the order apply to massage therapists who work for health care facilities?

No, massage therapists who  work for health care facilities are exempt because health care facilities are essential services. If you have more questions, contact the Department of Regulatory Agencies Customer Service Team.


Who can I contact for more questions about this order?

If you have more questions, contact the Department of Regulatory Agencies Customer Service Team.

Medical marijuana exams


What it does

Suspends a number of state regulatory statutes


The order is intended to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Colorado and protect health care resources.

Who does it apply to?

Relevant to public health, the order suspends the requirement that a person have an in-person physical examination to get a medical marijuana recommendation until April 18, 2020. This is to protect both patients and health care providers. People must still consult with a qualified medical provider in order to receive a medical marijuana recommendation. Services may be provided using interactive audio (including but not limited to telephone and relay calls), interactive video (including but not limited to interactive audiovisual modalities), or interactive data communication (including but not limited to live chat and excluding text messaging, electronic mail, and facsimile transmission) instead of in-person contact. Any health benefits provided through interactive audio, interactive video, or interactive data communication must meet the same standard of care as in-person care.

Cities & counties that have issued stay-at-home orders.