Local orders & variances

Updated 5/24/20

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In Colorado, local governments can choose to have different rules from the state in a few circumstances. To get the most up-to-date information on local orders and variances, contact the area’s local public health agency.

Information on local public health orders

Local governments can choose to enact stricter guidance than the state -- like extending the Stay-at-Home order within the local government’s jurisdiction. 

Information on variances

Counties may seek a variance from the state’s “Safer-at-Home” public health order. Variances are generally less strict than the state’s order. To get a variance from the state’s orders, counties must: 

  • Submit a written application to CDPHE. The application must certify: 
    • That the county has low case counts and/or 
    • That the county has a downward trajectory of cases within a 14-day period OR a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent or total tests within a 14-day period. 
  • The application must include a COVID-19 suppression plan approved by: 
    • the local public health agency, 
    • all hospitals within the county (unless no hospitals are located in the county),  
    • a majority of county commissioners (or other county-level governing body), and
    • If a sovereign nation is present in the county, support from the sovereign nation for the variance request. 
  • CDPHE shall review and approve variance requests that meet the department's public health standards. CDPHE shall not provide COVID-19 preparedness grant funding to any county that implements measures that are less restrictive than the standards contained in state orders without first obtaining approval from CDPHE.

Counties with state-approved variances

Chaffee County

Cheyenne County

Custer County

Delta County

Dolores County

Denver County

Douglas County

Eagle County - Variance 1 | Variance 2

El Paso County - Variance 1 | Variance 2

Fremont County

Garfield County

Gunnison County

Hinsdale County

Kit Carson County

Larimer County

Lincoln County

Logan County

Mesa County - Variance 1 | Variance 2

Mineral County

Moffat County - Variance 1 | Variance 2

Montrose County

Phillips County

Pitkin County

Rio Blanco County

Rio Grande County

Routt County

Sedgwick County

Teller County

Yuma County

Counties that have received feedback on variances

Alamosa County

Elbert County

Kit Carson County

Logan County 

Montezuma County 

Variance instructions

Background

On April 27, 2020, the Governor’s Safer At Home Executive Order (D 2020 044) became effective. The Safer at Home Executive Order:

  • Directs the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to issue a new Public Health Order (PHO) to provide direction on how Colorado can transition from Stay at Home to Safer at Home.  
  • Directs the new, complementary Public Health Order to contain a means by which a county may request a variance to Safer At Home Orders. 

On April 26, 2020, CDPHE Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan signed a Safer At Home Public Health Order (PHO 20-28).

  • The order sets the requirements that both individual Coloradans and businesses must adhere to pursuant to the Safer At Home Executive Order. 
  • Appendix G of PHO 20-28 contains the criteria by which a county may request a variance from Safer At Home Order.  

CDPHE has created an online application process through which counties may submit variance requests that contain a COVID-19 Suppression Plan.

Request for variance

CDPHE’s Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan, MPH, will determine whether to grant county requests for variances from the Safer At Home Order. 

CDPHE will not grant a general request to be removed from the Safer At Home Order. The county’s variance request must:

  • Clearly indicate the provisions of the Safer At Home Order from which the county is requesting a variance. 
  • Describe the alternate restrictions the county will require to meet the intent of the Safer at Home Order.

CDPHE will not grant any variance requests that: 

  • Reduce or eliminate protections for vulnerable populations.  These groups are specifically protected by the state’s orders. Vulnerable individuals are defined in the Safer at Home Order and PHO 20-28 Part III.Q. 
  • Seek variances for Public Health Order 20-29: Voluntary and Elective Surgeries and Procedures.
Variance Review Criteria

Any county that desires to apply for a variance from part or all of the Safer at Home Order requirements as detailed in PHO 20-28 may do so. Counties must submit an application that includes an alternative COVID-19 suppression plan. CDPHE will approve or deny the variance request. 

A COVID-19 suppression plan shall include information concerning each of the following:

  • Prevalence of COVID 19 within the county
    • A determination will need to have been made by the county that the prevalence of COVID-19 cases are low enough to be contained by an epidemiological response. This could include:
      •  Data representing that there is a low number of new cases per day, 
      • a declining number of cases over the previous 14-day period from the request, and/or 
      • a declining number of positive tests as a percentage of total tests over the previous 14-day period from the request.  
  • Hospital capacity
    • The request needs to include a discussion regarding the hospital capacity within the county, including the number of ICU beds and ventilators, and a demonstration that adequate PPE is available to handle standard health care capacity in addition to the current COVID-19 cases. 
    • If the county does not have a hospital within its jurisdiction, the county will need to address how regional hospital and health care systems may be impacted by this request, and demonstrate that adequate hospital capacity exists.
  • Local containment measures proposed
    • A variance request must demonstrate how the county will detect new cases and contain the threat of an outbreak. 
    • The county will need to explain how it can undertake testing for COVID-19 at a level that will detect an increase of cases. 
    • The request should also discuss how positive cases will be confirmed and monitored, as well as follow up with individuals who have been in contact with positive cases.
  • The proposed alternative restrictions
    • The request must specifically identify each restriction found in the Safer at Home Order for which a variance is being requested, and what alternative restrictions are proposed. 
  • Conditions and standards used to determine if the variance is providing protection equal to PHO 20-28 
    • The request must explain how the county will determine whether the proposed alternative restrictions are providing protection to individuals within its jurisdiction, and propose a standard for when, based on current data, restrictions should be deemed to have not provided adequate protection. 
    • This analysis will be based on local conditions, including relevant factors that may exist outside of the county, and could include data such as:
      •  an increase by a certain percentage point in the proportion of positive tests, as compared to present levels, 
      • a threshold of COVID 19 related hospitalizations, or 
      • the inability to maintain adequate PPE to meet standard health care needs. 
  • The county shall track such data, and CDPHE reserves the right to request submission of the data.

In addition to the above the information, all requests for variances must also include documentation of the following local approvals and endorsements:

  • The local public health agency endorses the alternative plan;
  • Local hospitals can verify that they have the capacity to serve all people needing their care; 
  • The county commissioners (or other county-level governing body) vote affirmatively to adopt the alternative plan in place of the state Safer-At-Home Order, and
  • Any sovereign nation present in the county.
Determination

CDPHE will review all variance requests received for alternative restrictions to the Safer at Home requirements.  Additional information may be sought if the application materials are deemed incomplete.  Executive Director Hunsaker Ryan may approve a request as submitted, approve with modifications, or deny.  Any approved variance requests may later be amended or revoked if circumstances change within the jurisdiction, or if regionally or across the state it is impracticable for the variance to continue.  Counties receiving variance approvals will need to continue to collect and monitor data to demonstrate that the alternative restrictions are not having a negative impact on individuals or healthcare systems or services, and implement triggers for tightening restrictions if conditions worsen.