DENVER — In the latest effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 and avoid another stay-at-home order, Denver officials announced Friday that a public health measure encouraging people to be home by 10 p.m. would go into effect in Denver for 30 days starting Sunday.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Denver Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE) Executive Director Bob McDonald announced the new order, called “Home by 10,” from the DDPHE at a news conference Friday morning. The measure will stay in place for 30 days from 10 p.m. through 5 a.m. It will take effect on Sunday.
“I’m not going to mince any words here when it comes to the spread of the coronavirus. We’re on a very dangerous path," Hancock said Friday.
He said the state has seen a rapid and significant increase in people becoming sick, with many ending up in the hospital. Hospitalizations increased over 40% in just the past week across the state, he said.
The implementation of “Home by 10” marks the first time Denver has had a curfew-like measure in place since early June, when city officials implemented one during the protests that followed the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
Hancock said the city is not characterizing the measure as a curfew.
“This is a public health measure enforced like a public health measure and targeted to deal with the behavior that is contributing to the virus spread, namely among younger asymptomatic adults gathering outside of their homes and unknowingly infecting others," he said.
Officials said that public health department workers will be the enforcers of the measure, along with officials from the Department of Public Safety. People who violate the new order could face a fine of up to $999 or 300 days in jail.
Hancock said this new measure is less about enforcement and more about "responsible citizens and residents deciding to take it upon themselves to say, 'I've got to not only keep my family safe, I've got to keep my neighbors safe. So I must do what's necessary the next 30 days to help get Denver and this metro region back on track, to save lives.'"
"I want to say that again: This is not about enforcement," Hancock added.
McDonald echoed Hancock's statement.
"You can look at the number of compliance contacts that we've conducted since the beginning of the pandemic and only 222 citations were issued for egregious violations," McDonald said. "That's gong to be our continued approach moving throughout this — just those egregious situations, we're going to take a strong look at those and what we need to do to get them under control."
He said those 222 citations make up about 1% of all visits they conducted.
The curfew will not apply to hospitals, grocery stores and some other essential businesses but will apply to restaurants and retailers. It also does not apply to employees returning home from work, or people out exercising or walking their pets after 10 p.m.
“That is not something that we are concerned about in this order,” Hancock said. “What we’re concerned about is the public co-mingling after 10 p.m.”
"Home by 10" will also not be in effect on Thanksgiving Day, officials said.
"We're not going to sit here and tell you that Thanksgiving is canceled in Denver. It is not," Hancock said. "But I'm going to urge everyone to think differently about Thanksgiving this year."
The public health measure involves other actions as well, including:
- Prohibits spectators at high school and college athletic events
- Halts recreational athletic events
- For 30 days, will close bars that are not able to meet basic criteria around mingling and food service
- Public and private gatherings with large numbers of households together
“We need everyone working together to reverse this trend," Hancock said.
The latest move comes after the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment last week moved Denver into Safer at Home Level 3, further restricting business operations and capacities.
City officials warned at the time that if the increasing positivity rate and hospitalizations here did not turn around, Denver could risk having to move back to a stay-at-home order, which city and state officials have been hoping to avoid for the sake of businesses and employment.
“With how it’s going now, there’s another stay-at-home order in our future unless we act with urgency and care for one another to change the behavior that is leading to these increasing cases," Hancock said Friday.
According to a chart McDonald showed during the press conference (shown below), Denver has far surpassed the number of cases that would mark the threshold for a stay-at-home order, though case numbers aren't the only metric they look at, he said. That's why a stay-at-home order hasn't been called, he explained.
He said in the last 24 hours, Denver had an additional 700 cases of COVID-19.
"If we don't turn the trajectory of our cases, it's projected that hospital ICU capacity could be overwhelmed by the end of December," McDonald said.
On Thursday, Gov. Jared Polis and CDPHE State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said that case counts and hospitalizations had reached their highest points yet in Colorado and urged Coloradans not to gather with anyone outside of their household for the next month.
Polis said that the latest numbers were “grim” and that October had been “far worse and more deadly” after a shift from how Coloradans were operating in August and September.
“We cannot afford a November that is like October,” the governor said.
Herlihy said that on the current trajectory, Colorado hospitals could exceed their existing ICU bed capacity in late December and have to add ICU beds and go to crisis of care standards that haven't been in place since the spring.