The state health department issued new guidelines for personal and outdoor recreation sites Thursday, while Gov. Jared Polis announced a new executive order allowing business owners the right to refuse service to people who don't wear face masks.
Under the new guidelines from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, activities that can be done in groups of 10 or fewer, with people physically distanced, washing hands and wearing face masks when possible, are allowed unless specifically prohibited by a public health order, the state said. It includes parks, pools, gyms, rafting and fishing.
For personal recreation, such as pools and gyms, participants must be 6 feet from members of other households, the order says. People are encouraged to continue using hand washing, hand sanitizer and face masks to mitigate the virus’ spread, it said.
Among the rules, personal recreation facilities were told to limit their capacity to 25% or to 50 people, whichever is fewer, per room. Pools were encouraged to limit activities to just lap swimming. Facilities were asked to use a reservation system and discourage the use of shared equipment.
Organized youth or adult recreational sport leagues in groups of up to 25 players, excluding coaches, referees and umpires are permitted, the guidelines say.
Nonguided outdoor recreation of any kind is permitted of up to 10 people, the state said. Nonguided equipment rentals should follow retail guidelines and developed hot springs should follow pool guidelines, it said. River outfitters, rafting and jeep tours are allowed if parties in boats and jeeps are limited to people of two households.
Outdoor retail operators were asked to follow similar standards, including using distancing, face masks and hand sanitizer. Operators were told to wipe all equipment down after use and utilize symptom screening.
Large-scale outdoor facilities such as scenic train companies, ski resorts and zip lines must have local approval, the guidelines say.
Colorado Springs said in a news release Thursday evening that all 137 of the city's parks and playgrounds will reopen Friday. Up to 10 people at a time will be allowed at the playgrounds, the city said.
The governor announced at a coronavirus briefing that a new executive order will allow private business owners the right to refuse service to people not wearing face masks.
"Our businesses, the people who work there, the other patrons, they should have a right to be protected from those who refuse to take the common-sense step of wearing a mask," Polis said. "With this executive order, it's fine for businesses across our state to say 'No shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service,' if they choose."
Before delivering updates at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor addressed the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police, and heralded the thousands of protesters who have marched in cities across Colorado.
"George Floyd's life mattered," Polis said. "He was a human being, an American entitled to the rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. ... In these protests I see optimism, I see hope, I see a reawakening of our national conscience, one that was long overdue. ... I see police officers who were also rightly outraged by the horror we saw in Minneapolis."
In speaking of the demonstrations, the governor shared his concerns about coronavirus safety. Many protesters in Colorado have worn face masks, but few have adhered to the recommendation set by public health officials of maintaining 6 feet of distance.
"I shared my concern earlier this week, and continue to, about the impact of large groups of people gathering together," Polis said. "We will see that in the next week or two, and I would encourage all those who are exercising their first amendment rights to stay 6 feet apart from others where they can and certainly to wear masks."
Face masks, Polis said, will be "our ticket to opening more quickly and sooner, and ... to saving lives."
As of Thursday, 1,254 Coloradans have died directly of COVID-19, the governor said. More than 27,300 have tested positive for the disease, he said.
The governor echoed similar statements he made at a briefing last week, when he said the spread of the virus in Colorado is on a "downward trend" but "there is still danger ahead."
"Modeling that was presented earlier this week that shows if we want to avoid a catastrophic breach of our health care system, we want to reopen our economy completely, masks are absolutely essential," Polis said. "It's important if you're attending demonstrations; it's important if you're going to the store."
He added that studies have shown men, more so than women, are resistant to wearing face masks "because they somehow incorrectly think that somehow it might make them look weak or not cool."
"You know what's weak?" he said. "Being too insecure to wear a mask and then spreading coronavirus to your family when you get back home. You know what also is not cool? Laying in a bed for two weeks hooked up to equipment to save your life. ... Let's stop prolonging this crisis just because you don't think something's cool."
The governor announced that the state is working on a project that will encourage nursing homes and senior care facilities to allow visitation from relatives who test negative for COVID-19. Visitations at senior living centers have been restricted due to older populations being identified as higher risk. As of Wednesday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported 292 outbreaks at long-term care facilities.
"We need to be as compassionate as possible, while being as safe as possible," Polis said.