Governor Polis Introduces Protect Our Neighbors Framework, Announces New Draft Safer at Home Guidelines

Monday, June 15, 2020

DENVER - Governor Jared Polis today announced Protect Our Neighbors, a framework that will empower local governments that can demonstrate strong public health and health care systems, paired with low virus levels, to make decisions about how they should reopen. The Governor also announced additional draft guidelines under Safer at Home and discussed the state’s efforts to prepare for a potential second wave of the virus. 

“This is a marathon, not a sprint, and we have to find a way to sustainably live with this virus in our communities until there is a cure or vaccine. If we can continue to wear masks, stay six feet away from others and empower our local public health agencies to meet the needs of their communities, then we can rely on these tools to flatten the potential second wave and reduce future outbreaks,” Governor Polis said. “Strong local public health and health care systems will be critical to successfully reopening our economy. If the key message in April was that we need to flatten the curve, the message now is that we need to take personal responsibility by wearing a mask when leaving the house and social distancing.”

Gov. Polis also gave a preview of what next steps will look like for Colorado during the COVID-19 pandemic. Protect Our Neighbors will give Colorado communities a path to further reopen. Communities that can demonstrate strong public health and health care systems, as well as low virus levels, can take on more control over their reopening plans. Different parts of the state could be at different phases of reopening, based on local conditions and capabilities.  Underlying virus levels, public health capacity, and health care capacity to respond to cases and outbreaks will determine whether a community will be under Stay at Home, Safer at Home, or Protect Our Neighbors. The additional flexibility is important because if a local public health agency can scale its ability to do things like site closures, testing, case investigation, and contact tracing now, they can become a first line of defense, instead of having to control the virus through statewide measures. This framework will launch at the end of June. 

In order to enter Protect Our Neighbors, communities must qualify by meeting scientifically established thresholds to:

  • lower disease transmission levels, 

  • treat patients and handle the surge in need for intensive hospital care, and,

  • conduct testing and effective case investigation, contact tracing, and outbreak response. 

Communities in Protect Our Neighbors will have strong underlying public health and health care capacity that can respond to larger outbreaks, relative to population. This will allow them to permit all activities to occur at 50 percent of pre-pandemic capacity, as long as there are six feet between parties, with no more than 500 people in one setting at a time. Local or regional agencies will have more flexibility within this broad statewide framework on how to continue to prevent virus transmission. Over time, the 50 percent threshold may be increased if a region holds their transmission levels steady and continues to demonstrate they are capable of increasing treatment, testing, and contact tracing. Learn more

The Governor announced a new round of Safer at Home guidelines to further relax restrictions on the economy and society in as safe a way as possible. Guidelines include residential summer camps, indoor and outdoor events, bars, personal services, and non-critical manufacturing facilities. Coloradans can visit to provide feedback on the draft guidelines. The new guidelines will be open for comment for 48 hours, and will be finalized on Thursday, June 18.

The Governor also discussed how the state is preparing for a potential second wave and the combination of COVID-19 and seasonal influenza. Influenza and COVID-19 patients alike may need hospital and ICU beds and the state will have to stretch resources to combat both at the same time. The Governor recently sent a letter to the Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention requesting assistance in ensuring Colorado is prepared to respond during flu season.  That’s why Coloradans must continue to wear masks, follow social distancing requirements, limit interactions with others, and stay home when sick. The state will continue working to acquire more personal protective and testing equipment; expand testing, tracking, and tracing capacity; and ensure hospitals and local public health agencies can meet the need if there is another surge of cases.

View the Governor’s presentation and watch the full news conference