On Monday, Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced the next phase of social distancing guidelines for the state. The new guidelines, trumpeted as “Protect our Neighbors,” is said to provide framework to allow bars, theaters and indoor and outdoor concerts to open.

The guidance may be updated based on public input and was to be finalized June 18.

The basis of “Protect our Neighbors,” is that parts of the state with low enough COVID-19 spread can permit “all activities” at 50 percent of pre-pandemic capacity with up to 500 people in one setting, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The new phase could go into effect in its first counties by the end of June or early July, Polis said at a June 15 news conference.

Direction from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said that in order to enter Protect Our Neighbors, communities must qualify by meeting scientifically established thresholds to:

n Lower disease transmission levels

n Treat patients and handle the surge in need for intensive hospital care

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

The performance of local public health agencies will be a determining factor, the governor said.

Colorado announced these changes even as Polis acknowledged that the state’s falling rate of new COVID-19 cases doesn’t mean Coloradans are out of the woods as far as the pandemic is concerned.

“We can’t let the good news so far give us any kind of false sense of security. We know things are going to get more challenging,” Polis said, pointing to a likely “second wave” of the virus’ spread in the fall, according to the state’s modeling.

On top of that, flu season’s overlap with the pandemic is expected to impact hospital bed capacity, the governor added.

Still, the governor moved ahead with the cautiously optimistic tone and reliance on public buy-in that have been the hallmark of his response to the pandemic, applauding Coloradans for the “great job” they’ve done bringing down the state’s spread of COVID-19.

“This is not a function of what the government is saying or doing. It’s not a function of what your local county health (agency) is doing,” Polis said. “What it is a function of is your responsible decisions you make every day, and by and large, the proof is in the pudding: Coloradans have been following the sound guidance of health officials in large numbers, wearing masks in public, staying 6 feet from others — and that is why we’re here with good news instead of bad news.”

Said Polis, “If the key message in March and April was we need to flatten the curve, now we have a new message: We need to exercise personal responsibility — wear masks in public, stay 6 feet apart from others, and support our local public health efforts to contain this epidemic so that we can continue to enjoy our freedoms.”

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