Denver Mayor Michael Hancock issued an order on Monday telling the citizens of the city and county to stay indoors except for essential needs until at least April 10.
Denver’s metropolitan area has a population of about 3.2 million, but this order applies only to people who live inside the boundaries of the city of Denver — some 718,000 residents — and not the neighboring suburbs.
Hancock said he’s working with nearby mayors, hoping to encourage them to follow his lead.
Staying indoors will be very difficult for outdoorsy Denver residents to do. Hancock said it was the outdoor behavior of residents this past weekend that caused him to take this action. People flocked to city parks to enjoy the spring weather and were playing volleyball, basketball, having picnics, and generally not following the six-foot social-distancing guidance.
All those activities are now forbidden as Denver struggles with a growing number of COVID-19 cases. Denver is the most densely populated city in the state and has reported 125 cases as of Monday out of Colorado’s 591 cases. Across the state 58 people have been hospitalized and six people have died.
People in Denver are allowed to leave their home for essential needs, which is limited to grocery shopping or picking up medicine. Exercising outside — running, hiking, walking dogs, etc. — is also OK, he said, as long as people are staying at least six feet apart. Denver is closing its playgrounds but is not closing its park.
However, police will be patrolling and stopping people if they are seen outside. The mayor did not mention what the penalties would be if they are caught outside doing something other than the approved essential activities.
Denver tried to increase the types of businesses classified as nonessential. For instance, liquor stores and recreational marijuana stores were originally considered nonessential and were to be forced to close by Tuesday at 5 p.m. However, when long lines formed almost immediately at those stores, Denver reversed course and allowed them to stay open, as long as they make sure customers are obeying the 6-foot social distancing rules
Medical marijuana stores are considered essential and will stay open, too.
Restaurants will still be allowed to provide take-out meals and alcoholic beverages. Also, public transportation, taxis, and ride-hailing services such as Uber or Lyft will still be allowed to operate. Daycare facilities are also allowed to stay open, but the public schools are closed.
Denver International Airport, which is in the city’s jurisdiction, will continue to operate, he said.
While the mayor said he worked with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis before issuing this order, at this point, the governor has not told the entire state to shelter inside.
The state has been under orders for all nonessential businesses to close. In other areas, liquor stores and marijuana are allowed to stay open.
Mayor Hancock said that he believes other cities and counties in the state will follow Denver’s lead. There are about 5.6 million people living in Colorado, and people across the state have been spending their COVID-19 lockdown out of doors.
In at least one mountain area, far outside the boundaries of Denver, people crowded to a local ski resort area which is, like all ski resorts, officially closed down because of COVID-19. But they overflowed the parking lot and hiked up the slopes on snowshoes and skied or snowboarded down.
The Colorado governor has encouraged residents to go outside after he issued orders shutting down restaurants, bars, movie theaters, events, schools, and gyms.
Last week, Polis tweeted: “Looking for things to do that don’t involve being around large groups of people? Luckily, we live in the best state in the country with great weather year-round. Here are a few suggestions if you’re looking to get outside, but still keep our communities safe. #DoingMyPartCO”
The list was hiking, biking, running, running, snowshoeing, fishing, birdwatching.
—Governor Jared Polis (@GovofCO) March 17, 2020