Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!
Expand chart
Data: JHU; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The Denver area is dialing back COVID-19 restrictions and preparing to completely reopen in May — but some counties are moving faster and others are expressing concern about the pace.

Driving the news: Six counties — Denver, Jefferson, Boulder, Adams and Broomfield — are easing public health limits by moving to "Level Blue," even as case counts remain elevated.

Context: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis' administration is downgrading its public health "dial" order to guidance, effective Friday, and letting local authorities set their own rules.

  • Denver Mayor Michael Hancock told John that the lesser local restrictions are warranted because vaccines are becoming more prevalent and "the city has to be open for business."
  • Dozens of counties already are moving to "Level Green" — which will allow them to bypass the state's mask mandate. Arapahoe County potentially had the ability to move to this lower level but will stay at "Level Blue."

Yes, but: Predictably, the state's move is creating chaos about what rules apply where and it will make compliance difficult. And public health officials are raising concerns about moving too quickly.

  • "Anytime we have counties that are close or surrounding Denver that throw requirements out the window, it presents an elevated risk to Denver," the city's public health director Bob MacDonald told John.

The move to "Level Blue" allows:

  • Restaurants, gyms and certain event spaces to operate at full capacity with 6-foot distancing.
  • Alcohol sales until 2am.
  • Offices and shops to open at 75% capacity.
  • Bars to operate at 25% capacity.
  • No mask-wearing outdoors.

Reality check: The state's mask order will still apply to schools, hospitals and certain indoor settings, but is set to expire May 3. The state will still set parameters on large events.

What's next: If all goes well, metro counties are poised to shift May 16 to a newly created phase, Level Clear — dubbed the "new normal" with no restrictions, except possibly masks.

  • Denver officials wouldn't commit to moving to "Level Clear," saying they would re-evaluate closer to the time.
  • Douglas County isn't waiting to fully reopen. The county commissioners declared Tuesday that the "pandemic is over" and dropped all public health restrictions.

This story was updated to include new information about where counties stood on the level of dial restrictions.

Not a valid email format.
Not a valid email format.
Server error. Please try a different email.
Not a valid email format.
Not a valid email format.
Server error. Please try a different email.
Not a valid email format.
Not a valid email format.
Server error. Please try a different email.
Not a valid email format.
Not a valid email format.
Server error. Please try a different email.
Not a valid email format.
Not a valid email format.
Server error. Please try a different email.

Go deeper

John Frank, author of Denver
Apr 14, 2021 - Axios Denver

Colorado charges forward on new rail line through Denver

The proposed map for an expanded rail service by Amtrak. Photo: Amtrak.

The sepia-toned images of a rail expansion to the West, along with its promise of commerce and population growth, is suddenly a modern vision in Colorado.

Driving the news: First, Amtrak released a proposed map that shows a new regional rail line along the Front Range, running 300 miles from Cheyenne south through Denver to Pueblo. Then state lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill to provide funding and guide planning.

  • U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper expressed his support, and so has Gov. Jared Polis, both Democrats.
  • "We feel like it's realistic and the timing is essential right now," Senate President Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) told John.

The renewed attention on an old idea comes on the heels of President Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which includes $80 million to expand Amtrak's network.

  • The state-level legislation would create a Front Range Passenger Rail District that could seek approval for a special sales tax up to 0.8 percentage points to generate money for the new rail line.

"We really think that this corridor is ready — it’s long past ready," Amtrak President Stephen Gardner told state officials Monday, the Denver Post reported.

Reality check: Biden's infrastructure plan is not a done deal and neither is a state-level tax hike, given the failure of recent ones on the Colorado ballot.

  • The project is also expected to take a decade or longer to finish.
  • "This isn’t something that happens overnight," said Sal Pace, a former state lawmaker and Pueblo County commissioner who is working on the initiative, according to The Colorado Sun.

The intrigue: The price tag is estimated as high as $14 billion, but state officials suggest a patchwork of current tracks could make it possible faster and with costs closer to $2 billion, the Post reported.

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

Apr 14, 2021 - Axios Denver

Mental health poised to be Colorado's next pandemic priority

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The pandemic left no life unscathed, and the universal experience of enduring a tumultuous year has made health and wellness a pressing priority for people from all walks of life.

  • "There’s a new dynamic. … It’s almost like it’s OK to get help," Dr. Carl Clark, president and CEO of the Mental Health Center of Denver, tells Axios.
Apr 14, 2021 - Health

J&J vaccine pause will have minimal impact on local vaccine rollout

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The pause on administering Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine isn’t expected to have a huge impact on vaccine rollout across local communities.

Why it matters: Like the country writ large, most localities have vaccinated the vast majority of their citizens with the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna shots, which have more than enough supply to fill the gaps caused by the J&J pause.