Apr 12, 2021 - News
Colorado governor eases COVID restrictions as state hits "fourth wave"
Data: CSSE Johns Hopkins University; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Colorado moves to a new phase in its battle against the coronavirus this week, as the Polis administration retires its statewide dial restrictions and punts the responsibility of setting public health limitations to counties.

Why it matters: The new approach, effective Friday, will lead to lesser restrictions in much of the state and create a patchwork of rules about masks, social distancing and capacity limits.

  • Colorado removed its statewide mask requirement in March and Gov. Jared Polis is touting the state is open for business.
  • Public health officials say the different rules will lead to confusion and make efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 more difficult.

State of play: Polis sent mixed messages Friday, saying he would move ahead with the plan to eliminate state mandates even though he called "this is a time of great concern."

  • Colorado public health officials say the state entered its "fourth wave" with a rise of coronavirus infections.
  • The state reported more than 450 people were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 — the highest total since Feb. 18.
  • More than 50% of the cases in Colorado are now linked to variants that are more contagious and lead to more severe illness.

What they're saying: The Democratic governor said he had "full faith" in local officials to continue the restrictions necessary to snuff the pandemic.

  • Reality check: A recent survey suggested the state's public health agency was a more trusted than local officials, while another found them about even.

What's next: The removal of most state restrictions has counties navigating different paths forward.

  • Denver extended its mask mandate into May and suggested it would continue strict public health protocols to keep the virus at bay.
  • Vail will lift its mask requirements April 19, even as other two other resort counties — Pitkin and Summit — experience outbreaks.

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.

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