With Coloradans enjoying the great outdoors this summer, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released new guidance for personal and outdoor recreation as well as updated guidance for houses of worship Thursday. Colorado Governor Jared Polis also launched a campaign encouraging Coloradans to wear masks.

Polis signed an executive order that gave business employers and operators authority to refuse service to customers who fail to wear a mask or face covering as the state health department released finalized guidance for places of worship, outdoor recreation and personal recreation. The order went into effect immediately.

Contained in Polis’ public service announcement “Our Masks are Our Passport to the Colorado We Love,” he encourages Coloradans to wear masks as much as possible outside the home. Watch the governor's PSA.

“The modeling shows that if we want to avoid a catastrophic breach of our healthcare system, and if we want to re-open our economy to a greater degree, then masks are absolutely essential,” he said. “Here in our great state, your mask is your passport to the Colorado we love, and will play an important part in keeping yourself and those around you safe.”

The CDPHE’s guidance documents parallel drafted information released to stakeholders earlier this week. The new documents are another step toward restoring Coloradans’ recreational functions after COVID-19 prompted the state to close public places to slow the spread of the virus.

Recreation guidance

The guidance outlines steps required to allow personal and outdoor recreation activities to resume while keeping in mind that the virus is still out there and can spread. Within the guidance, the CDPHE addresses recreational activities at parks, pools, fitness facilities and organized recreational sports as well as outdoor recreation like rafting, fishing and horseback riding.

The CDPHE guidelines state personal recreation can occur in groups of 10 or less with participants maintaining at least 6 feet of distance, wearing face coverings as feasible and observing appropriate disinfection and hygiene practices. When engaging in outdoor recreation, CDPHE encourages the public to bring hand sanitizer to clean their hands when soap and water is unavailable.

Under the new CDPHE guidance, activities that can be done in groups of 10 people or less while maintaining proper social distancing and taking hygiene precautions can take place, unless such activities are prohibited in the public health order.

For gyms, rec centers and indoor recreational facilities, owners can operate at up to 25% capacity or 50 people per room as long as everyone maintains 6 feet of separation. That language was updated from the draft documents, which stated people recreating would be allowable in groups of 10 people within a room.

Outdoor swimming pools can reopen up to 50% capacity or 50 people under the new guidelines.

Houses of Worship guidance

Guidance for houses of worship were also updated and expanded, viewable at https://bit.ly/378wUGP. According to the “Safer at Home: Places of Worship information, the CDPHE said, “The safest option to protect the most people and prevent the spread of the virus is to offer services online during this phase of the pandemic.”

People who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, including people 65 years and older and people with underlying health conditions, are encouraged to continue using online options for worship.

For houses of worship and settings where life-rites occur, including funeral homes or venues for wedding ceremonies, the CDPHE set capacities for in-person services. For indoor services, the maximum capacity is 50% or up to 50 people per room, whichever is fewer. Outdoors, people from different households must be spaced at least 6 feet apart with the capacity determined by local capacity levels.

To maintain proper social distancing at both indoor and outdoor services, people entering and exiting the building should remain 6 feet from other parties, classified as members who live together in a household. Within the worship hall, seating should be arranged to abide by the 6-foot guidelines in every direction.

As churches implement practices to follow these guidelines, CDPHE encourages faith communities to add additional services to accommodate for the physical distancing and capacity limitations. Churches are also asked to consider holding shorter services to limit the exposure time.

Use of other rooms in the facility is permitted so long as guidelines can be met and the room has four walls and a door.

Restroom use must also be limited to ensure physical distancing is maintained, which may require churches to limit restroom use to one person at a time or to block off every other stall.

While attending service, CDPHE strongly encourages staff and congregants to wear face masks. Children ages 2 and under, people who have trouble breathing and are unable to remove a mask with assistance should not wear a mask. Read guidance for wearing masks or face coverings.

Churches are encouraged to develop a pre-registration system, social media platform or private messaging to equally distribute the number of worshippers at the services and to allow for 10% capacity for walk-ups.

COVID-19 symptom screenings must be completed on all employees and volunteers upon arrival. Anyone with a temperature over 100.4 degrees or displaying symptoms should go home to prevent the potential for community spread.

The new guidance documents are a resource for the public to review as the documents provide clear instructions for how businesses and people can comply with public health orders. Public health orders are requirements Coloradans must follow.

Stay up-to-date on COVID-19 guidance.

Lauren Brant is a staff writer and digital content coordinator for the Montrose Daily Press.

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