A guide to safe spring outings in Colorado during the pandemic

Seizing better weather with friends, family while minding virus

Ellis Arnold
Posted 3/23/21

One year after Colorado’s governor announced a stay-at-home order and drastically changed life throughout the state, the coronavirus still dictates the way Coloradans approach having fun and …

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A guide to safe spring outings in Colorado during the pandemic

Seizing better weather with friends, family while minding virus


One year after Colorado’s governor announced a stay-at-home order and drastically changed life throughout the state, the coronavirus still dictates the way Coloradans approach having fun and spending time with loved ones.

But as COVID-19 restrictions continue to loosen in parts of the Denver metro area and beyond — and as more Coloradans line up for vaccine shots — the natural question residents may ask is: What’s still off limits? What can be done safely?

One year after a spring unlike any other, many Coloradans may be raring to turn the page and make new memories. Here’s a look at how to take part in common spring pastimes with an eye toward keeping yourself and those near you safe.

Road trips

Colorado’s vast expanse and varied scenery lend themselves to few things better than taking road trips.

In the pandemic’s early stages in Colorado, state officials recommended that travel for recreation be limited to a person’s own community, such as their county of residence, or traveling no more than about 10 miles.

The state public-health department isn’t urging that guidance now, but it advises being mindful of the restrictions in different areas.

“We know Coloradans love the outdoors, and we encourage them to enjoy what the state has to offer,” the Colorado State Joint Information Center, which takes questions for the health department, said in a statement. “Coloradans should check with the restrictions in the counties they are visiting to ensure they are in compliance during their stay.”

Checking the county government’s website for the area you’re visiting can be a quick, informative step. The state also maintains a map showing each county’s COVID-19 restriction status, along with a chart of what each status means.

Traveling in cars with non-household members can increase your risk of contracting COVID-19, a page on the state’s COVID-19 page from June says.

Yard, house parties

Colorado’s guidance on backyard or indoor parties differs based on whether people have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“For those who have completed their vaccination, the (federal) CDC has provided guidance on what activities are acceptable,” the state information center said in the statement. “Individuals who are not vaccinated should limit gatherings, follow local recommendations, wear masks and physically distance.”

The federal guidance is located here.

A less-talked-about aspect of Colorado’s COVID-19 restrictions lately was the limit on personal gatherings.

The state’s COVID-19 dial is the set of restrictions counties must follow based on the local spread of the virus. The system also affects capacity at restaurants, other businesses, indoor and outdoor events, and other settings.

Among the dial’s six levels, blue is the second-least restrictive. Purple, the most restrictive level, is a stay-at-home order.

Nearly the whole state was operating under the blue or yellow levels as of mid-March. Some Denver-area counties had progressed to blue by then, but others were still in yellow.

But the personal gatherings restriction had been the same across blue, yellow and orange — the middle levels. The state had allowed up to 10 people from no more than two households, although it’s the type of regulation where officials generally must rely on voluntary compliance.

On March 19, Colorado released a draft of the latest revisions to the COVID-19 dial, which included changes that would do away with the limit on personal gatherings. The proposed update — dubbed “dial 3.0” — was to take effect on March 24.

“There is no longer a state limit on personal gathering sizes,” the state public-health department said in a news release announcing the update. “The state will follow (federal) CDC’s guidance on personal gatherings. The CDC still strongly recommends avoiding larger gatherings and crowds to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”


The end of the school year means prom, a topic that comes with added anticipation after a spring of online-only schooling last year.

Colorado’s public-health department offers painstakingly detailed guidance for prom, saying the rite should follow the state’s indoor and outdoor events restrictions.

For counties in level yellow, for indoor unseated events, the COVID-19 dial restrictions allow 50% capacity or 50 people without using the state’s social distancing space calculator (or up to 100 with the calculator), whichever is fewer. See the calculator here.

For outdoor unseated events in yellow counties, the dial allows 50% capacity or 175 people, whichever is fewer.

See restrictions for other settings and other levels at covid19.colorado.gov/data/covid-19-dial-dashboard. A public health order formally outlines how the dial system works. See that here.

“All in-person events are required to follow capacity limits guidance for indoor and outdoor events; however, we highly recommend that schools consider hosting these events outdoors when possible,” the state’s prom guidance document says.

The prom-specific guidance adds: “Consider two or more timed events to allow greater spacing while still allowing full participation.”

It also suggests assigning students to groups, or “pods,” of no more than 10.

“While at prom, attendees are allowed to be less than 6 feet from members within their designated pod but must remain at least 6 feet away from separate pods,” the guidance says.

Asked whether the prom guidance carries the force of a public health order, the state information center said: “Schools organizing proms must follow indoor and outdoor event guidance, as well as restaurant guidance if food is served, and those parameters are outlined in public health orders. Other portions of the guidance are not outlined in a public health order but are highly recommended.”

See the prom document here.

Air travel, public transit

Colorado listed airline travel as having “medium to higher” risk in a page of guidance online from June.

“Check airlines and airports for their policies and procedures about COVID-19,” the state’s page reads. “Check restrictions in the place you are traveling to.”

The page also suggests bringing hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes and says to “consider what you would do if you became ill while you are away.”

“The risk may increase as more people become comfortable traveling,” the page adds.

The site also recommends checking policies about canceling due to crowded flights where social distancing is not possible.

Visit the CDC’s travel website for more information here.

“Public transit can put you in close contact with others and increase your risk,” the state’s page says.


In settings for swimming, “it’s not the water; it’s the other people” that bring the risk, the state’s page says.

“It may be hard to maintain distance in common areas; it may be challenging for other swimmers to wear masks even when out of the water,” the page adds.

The page suggests strategizing ways to avoid common areas and maintain distance, along with wearing a face mask when possible and bringing an extra mask in case one gets wet.


The section for camping says, of course, that COVID-19 risk is lowest if you camp with your household contacts.

“Plan well to avoid unanticipated stops and interactions,” the page says. “Respect the community and follow local guidelines and restrictions.”

Colorado, spring, prom, road trip, travel, restrictions, COVID-19, Ellis Arnold


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