Coronavirus

COVID-19: The Differences Between Level Red and Level Purple

On November 17, Governor Jared Polis announced that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment had instituted a change in its dial dashboard related to the spread of COVID-19 in Colorado counties, adding Level Purple (Extreme) beyond Level Red (Severe). Where Red would have previously triggered a stay-at-home order, it's now an intermediate step toward Purple, which authorities would enact only if hospital capacity in a county was exceeded, Polis revealed.

This muddled explanation created more heat than light even after the department announced that fifteen counties, including Denver, would move to Level Red on Friday, November 20.

What are the distinctions between Red and Purple? And which rules become stricter when shifting from one to the other? The answers provided by the CDPHE vary widely.

In some cases, the restrictions for Level Red and Level Purple counties are identical, while they differ modestly in other categories. Level Red now includes encouragement for schools to remain open for in-person instruction, with particular emphasis on kids up to fifth grade congregating together in classrooms despite 112 active outbreaks at K-12 facilities and multiple districts forced to go remote because of staff shortages and more. In addition, non-critical retailers that would have been forced to shut their doors under the old Red regulations are allowed to operate at up to 50 percent capacity...until Purple reigns.


To help clear up the confusion, we've broken down the differences between Red and Purple by comparing new CDPHE edicts in 24 categories: gatherings, events, office work, non-critical manufacturing, church services, gyms, personal services such as salons, and more.

As of November 20, Red will rule in Denver. Here's what to expect at that level, and what happens under Purple:

High Risk Populations
Red: Eligible for worker benefits and mandatory prioritization for remote work
Purple: Eligible for worker benefits and mandatory prioritization for remote work

Variances
Red: Not eligible — current variances re-evaluated
Purple: Not eligible — current variances revoked unless specifically allowed

Personal Gathering Size
Red: None
Purple: None

Child Care
Red: Open
Purple: Open

P-12 Schools
Red: P-5 in-person suggested, or hybrid or remote as appropriate; middle school in-person, hybrid or remote suggested; high school hybrid or remote suggested
Purple: In-person, hybrid or remote as appropriate

Higher Education
Red: Remote suggested, limited in-person when necessary
Purple: Remote suggested, limited in-person when necessary

Places of Worship and Life Rites — Indoor Unseated Functions
Red: 25 percent capacity, fifty-person cap (with calculator)
Purple: Remote, virtual service or outdoor are strongly encouraged; indoors up to ten

Places of Worship and Life Rites — Indoor Seated Functions
Red: 25 percent capacity, fifty-person cap
Purple: Remote, virtual service or outdoor are strongly encouraged; indoors up to ten

Places of Worship and Life Rites — Outdoors
Red: Six feet between parties outdoors, per local zoning
Purple: Six feet between parties outdoors, per local zoning

Restaurants
Red: Indoor dining closed. Takeout, curbside, delivery or to-go, outdoor/open-air dining allowed with only same-household groups
Purple: Indoor and outdoor dining closed. Takeout, delivery or to-go is open

Last Call
Red: 8 p.m. (on premises)
Purple: No on-premises service

Non-critical manufacturing
Red: 25 percent or 50
Purple: 10 percent or 25

Offices
Red: 10 percent, remote work is strongly encouraged
Purple: Remote work or closed

Bars
Red: Closed
Purple: Closed

Gyms/Fitness
Red: 10 percent, ten indoors per room, or outdoors in groups less than ten. Reservations required.
Purple: Virtual or outdoors in groups less than ten

Group Sports or Camps
Red: Virtual or outdoors in groups less than ten
Purple: Virtual or outdoors in groups less than ten

Critical and Non-critical Retail
Red: 50 percent with increased curbside pick-up and delivery. Dedicated senior and at-risk hours encouraged.
Purple: Curbside pick-up and delivery

Personal Services
Red: 25 percent or 25
Purple: Closed

Limited Health Care Settings
Red: 25 percent or 25
Purple: 10 percent or 25

Indoor Unseated Events
Red: Closed
Purple: Closed

Indoor Seated Events and Entertainment
Red: Closed
Purple: Closed

Outdoor Unseated Events and Entertainment
Red: 25 percent, 75 people (with calculator), attended only with members of your own household and six-foot spacing between groups
Purple: Closed

Outdoor Seated Events and Entertainment
Red: 25 percent, 75 people (with calculator), attended only with members of your own household and six-foot spacing between groups
Purple: Closed

Outdoor Guided Services and Entertainment
Red: 25 percent or ten
Purple: 25 percent, up to ten only in your own household
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts