Denver officials said Friday they will implement a 10 p.m. curfew beginning Sunday for residents and nonexempt businesses in a last-ditch effort to curb rising COVID-19 cases and avoid another citywide stay-at-home order.
The move, called a “Home by 10 Order,” will last 30 days and will look a little different than a traditional curfew, said Mike Strott, spokesman for Mayor Michael Hancock. The largest difference is that the order comes from the city’s Department of Public Health and Environment rather than Hancock’s office.
It’s an attempt to salve the open wounds left by the George Floyd protests this summer and ease the tensions between Denver’s law enforcement and residents who have been protesting again lately, Strott said. The city imposed a nightly curfew for nearly a week during the first burst of protests in late May and June.
“You’re not going to see cops out there by the protests saying, ‘A curfew’s in effect, go home,’” Strott said. “We’re not going to try and break it up, but they’re still going to have to abide by mask and social distancing requirements.”
Rather, public health officials will handle enforcement, Strott said. And while there will be some proactive enforcement activity, much of the effort will be complaint-driven.
Those found in violation of the order can face a fine up to $999 or up to 300 days in jail, Strott said.
The order will be temporarily lifted on Thanksgiving day, Strott said. And some businesses — like hospitals, grocery stores and pharmacies — are exempt from closing by 10 p.m. Others, like restaurants and retail businesses, however, must be closed by then.
Hancock and Public Health Director Bob McDonald will offer additional information on the order during a news conference at 11:30 a.m. Friday.
The Home by 10 Order is essentially the last major step city officials can take before leaning on yet another stay-at-home order, which many fear would devastate the languishing local economy, Strott said. State health officials could also possibly impose such an order on Denver, should the spread of the virus worsen further.
“Our cases are spiking dramatically, our positivity rate is spiking dramatically, hospitalizations are especially going up,” Strott said. “We want to avoid… what happened with what we saw in New York City and northern Italy.”
The spike is primarily driven by people between the ages of 18 and 35, Strott said. And the order will hopefully curb larger gatherings and encourage people to wear masks.
Should the virus continue to spread at such a fast rate, Colorado’s hospitals could exceed their intensive care unit capacities by late December or sooner, if people ignore public health orders and recommendations and gather over the holidays, experts said.
Pueblo similarly imposed a 10 p.m. curfew in late October that was to last for two weeks.
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