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How Colorado will reopen businesses

Best practices and guidelines for companies to follow when Coloradans return to work

Doug Friednash //April 24, 2020//

How Colorado will reopen businesses

Best practices and guidelines for companies to follow when Coloradans return to work

Doug Friednash //April 24, 2020//

Colorado has officially moved from phase one (stay at home) of our COVID-19 Response to phase two (safer at home). Thomas Pueyo, in a series of popular blog posts on Medium, explained this transition as the “Hammer” and the “Dance.”

During the first phase (or the Hammer), Gov. Polis acted aggressively to control the outbreak and save lives by enacting extreme social distancing, closing all non-essential businesses and ordering people to stay at home.

Phase two (or the Dance) is a period of discovery and is a long-term effort to keep the virus contained until there is a vaccine, or until we’ve achieved herd immunity. In this phase, some regions will likely see outbreaks again, while others may not for longer periods of time. Guided by constant scientific monitoring and projections, Gov. Polis and mayors may choose to tighten up physical distancing measures or release them. According to Pueyo, each of us is responsible for the Dance and it must be well choreographed as it will require stepping out to the dance floor slowly and meticulously and sometimes needing to step off.

In this phase of Colorado’s Safety Dance, the following businesses will be reopened:

  • Offices with up to 50% of staff,
  • Elective and medical services and dental,
  • Childcare services,
  • Personal services (e.g., salons, dog grooming, personal training, etc.),
  • Critical businesses, and
  • Retail open for curbside delivery and phased-in public openings.

Restaurants and bars would still stay closed except for takeout and delivery. However, Gov. Polis has said that he would like to see them open around May 15 and is exploring a phased-in approach with reduced capacity. More prescriptive guidelines will be coming soon, but Coloradans should keep in mind several key factors. First, in this phase of our Dance, vulnerable populations need to stay home and off the dance floor except when absolutely necessary.

Businesses should plan to take strict precautions to protect employees and customers. Initially, when regulatory restrictions are eased, plan to accommodate physical distancing. Set limits on the number of people inside of your business at any given time; spread employees’ shifts out over longer periods of time, allowing fewer and shorter interactions; eliminate co-working spaces and settings that encourage longer periods of close interactions; and encourage or require employees who can work from home to continue working from home. Just because you can send employees back to work doesn’t mean you should.

In addition, businesses need to issue and require employees use appropriate personal protective equipment. They should also implement protocols that include pre-screening employees’ temperatures and assessing symptoms before they enter the work facility if regulatory guidance permits that. This will be particularly important for large workplaces. Once employees are at work, best practices include:

  • Regularly monitoring employees’ health for potential symptoms in compliance with applicable laws and requiring that employees stay home if they are sick.
  • Regularly cleaning and sanitizing the office.
  • Providing a place to wash hands or providing alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Consulting with legal counsel and ensuring that protecting the health of your workforce and returning them to work does not break any employment laws.

This list is not intended to be exhaustive and you should follow the guidance and health orders that the state will administer. Please note that these orders will be updated regularly so that you will need to continually ensure that you comply with these restrictions.

There are many considerations to think about. For example, all of the same EEO and OSHA considerations that normally inform personnel management decisions will be important to factor in as you gradually bring back your workforce, so be mindful of possible adverse impacts that your plan may have on certain protected classes of workers, particularly with refusals to work due to safety concerns.

Gov. Polis has previously opined that Colorado’s phase two could last “two months, three months, 10 months—however long it is until there’s a cure or a vaccine.” The third phase, the “After-Dance Party,” will only be possible through a vaccine, cure or when a significant portion of the population has been infected. All restrictions would lift under this phase and individuals could resume their normal way of life as health officials monitor for outbreaks.


Doug Friednash is a shareholder and Rick Palacio is a strategic consulting advisor for Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.