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Gov. Jared Polis today announced Protect Our Neighbors, a framework that will empower local governments that can demonstrate strong public health and health care systems, paired with low virus levels, to make decisions about how they should reopen.

The governor also announced additional draft guidelines under Safer at Home and discussed the state’s efforts to prepare for a potential second wave of the virus. 

“This is a marathon, not a sprint, and we have to find a way to sustainably live with this virus in our communities until there is a cure or vaccine. If we can continue to wear masks, stay 6-feet away from others and empower our local public health agencies to meet the needs of their communities, then we can rely on these tools to flatten the potential second wave and reduce future outbreaks,” Polis said. “Strong local public health and health care systems will be critical to successfully reopening our economy. If the key message in April was that we need to flatten the curve, the message now is that we need to take personal responsibility by wearing a mask when leaving the house and social distancing.”

 Gov. Polis also gave a preview of what next steps will look like for Colorado during the COVID-19 pandemic. Protect Our Neighbors will give Colorado communities a path to further reopen.

Communities that can demonstrate strong public health and health care systems, as well as low virus levels, can take on more control over their reopening plans.

Different parts of the state could be at different phases of reopening, based on local conditions and capabilities. 

Underlying virus levels, public health capacity, and health care capacity to respond to cases and outbreaks will determine whether a community will be under Stay at Home, Safer at Home, or Protect Our Neighbors.

The additional flexibility is important because if a local public health agency can scale its ability to do things like site closures, testing, case investigation, and contact tracing now, they can become a first line of defense, instead of having to control the virus through statewide measures.

This framework will launch at the end of June. 

In order to enter Protect Our Neighbors, communities must qualify by meeting scientifically established thresholds to:

• Lower disease transmission levels, 

• Treat patients and handle the surge in need for intensive hospital care, and,

• Conduct testing and effective case investigation, contact tracing, and outbreak response. 

Communities in Protect Our Neighbors will have strong underlying public health and health care capacity that can respond to larger outbreaks, relative to population.

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