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Public Health Stay at Home Order

Public Health Stay at Home Order for COVID-19

PLEASE NOTE: We are reviewing the Colorado Stay-At-Home Order and will provide further guidance when our review is complete.

On March 25, 2020, Boulder County Public Health (in coordination with public health departments for Adams, Arapaho, Douglas, and Jefferson Counties) instituted Stay at Home Order, effective March 26 at 8 a.m. The order requires all individuals anywhere in Boulder County to stay at home (also known as shelter in place) except for certain defined essential activities, work, and services. The order is in place until April 17, 2020, although it’s possible it may be extended.

Boulder County Stay at Home Order

Intent of the Order

The Order is issued based on evidence of increasing occurrence of COVID-19 within Boulder County, scientific evidence and best practices about the most effective approaches to slow the transmission of communicable diseases generally and COVID-19 specifically, and evidence that the age, condition, and health of a significant portion of the population of Boulder County places it at risk for serious health complications, including death, from COVID-19.

Because even people without symptoms may transmit the disease, and because evidence shows the disease is easily spread, gatherings can result in transmission of the virus. The scientific evidence shows that at this stage of the emergency, it is essential to slow virus transmission as much as possible; one proven way is to limit interactions among people as much as possible practicable.

Learn How the Order Will Impact You

Please read the details below closely and use your best judgement to determine if the guidance applies to your situation, keeping in mind that the purpose of the order is to significantly reduce people’s contact with others.

Purpose of the Stay at Home Order

The intent of this order is to ensure that the maximum number of people isolate themselves in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 to the greatest extent possible, while at the same time enabling essential services, businesses and travel to continue.

When people do need to leave their places of residence, they should always comply with social distancing requirements. These are:

  • Most importantly: maintaining at least six feet between individuals
  • Frequently washing hands with soap and water for at least twenty seconds, or using hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available
  • Covering coughs or sneezes
  • Regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces
  • Not shaking hands

Order Overview


Everyone living in Boulder County, including cities and towns within the county, are ordered to stay at their place of residence.

  • Residences include hotels, motels, shared rental units, and similar facilities.
  • When outside the residence and using any shared or outdoor spaces, you must maintain a social distance of at least six feet from others.
  • People may only leave their residences for Essential Activities, Essential Governmental Functions, or to operate Essential Businesses, as defined below.
  • Individuals experiencing homelessness are exempt, but are strongly urged to obtain shelter.


All businesses with a facility in Boulder County, except those defined as Essential Businesses, are required to cease all activities at facilities located within the county, except any Minimum Basic Operations, as defined below.

  • Businesses may continue operations where their employees, contractors and volunteers work remotely or from home.
  • All Essential Businesses are asked to remain open. Essential Businesses must comply with Social Distancing Requirements of maintaining a six-foot distance from others, including employees and members of the public, (e.g. customers standing in line).
  • Essential Businesses are encouraged to consider delivery, drive-thru, and pick up options to minimize exposure between individuals.


All public or private gatherings of any number of people are prohibited, other than gatherings of a single household or living unit.


All travel, except Essential Travel and travel that is a part of Essential Activities is prohibited.

Documentation Is Not Needed for Essential Travel

Proof of essential travel is not required to engage in such travel. However, individuals should be prepared to explain and support the permissibility of their travel in case they are questioned by Boulder County Public Health or law enforcement.

Essential Businesses

For the purposes of this Order, covered businesses include any for-profit, non-profit, or educational entities, regardless of the nature of the service, the function they perform, or its corporate or entity structure.

  1. Healthcare Operations and Essential Infrastructure, and Essential Governmental Functions
  2. Grocery stores, farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, food banks, convenience stores, licensed liquor stores, licensed marijuana dispensaries (both medical and recreational), and other establishments engaged in the retail sale of canned food, dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supply, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, and any other household consumer products (such as cleaning and personal care products). This includes stores that sell groceries and also sell other non-grocery products, and products necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences.
  3. Food and plant cultivation, including farming, livestock, and fishing
  4. Businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals
  5. Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services
  6. Gas stations and auto supply, auto repair, and related facilities, bicycle supply, bicycle repair
  7. Banks and other financial institutions
  8. Hardware stores
  9. Licensed gun and ammunition retailers
  10. Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers, landscapers, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, Healthcare Operations, Essential Infrastructure, Essential Government Functions, and Essential Businesses
  11. Businesses providing mailing and shipping services, including post office boxes
  12. Educational institutions for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing essential functions, provided social distancing is maintained
  13. Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers
  14. Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, only for delivery, take out or drive thru.
    • Schools and other entities that typically provide free food services to students or members of the public may continue to do so if the food is provided on a pick-up and take-away basis only
    • Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food or beverages at airports may provide on-site dining, but must comply with Social Distancing Requirements
  15. Businesses that supply products needed for people to work and learn from home, including technology suppliers providing hardware or software essential for communication or connectedness
  16. Businesses that supply other essential businesses with the support or supplies necessary to operate
  17. Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to residences
  18. Airlines, taxis, other private transportation providers, and transportation support providing transportation services necessary for Essential Activities and other purposes expressly authorized in this Order
  19. Home-based care for seniors, adults, or children. Nanny and babysitting services are not be permitted unless the nanny or babysitter resides in the home of the person they provide care for, provides medical care, or is providing care to allow parents or guardians to work
  20. Residential facilities and shelters for seniors, adults, and children, including hotels, motels, and short-term rentals
  21. Professional services, such as legal, insurance, title companies, accounting services, or real estate appraisals and transactions
  22. Indoor/outdoor malls that must remain open to allow operation of and access to Essential Businesses
  23. Faith-based establishments and houses of worship, including but not limited to, churches, synagogues, chapels, and mosques. However, these institutions are allowed no more than 10 persons at a time and must maintain the Social Distancing requirements
  24. Childcare facilities that provide services that enable employees exempted in this Order to work as permitted. To the extent possible, childcare facilities must operate under the following mandatory conditions:
    • Childcare must be carried out in stable groups of 10 or fewer
    • Children shall not change from one group to another
    • If more than one group of children is cared for at one facility, each group shall be in a separate room. Groups shall not mix with each other.
    • Childcare providers shall remain solely with one group of children.
  25. Businesses identified as essential critical infrastructure workforce by the federal government and/or the department of homeland security
  26. Mortuaries

Retail stores that are considered Essential Businesses should:

  1. Take all available practical measures to establish and post separate hours of operation for vulnerable populations
  2. Sell only essential products (i.e. food, pharmaceutical and health care products, cleaning products, personal care products)
  3. Make products to disinfect shopping carts (i.e. disinfectant wipes) easily available
  4. Disinfect high-touch surfaces like door handles, electronic payment readers, and check-out counters hourly

Essential Activities

Individuals may leave their residence only to perform any of the following Essential Activities. Anyone at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and people who are sick are urged to stay in their residence except as necessary to seek medical care. Essential Activities include:

  1. Activities essential to health and safety of the family or household members (including, but not limited to, pets), including getting medical supplies or medication, visiting a health care professional, or obtaining supplies needed to work from home.
  2. Obtaining necessary services or supplies for yourself and household members, or to deliver those services or supplies to others. This includes food, pet supplies, and products necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of a residence.
  3. Engaging in outdoor activity individually or in in groups of no more than four, as long as Social Distancing Requirements are adhered to, including walking, hiking, biking, or running. Boulder County parks will remain open to the public but all playgrounds, golf courses, tennis courts, basketball courts, picnic areas, and other similar areas conducive to public gathering shall be closed. Any outdoor activities that violate the Social Distancing Requirements are not permitted.
  4. Performing work providing essential products and services at the site of an Essential Business.
  5. To care for a family member or pet in another household.
  6. To relocate a household from one residence to another.

Essential Travel

Essential Travel includes travel for any of the following purposes. Individuals must comply with all Social Distancing Requirements. Essential travel includes:

  1. Any travel related to the provision of or access to Essential Activities, Essential Governmental Functions, Essential Businesses, or Minimum Basic Operations
  2. Travel to care for older adults, minors, dependents, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons
  3. Travel to or from educational institutions for purposes of receiving materials for distance learning, for receiving meals, and any other related services
  4. Travel to return to a place of residence from outside the jurisdiction
  5. Travel required by law enforcement or court order
  6. Travel required for non-residents to return to their place of residence outside Boulder County
  7. Travel necessary for child custody or visitation purposes is permitted as Essential Travel. Where a court order is in place, the travel is permitted as required by court order. Where a court order does not exist, such travel may be characterized as travel to care for minors.

Healthcare Operations

This exemption shall be construed broadly to avoid any impacts to the delivery of healthcare. Individuals may leave their residence to work for or obtain services from:

  1. Hospitals, clinics, and walk-in health facilities
  2. Medical and dental care, including dentists and ambulatory providers
  3. Research and laboratory services
  4. Medical wholesale and distribution
  5. Home health care companies, workers, and aides
  6. Pharmacies
  7. Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies
  8. Behavioral health care providers
  9. Nursing homes, residential health care, or congregate care facilities
  10. Medical supplies and equipment manufacturers and providers, or any related and/or ancillary healthcare services
  11. Veterinary care, livestock services, and all healthcare services provided to animals
  12. Animal shelters and pet boarding services

“Healthcare Operations” does not include health clubs, fitness and exercise gyms, and similar facilities.

Essential Infrastructure

Individuals may leave their residence to provide any services or perform any work necessary to the operations and maintenance of Essential Infrastructure, including:

  1. Utilities, including power generation, fuel supply, and transmission
  2. Water, sewer, gas, and electrical services
  3. Public works construction
  4. Construction operations and projects, including commercial and residential construction, renovation or restoration construction services.
  5. Construction necessary to support or maintain the operation of any Essential Business operations or Essential Government Functions
  6. Skilled trades such as electricians and plumbers
  7. Other related firms and professionals who provide services necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences
  8. Airport operations, including passenger and cargo operations and services
  9. Oil refining, oil and gas operations
  10. Roads and highways
  11. Public transportation
  12. Solid waste collection and removal, including recycling and composting
  13. Internet, cable, and telecommunications systems
  14. Aerospace operations

Essential Governmental Functions

Individuals may leave their residence to provide operate, and support Essential Governmental Functions, including:

  1. Public safety personnel
  2. Law enforcement
  3. Human Services
  4. Fire prevention and response
  5. Building code enforcement
  6. Security personnel
  7. Emergency management and response
  8. Emergency dispatchers
  9. Court personnel
  10. Military personnel
  11. Colorado State Legislature
  12. Colorado state, county, and municipal courts
  13. City Councils and Boards of County Commissioners
  14. City and County Attorneys Office, District Attorneys Office
  15. Other governmental councils, boards, commissions, and quasi-judicial proceedings
  16. Public health personnel including state and local public health agencies, Boards of Health, and its contractors and legal counsel

All Essential Governmental Functions must be performed in compliance with Social Distancing Requirements

Minimum Basic Operations

Minimum Basic Operations include the following activities as long as employees and volunteers comply with Social Distancing Requirements while carrying out operations. Minimum basic operations is defined as the minimum necessary activities to:

  1. Maintain the value of the business’s inventory, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits, or for related functions
  2. Facilitate employees and volunteers of the business being able to continue to work remotely from their residences
  3. Facilitate employees and volunteers of the business being able to continue filling online product orders and to process customer orders remotely

Boulder County Public Health does not have an “enforcement arm” and relies on local law enforcement agencies to provide education and, if needed, institute a criminal process for individuals or businesses violating a public health order.

We sincerely hope that circumstances never arise such that we must request law enforcement assistance to enforce a civil restraining order but, we would make such a request where a violation poses a threat to public health that necessitates immediate action to end the violation.

In addition to civil remedies, Colorado public health laws also designate willful violations of public health orders as class 1 misdemeanors punishable by a fine up to $5,000, 18 months in prison, or both. C.R.S. § 25-1-516; C.R.S. § 18-1.3-501. It is our hope to only request law enforcement assistance with criminal enforcement of public health orders where education and the civil court process have proven unsuccessful in stopping the violation.

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Boulder County Public Health

Main: 303-441-1100
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