By Sady Swanson/USA TODAY Network
As new coronavirus cases in Colorado appear to plateau, the next few days will be critical in determining if current social distancing is doing enough to begin relaxing restrictions.
But even if models show social distancing is working, "normal life" for Coloradans will still look different for a long time — months, even — Gov. Jared Polis said.
"As we reopen our state, things are going to work different than they did before," Polis told reporters Wednesday as he laid out the basics of a plan to contain the spread of the coronavirus while slowly reopening the economy.
The state is currently in the urgent response phase, where officials are working to build up heath care capacity and everyone is asked to limit in-person interactions as much as possible, Polis said.
If new cases in the state — which Polis says are currently plateauing — begin to go down, the state can move into a stabilization phase, where Polis said we learn to live with the virus in a way that is sustainable for our economy and society.
"We want to dispel any notion that we can go back to the way things were before," Polis said.
As Colorado continues to adjust to life with the virus, Polis said the goal will be increased testing and containment of people who test positive, rather than quarantining the entire state. Health officials will continue to monitor the virus during the stabilization phase, and restrictions may be reinstated if cases start rising again, Polis said.
Restrictions won't be lifted like the flick of a light switch, Polis said, but will be more gradual, like a light dimmer.
For example, non-essential businesses may open if they establish practices such as wearing masks, maintaining a 6-foot distance from others and limiting person-to-person interactions, Polis said. Large gatherings will remain banned until further notice.
The state model indicates cases will begin to go down once we've reached 80% social distancing levels, Polis said. The next five days of data will likely give state health officials the information needed to determine if that level of social distancing has been reached.
Polis reiterated that the virus will be around for a long time, and until there is a vaccine or treatment, what Coloradans consider "normal life" will not return.
"(Everyday life will be) not what it was, but better than it is now," Polis said.