Colorado restaurants could expect to reopen by late May or early June, Gov. Jared Polis suggested at a virtual news conference May 8, as long as forthcoming data regarding the first three weeks of the safer-at-home phase supports loosening restrictions.

“That’ll all be decided based on data that we don’t have yet — we don’t have a crystal ball — and we’ll see where that data emerges,” Polis said. “I certainly hope that it’s prior to June 15.”

Polis also said the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is likely to approve El Paso County’s waiver request to hold modified high school graduation ceremonies, saying the proposal detailed “innovative and thoughtful ways for high school seniors to recognize their rite of passage in a safe way.”

The proposal, advanced May 7 by the Board of El Paso County Commissioners, requires each school to submit a plan to El Paso County Public Health detailing how its graduation would be carried out while minimizing the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Some of the rules would include outdoor ceremonies, minimizing staff on hand, keeping those in attendance 6 feet apart and accommodating a “no-contact procedure for receipt of the diploma.”

As of 4 p.m. May 8, the CDPHE was reporting 18,371 cases of COVID-19, 3,600 hospitalizations, and 960 deaths. That data is current through May 7.

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El Paso County has had 1,110 cases, 218 hospitalizations and 78 deaths, according to the county health department’s data dashboard. Twenty-three new cases were reported in the county May 7, a slight increase over the previous day.

The Colorado Mask Project has created more than 82,000 non-medical cloth masks for 160 organizations such as homeless shelters and assisted living centers, Polis said, calling the website a “great collaboration” between the state government, nonprofits and the private sector.

You can visit for instructions on how to make a cloth mask, volunteer for the project, buy a mask or request some for your group.

Some areas of the state, including Denver and Boulder, are requiring people to wear face coverings when they leave the house. Those who don’t could face fines.

El Paso County Public Health and Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers are encouraging the wearing of masks, but neither has issued a mandate.

“For anybody who wants to — and I certainly do — reopen parts of our economy and society sooner rather than later, mask-wearing is extremely important,” Polis said May 8.

Manitou Springs announced a new program to implement “Social Distancing Ambassadors” in the city’s parks and at the Manitou Incline. The ambassadors won’t have enforcement capacity; rather, they are city staff members who will encourage people to stay 6 feet apart and avoid playgrounds, and remind them of the Incline’s ongoing closure.

The ambassadors will also assist in park clean-up, replace caution tape and notify the city’s Public Works Department of parks issues.

Colorado Springs has not announced such a program. However, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Karen Palus says the city may use some coronavirus-relief funding for hiring staff to help manage crowds and encourage social distancing at Garden of the Gods Park.

A group of 66 city and county leaders from across Colorado signed a letter to Congress asking that full and permanent funding for the 55-year-old Land and Water Conservation Fund be included in the next coronavirus stimulus package.

The fund buys and reserves land, water and recreation areas across the country with royalty payments from offshore oil and gas money.

“In the weeks and months to come, our nation’s parks, trails, and outdoor spaces will be integral to our nation’s coping and recovery,” the letter said. “… America’s public lands bring us peace of mind and generate economic revenue – both will be critically needed to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Last year, Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed legislation to reauthorize the fund. However, legislators have not appropriated the full amount of available money deposited in the fund for land, water and recreation, instead diverting it for other purposes.

To give reporters at the Indy and Colorado Springs Business Journal more time to work on other projects, we’ll be publishing these COVID-19 roundups less frequently. Look for them Tuesdays and Thursdays at or