Haircuts, in person shopping allowed in much of Colorado

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (AP) — Getting a haircut and shopping in person at retail stores resumed Friday in much of Colorado as the state eased restrictions set up weeks ago to stop the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

Stricter stay-at-home orders remained in place for most of the Denver area, with only essential businesses such as grocery and liquor stores open. But some stores in Castle Rock, 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of Denver, opened their doors with safety precautions, attracting customers eager to get out of the house.

Outside The Emporium, a business that houses small shops run by individual merchants. Cameron Boman sat on a veranda behind a glass screen with a gigantic bottle of hand sanitizer and ensured customers were wearing face masks before they could enter. More than a dozen customers went inside during the first half-hour the building was open. One was turned away for not wearing a mask and left, apparently upset. A garden store next door remained closed.

Inside, 67-year-old Jennifer King of Denver looked at preserves while holding a half-dozen face masks in various colors in clear plastic wrappers that she was going to buy.

“My kids, they were worried about me going out to shop. But I just wanted to do it,” said King, who was wearing a mask.

The return to commerce was spotty, however. Hair salons in the area chose to remain closed, with one promising to be back open Monday. Some people enjoyed the sun while sitting on the patio at a coffee shop in a strip mall south of downtown Castle Rock.

An outlet store complex along Interstate 25 was open but only about a half-dozen stores were doing business. Many of the big retailers, including Nike and Restoration Hardware, were still closed along with the food court.

Brenda Erickson of Castle Pines Village toured The Emporium, which is across the street from her dog groomer, wearing a baseball cap over her long, gray hair. After leaving, she tossed up her arms and said, “I’m so happy that they are open. But they need a place to get a haircut, too. I was tempted to put myself in the dog groomer for a cut but . . .”

Along with much of the Denver area, stay-at-home restrictions remained in place in Pitkin and Gilpin counties through next week. Eagle and Mesa counties, meanwhile, have won permission from the state to set their own timeline for reopening businesses and activities.

The re-openings came as Gov. Jared Polis announced nearly $289 million in cuts to the current fiscal year state budget to offset declining revenue because of the pandemic. Polis also extended limits on evictions, foreclosures and utility shutoffs to help residents whose income is impacted by the pandemic.

The spending cuts affect numerous agencies and projects but don’t include layoffs or furloughs of state employees. The governor’s budget director, Lauren Larson, said in a letter to lawmakers released late Thursday that rapidly declining revenues and a drain on the state’s $814 million general fund reserve forced the cuts.

Some $183 million of the budget reductions affect Medicaid, the insurance program for low-income residents.

The cuts apply to the state budget that runs through June 30. Legislative analysts already have proposed significant cuts to existing programs for the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, which plans to craft a balanced budget this month for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Colorado unemployment claims have reached historic levels since the pandemic hit, with nearly 360,000 people filing unemployment claims over the last five weeks. A quarterly business report released this week by the secretary of state’s office and the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business suggests a double-digit drop is looming for the state’s gross domestic product.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.

In other developments:

Denver is joining a handful of cities requiring people to wear a face covering in certain public areas, including at businesses, while waiting for and riding public transportation and at health care facilities and dentist offices.

“When we’re at the grocery store, work or any other business, my face covering protects you and your face covering protects me,” Mayor Michael Hancock said. “The virus isn’t going away any time soon.”

The order takes effect Wednesday.

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