By Lauren Brant
Colorado bars and nightclubs have closed their doors again as the state regressed in its reopening amid rising COVID-19 cases Tuesday when Gov. Jared Polis ordered bars and nightclubs to close again — 13 days after the state gave those businesses the go-ahead to resume operation inside the establishment at 25% capacity or up to 50 people.
Polis’ order follows two straight weeks of increased coronavirus cases, specifically in increasing frequency among younger Coloradans. Only three of the last 14 days have shown a downward trend.
“Whether you personally go to bars or not, just understand that they are important for many people in our state,” Polis said. “But there is not a way that we have found for them to be a reasonably safe part of people’s lives during the month of July in our state.”
Public health officials attribute the rise, in part, to protests, travel and parties. Polis also noted bars and clubs are difficult venues to practice social distancing, which likely contributed to the numbers.
While bars have 48 hours to close, owners can continue to sell alcohol to go or by delivery.
Colorado’s influx in infections is not to the level of other states like Arizona, Florida and Texas where officials recently closed bars.
“We’re not where many of our neighboring states are because they have huge spikes, but we are also not as successful as we would like to be in leveling transmission,” Polis said.
Polis expressed a concern about the growing numbers eventually leading to a larger community outbreak in the state, which he said is not a matter of if, but a matter of when that will occur.
“We really need to make sure we don’t reach that point,” he said. “I don’t want to have the kind of setback that Arizona or Texas is having or Utah or Oklahoma. We don’t want that kind of setback on the health side, loss of life, tragic situations for families. We also don’t want to have that kind of setback on the economic side with additional closures.”
To continue protecting ourselves and members of the community, Polis said there are a couple actions Coloradans can take to protect themselves and others. One action Polis said people can do is continue wearing masks, something he feels Coloradans are doing well.
“We have very good mask wearing,” Polis said. “It doesn’t mean everybody all the time… From a public health perspective, we’re looking for 80% to 85% wearing a mask.”
However, the rise in cases has left Denver with a shortage of testing supplies, causing health officials to decrease the Pepsi Center hours for free, drive-up testing.
As of Tuesday, Colorado had 204 new novel coronavirus cases. Twelve people have died. Since March, 32,717 people have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Since the onset of COVID-19 cases, state officials have repeatedly encouraged the public to practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings. Polis re-emphasized that message as Coloradans celebrate the nation’s birthday on Saturday.
“It’s not an excuse for huge parties with dozens or hundreds of people,” Polis said. “If the view is not as great this year, it’s just a different view because we’re doing a lot of things differently this year.”
Although the state had a setback with the reopening of bars and nightclubs, Colorado’s next phase of reopening will allow counties to have larger gatherings, so long as medical facilities have sufficient capacity and see fewer new cases.
Gov. Polis also announced the next phase for the state during the COVID-19 pandemic called Protect Our Neighbors framework.
“This is the phase where we exist with the virus, until there is a vaccine or cure where we get the maximum freedom,” Polis said.
Counties or regions can submit a request to enter the Protect Our Neighbors phase, which would allow bars and nightclubs to reopen in that area. To qualify for this phase, communities must meet metrics, which will differ by county, and submit a mitigation plan.
“We simply aren’t ready to safely have the level of mixing and socializing that is inherent in a bar and nightclub environment,” Polis said.
The new phase allows for expanded reopening at around 50% without caps, as local outbreaks are managed by strong local systems. Larger gatherings are OK under this phase, but mass gatherings are prohibited until there is a treatment or vaccine. It also gives local communities more freedom to provide economic opportunity within the public health capacity.
More information about the Protect Our Neighbors framework can be viewed here.