Polis orders Colorado bars, nightclubs to close again after 'slight uptick' in coronavirus cases
Colorado bars and nightclubs will again be closed for in-person services statewide due to a "slight uptick" in coronavirus cases in the state, Gov. Jared Polis announced Tuesday.
Polis said the public health order will go into effect in the next 48 hours and expire in 30 days. This decision comes about two weeks after bars and nightclubs reopened for limited in-person services statewide.
The new guidelines for bars will prohibit in-person services but allow bars to serve take-out alcohol. Bars that have also changed their business model in response to state guidelines and are now serving food can remain open as a restaurant as long as they keep patrons 6 feet apart, seated with their own groups, and do not allow groups to mingle.
County variances approved by the state that allow bars to be open will remain in place, Polis said. Larimer County did not get approved for bars to reopen in their variance request, so the county will continue to follow state guidelines.
Polis said this decision was made based on science and data collected and analyzed by the state and from conversations he has recently had with the governors in Texas and Arizona, where recent spikes in cases have forced significant closures.
Bars and nightclubs were named by those governors as a significant source of the spike in cases as well as large parties and gatherings, Polis said.
"We're not anywhere near where neighboring states are. They're having huge spikes," Polis said. "But we're also not as successful as we'd like to be in leveling transmission."
Polis attributes Colorado's "slight uptick" in cases to behavior in bars and nightclubs, as well as some of the large outdoor gatherings that have been seen statewide, including protests.
"Our uptick, much like what we've seen in other states, is largely among the younger demographic," Polis said.
The statewide transmission rate has been above 1 in the past week, meaning each person with the virus is passing it to at least one other person on average, Polis said. If that transmission rate sustains above 1 for a longer period of time, more restrictions might have to be reinstated, Polis said.
"We don't want to have the kind of setback that Arizona and Texas are having," Polis said.
Polis again harped on the importance of wearing masks and applauded the nation's Republican leaders, including Vice President Mike Pence, who are now wearing masks, showing the country that mask-wearing is not a partisan issue.
"This is not an ideological or partisan thing, this is a science thing," Polis said.
Polis also reminded Coloradans and tourists to celebrate Fourth of July by celebrating within your household, maybe one other, and wearing masks.
Protect Our Neighbors phase guidelines announced
Even as cases rise in Colorado, Polis announced guidelines Tuesday for the state's third phase in the coronavirus response that he said will remain until there is a cure or vaccine: The Protect Our Neighbors phase.
Beginning next week, counties or regions that fit certain qualifications will have more local control and flexibility on how to mitigate the virus in their area, rather than having to follow statewide restrictions. These qualifications are:
- Sufficient hospital bed capacity
- Sufficient personal protective equipment supply
- Stable or declining cases of coronavirus hospitalizations
- Fewer new coronavirus cases
- Sufficient testing capacity
- The ability to implement case investigation and contact tracing protocols
- Documented surge capacity plans for case investigation and contact tracing
- Strategies to offer testing to close contact of outbreak-associated cases
The exact numbers each county or region must meet will depend on the area's population, state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy said during Tuesday's news conference.
If these areas or counties that meet the qualifications for the Protect Our Neighbors phase have an increase in cases that causes them to no longer meet these qualifications, the state could send them back to the Safer At Home phase, or back to the Stay At Home phase, Polis said.
"If we open strategically, based on evidence and science, we can move forward in a sustainable way and most importantly save lives," said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director or Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Sady Swanson covers crime, courts, public safety and more throughout Northern Colorado. You can send your story ideas to her at email@example.com or on Twitter at @sadyswan. Support our work and local journalism with a digital subscription at Coloradoan.com/subscribe.