DENVER — All Denver restaurants and bars will close with the exception of delivery, drive-through and carry-out options beginning Tuesday morning through May 11 as the novel coronavirus continues to spread in Colorado.
Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock and other city officials announced this change, and others, during a press conference Monday morning to update the community on their efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, also called COVID-19.
READ MORE: Latest COVID-19 updates across Colorado
All restaurants and bars will close on-site seating beginning Tuesday at 8 a.m., Hancock said. This will last until May 11 unless the city hears about new information before then, he said. Delivery, drive-through and carry-out options will remain in place.
Hancock said the city is going to try to increase some economic development tools while managing the city's financial stability.
"This is going to hit us in a very major way and we know that," he said. "So we're already thinking about how we can beef up some of those tools and deploy them immediately to help as quickly as possible."
The city is temporarily redeploying deputies away from eviction calls to other areas of need in the department, Hancock said, adding that "now is not the time to evict people from their housing."
Department of Motor Vehicle locations are closed to the public until further notice, he said.
In partnership with county courts, the sheriff's department will not book certain low-level, nonviolent arrestees in city jails.
As they follow new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Denver is limiting mass gatherings of more than 50 people, with few exceptions. Hancock stressed that these restrictions do not include grocery stores.
"We encourage you not to 'panic buy,'" he added. "It is putting everyone in jeopardy."
To ensure children 18 years old and younger continue to receive food assistance while schools are closed, Hancock said grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches will remain available at 11 schools. Dinner is being served at 18 recreation centers throughout the city. These meal services begin today and will continue through April 3, Hancock said. Click here for more details on this.
The city is also working to help its homeless populations, Hancock said. Along with community-based providers, they are taking homeless individuals to shelters and getting them set up with food, showers and laundry services. The involved groups are working with local hotels to secure rooms for them, but Hancock said the providers are still searching for more volunteers as well as cleaning supplies, donations and personal protective equipment (PPE).
Hancock said they have a "critical shortage" of PPE and the city has called on the federal and state government to get the equipment to Denver as quickly as possible. A leading city health official told him he is fearful that all efforts come will come to a screeching halt if the city doesn't receive those items this week, Hancock said.
"If you are young, healthy and showing no signs or symptoms of the virus, providers both large and small need volunteers to help," he said. "Denver, this is the time we rise up together to help prepare meals, distribute supplies and to help keep our shelter facilities clean and safe for our guests and workers."
Volunteers can sign up on Mile High United Way's website here.
Hancock said cleaning supply donations can be dropped off Monday through Friday between 1-4 p.m. at two recreation centers in the city:
- Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, 3880 Newport Street
- La Alma Lincoln Park Recreation Center, 1325 W. 11th Avenue
The city has installed handwashing stations throughout the city and distributed maps of their locations, he said. That map will be available online shortly on the city's website here.
Hancock said he wants to remind residents about the city's multiple programs to help with housing cost relief, since many small business owners are feeling the effects of less business in the wake of COVID-19:
- Property tax relief program: For residents over 65 who are living with disability, or low-income residents
- Temporary Rental Utility Assistance (TRUA) program: Helps with emergency rent and utility payments for those who qualify
- Denver Humane Services: Offers eviction and rental assistance
- Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP): Offers to help eligible residents pay for a portion of their winter home heating bills
Learn more about these programs here.
Hancock said he hopes to have new information in the coming days about how they're going to work with business that are being disproportionately impacted by the city's decisions.
He said he understands how these increased measures will have an impact on Denverites' day-to-day lives, but they must take these precautions to reduce people's exposure to COVID-19.
"Just to be clear: Our response to this virus is going to be mean pressing our boundaries between where the city has controls and where we need to insist other industries step up and help us," he said. "None of these decisions have been easy ones to make. I promise you that. But people's response and understanding is what makes these measures effective and what will get us through this together."
Executive Director Denver Department of Public Health and Environment Bob McDonald said hospitals are not at capacity as of now, but they are preparing for the situation in case that happens. He said the city has been successful and balanced with its approach.
"These are very difficult decisions — I want to stress that," McDonald said. "The timing of the decisions we're making are critical. We have to balance that not just with economic considerations and legal considerations, but also public health. If we make decisions too quickly, we could create other public health problems. ... Every decision we make is about balance. And I think collectively as an administration, we've done that every step of the way."
He said they are working toward opening more COVID-19 testing sites, but cannot wait for that in terms of how the city makes decisions.