DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis ordered Colorado bars and nightclubs that don't provide food to shut down for 30 days to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, which has been on the rise in the last couple of weeks. The order goes into effect in the next 48 hours.
Bars and nightclubs were allowed to reopen at 25% capacity June 18 under Safer at Home guidelines. But, Polis said during a briefing Tuesday that a slight uptick of cases among younger people show these environments are not entirely safe and ready to reopen.
“It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to have safe social distancing in bars and nightclubs,” Polis said. “We’ll figure out a way. There’s got to be a way. We have to make sure they are ready first.”
Bars and nightclubs will still be allowed to remain open if they serve food and function as restaurants. Bars may still sell take-out alcohol, and may still operate if open under a county variance pursuant to the terms of that county variance.
Part of the reason Polis decided to order the closures, he said, was the resurgence of the virus in neighboring states. Arizona and Texas has seen a surge in cases lately and governors in those states have attributed the spike to nightlife and have ordered the closing of bars and nightclubs.
“With neighboring states, we don’t want Colorado to become a mecca of nightlife. We want to be the center of nightlife when safe. But that is not a distinction that we want during the pandemic, nor is it one that we can afford without severely risking the reopening of our economy and ongoing health of our people,” Polis said.
Polis also announced Tuesday that the state is entering third phase of reopening called "Protect Our neighbors." Colorado communities that have demonstrated they are reducing the spread of the virus and are effectively responding to outbreaks and contact tracking can apply to enter this third phase next week.
This phase means different parts of the state may be at different reopening stages.
“Protect Our Neighbors will allow Colorado to respond more swiftly and effectively at the community level in the event of another surge of cases. We live in a diverse state with cities, booming suburbs, small resort towns, and rural areas with plenty of wide-open spaces. Each community is having their own unique experience with this virus. Going forward, we want to increase our ability to tackle outbreaks at a community level and only issue statewide orders when absolutely necessary,” Polis said.
Protect Our Neighbors follows safer at home guidelines, which was phased in starting in late April. Under that second level, retail businesses were allowed to start offering curbside delivery and more medical procedures opened up.
State health officials anticipate a larger second wave of COVID-19 infections in the fall, along with seasonal influenza. They are hoping these new guidelines will limit the impact it may have on Colorado's healthcare system.