Colorado took a step back in its reopening Tuesday as Gov. Jared Polis ordered bars and nightclubs to close again amid rising coronavirus cases — just a week-and-a-half after those businesses received the go-ahead to welcome customers back inside.
The decision comes as COVID-19 infections have increased for two straight weeks and are, in particular, growing among younger Coloradans.
Public health officials have attributed that increase, in part, to parties, protests and travel, while the governor also credited the uptick to bars and clubs — where it can be difficult to practice social distancing.
“Whether you personally go to bars or not, just understand that they are important for many people in our state… 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,” Polis said.
Bars will have 48 hours to close but can continue to sell alcohol to go or by delivery. Bars that also sell food “and function as restaurants,” according to the governor, can stay open for in-person service so long as they keep patrons seated at tables spaced six feet apart, without mingling.
Colorado has seen a rise in infections, but not at the level as other states where COVID-19 cases are surging. In those states, including Arizona, Florida and Texas, officials have also closed bars in recent days.
The surge in COVID-19 cases also has left Denver with a shortage of testing supplies. As a result, officials are reducing the hours at the Pepsi Center, where the city has a free, drive-up testing site. The site will now only operate five days a week instead of seven, and from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Monday through Friday.
On Tuesday, the state recorded 204 new cases of the novel coronavirus. Since March, a total of 32,715 people have tested positive for the respiratory disease COVID-19, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The state health department also confirmed another 12 people have died due to COVID-19. So far,1,520 people have died from the disease, while 1,690 people have died with the novel coronavirus in their systems.
While young adults and teenagers are at a lower risk of complications from COVID-19, they still can experience severe illness and hospitalization from the disease. They can also transmit the virus to those most vulnerable without experiencing severe symptoms — or even any symptoms — themselves.
As COVID-19 cases have increased, state officials repeatedly have urged residents to avoid large gatherings, especially over the Fourth of July weekend. Still, Colorado continues to move forward with the next phase of the state’s reopening — one that would permit counties to allow larger gatherings if they meet certain thresholds, such as sufficient hospital bed capacity and fewer new cases.
Justin Anthony, who owns multiple Denver bars, had just finished putting the final touches on a patio expansion for one of his Larimer Street businesses, American Bonded, when he found out that bars and clubs would be closing again.
While some of his spots offer food and won’t be affected by the new round of closures, others will need to change their business model yet again to stay open.
“It is a daunting prospect to go through all of the planning… to set up something that is not just inviting but safe. All of the considerations that you’ve never had before, and what happens if the plug is pulled?” Anthony asked.
Over the week-and-a-half that bars and clubs have been allowed to reopen for in-person service, Anthony said he’s watched some fellow operators break the rules consistently.
“It’s so unbelievably frustrating to see some of my peers jamming people in, not paying attention to this stuff,” Anthony said. “I don’t think it occurs to these people, if they are just chasing the maximum profit… they are doing their colleagues in the industry a great disservice. It’s so shortsighted. And if you’ve got a patron base that is totally disregarding (rules)… it is going to prevent them from having places to go out to.”
“You are ruining it for the rest of us,” he said of these businesses and their customers.