Bars and nightclubs will not be allowed to operate in Colorado in July, Gov. Jared Polis announced Tuesday, reversing a mid-June decision allowing them to re-open with modifications and citing the advice of governors in Texas and Arizona.
Polis spoke to the governors yesterday, both of whom he said attributed their states' recent resurgence in coronavirus cases to bars and nightclubs, as well as large parties.
"Our country, and the world, has not yet figured out, in the pandemic, how to do bars and nightclubs safely," Polis said.
"Having bars and nightlife in an unsustainable way is too big of a risk" of having schools delayed, gyms and pools closed, and reducing restaurant capacity, Polis said. "We want to go the other way."
Colorado has experienced a "slight uptick" in cases over the last two weeks, Polis said, with an upward trend in diagnoses nine out of the last 14 days.
Cases now sit at 32,717, with the state's R0 value, representing the rate of person-to-person transmission, hovering around and above one. If that value continues to sit at or above one, the rate of virus transmission will grow over time, Polis said.
"It's not a matter of if, just a question of when" that rate will grow, he said. "Everyday activities become more dangerous. We are not where many of our neighboring states are," but we're not as successful as we'd like to be in leveling transmission.
"We've lost over 1,500 people to this virus. It would take another 1,500 from us in a heartbeat."
He urged Coloradans to keep their Fourth of July celebrations small and socially distanced.
"We want to celebrate our nation's birthday, but we want to do that in a way that protects life and our economy," he said.
"When people are having large parties, there's a spike. You have one big party, it goes from one person to 43 people. That's what this virus does. There's a bar in Michigan, it went to 106 people. It likely started with just one."
"You're really rolling the dice," he said to young people considering attending Fourth of July parties, adding that the odds are that out of 20 friends, one or two will need to be hospitalized, should they catch the virus.
In other news:
- From a public health perspective, the state needs to be at 80-85% mask wearing, he said. He thinks it has helped that staunch conservatives like Vice President Mike Pence are wearing masks. Wearing a mask should not be an ideological issue, he said.
- "We don't want to have the kind of setback that Arizona, Texas, Utah, Oklahoma are having," he said.
- Polis say he's ready to offer specifics on what it takes for a county to move into the "protect our neighbors phase," though there's no relaxing of restrictions today, he said.
- "It's all about nipping outbreaks in the bud before they become community-wide outbreaks that require additional steps," he said.
- We'll be in the "protect our neighbors" phase until there's a vaccine or cure, Polis said.
- We've recovered 20% of the jobs we lost in March in April, he said. Our unemployment rate is 10.2%, and while lower than the rest of the country, is still "unacceptable," he said.
- "We want to figure out bars and nightclubs," along with the rest of the world, he said.
- Some areas will likely be able to get to the "protect our neighbors" phase sometime in July, and in those areas, bars will be open, he said.
- "We don't want Colorado to become a mecca of nightlife in the pandemic," he said.
- "Colorado is currently a positive outlier. We want to keep it that way," he said.
- Many bars and nightclubs have been successful in adapting to restaurant environments, and that will be allowed, he said. "It's really the great degree of social mixing" that's dangerous, he said.
- "We will celebrate the day again when Colorado will have renown nightlife of regional, national, and indeed international acclaim," Polis said.
- Polis is now laying out the framework for the "protect our neighbors" phase.
- For a county to quality for "protect our neighbors," three things are required, Polis said: low virus prevalence, health are capacity to handle a surge and strong public health capacity.
- Starting next week, if a county or region meets qualifications, they can begin qualifying for this phase, Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the director of the state health department, said.
- "We'll figure out a way, there's gotta be a way," Polis said regarding again re-opening bars and nightclubs. "But we have to make sure they are ready first."