Colorado governor reins in rules on bars, nightlife

Patty Nieberg
Associated Press/Report For America
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis makes a point about the upward trajectory of new coronavirus cases in neighboring states during a news conference on Colorado's efforts to curb the spread of the virus Monday, June 15, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER (AP) — Colorado will rein in previously set rules for bars and nightlife because of the potential for spreading coronavirus, Gov. Jared Polis said at a news conference Tuesday.

“We simply aren’t ready to safely have the level of mixing and socializing that is inherent in a bar and nightclub environment,” Polis said.

After speaking with the governors from Texas and Arizona, which have seen spikes in new cases, Polis said they believe bars and nightclubs have been major sources of outbreaks, especially among young people.

“They wish that they had been able to act earlier and had the foresight. And we’re gonna learn from this,” Polis said.

With neighboring states closing bars and nightlife, Polis said said he doesn’t want Colorado to “become a mecca of nightlife in the pandemic.”

Previous rules announced June 18 under the state’s “Protect Our Neighbors” program allowed for reduced capacity at 25 percent or 50 people. Under the new modifications, which Polis said will go into effect under the next 48 hours, bars will be closed for in-person service. But those with dining options may continue to serve customers and sell takeout alcohol.

Polis also specified the criteria for the “Protect Our Neighbors” phase of re-opening in which local counties will be able to enforce their own local guidelines based on public health resources and plans for possible outbreaks.

“Basically the community itself can move forward with relaxing their guidelines when they demonstrate the ability to suppress and contain COVID-19 cases,” Polis said. “We really want to empower our local communities to be able to protect their health and safely re-open their economy and return to a sustainable sense of normalcy.”

Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said there will be two components that counties will need to supply to the state.

First, counties will have to provide data showing sufficient hospital bed capacity, PPE supplies, stable or declining cases, testing capacity and surge capacity plans — all of which will differ depending on the county’s population. Second, they will have to provide a mitigation plan for if they fall out of the required metrics and how they will promote compliance.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in two to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems can face severe illness and death. The vast majority of people recover.


Patty Nieberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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