Updated 3:23 p.m.
Just a few weeks after he announced that Coloradan's responsible choices had made it possible to reopen bars, Gov. Jared Polis will reverse course. He said it's too hard to social distance and prevent transmission of COVID-19 so bars will have to close again to in-person service.
The governor said a new public health order was forthcoming.
Even as the state backtracks on that piece of the public health puzzle, the new rules that will allow counties to enter the Protect Our Neighbors phase were announced at the same time. Polis said this is the last phase of reopening until there is a treatment or a vaccine for COVID-19.
Polis said he spoke to the governors of Arizona and Texas and they attributed a lot of their new outbreaks to nightclubs and bars because it’s more difficult to enforce social distancing. Both Arizona and Texas closed bars within the past week.
“It’s too big of a risk,” he said. “We simply aren’t ready to have that level of mixing and socializing that is inherent in bars.”
Only three of the last 14 days showed a downward trend of hospitalizations. Nine of those days had an upward trend.
“We’re not where many of our neighboring states are, they have huge spikes,” Polis said. “But we are also not as successful as we’d like to be in leveling transmission.”
Counties will be eligible to apply for the Protect Our Neighbors Phase in July. To qualify, counties must have a low virus prevalence, health care capacity to handle a surge, and the ability to test, track and contact trace. According to Dr. Rachel Herlilhy, a state epidemiologist at Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, county mitigation plans must be approved by an elected official.
Polis also mentioned that the state is recovering economically. Colorado regained about 20 percent of the jobs lost between March and April. The state’s unemployment rate now hovers at 10.2 percent.
“My administration is committed to doing everything we can to help support these families and get everyone back to work, but it begins with effective management of the virus,” he said.
The state legislature passed a $250 million fund so businesses can apply for loans and a $20 million recovery fund for grants for small businesses. Polis said he’s confident that the federal government will negotiate additional relief programs to stimulate the economy.