DENVER – Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday ordered bars and restaurants across the state to stop serving alcohol past 10 p.m. as the number of coronavirus cases among young adults keeps rising.
“Anybody who has been drunk just knows this inherently; your best goals around social distancing and your best intents just fall by the wayside,” Polis said. “If you’re in a group of 50 or 100 people where folks are inebriated, inhibitions are reduced.”
The order is expected to take effect sometime before the weekend and last for 30 days. Last call in Colorado is normally 2 a.m.
The governor ordered bars and nightclubs closed at the end of June as the state saw an uptick in cases, but those serving food and functioning as restaurants were allowed to remain open.
Sonia Riggs, CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association, said she was “extremely disappointed” by Polis' latest order.
“This is a major blow to an industry that is already suffering gravely,” she said. "We’d like to see the data that backs up this decision, especially as it’s our understanding that restaurants account for just 4 percent of the outbreaks in this state.”
In April and May, soon after the virus gripped the state, bar traffic decreased by 80 percent relative to the same time period in 2019, Polis said.
But as the state slowly reopened its economy, more people went out and more went out drinking at bars, which has helped lead to an increase in coronavirus cases among 20- to 29-year-olds.
“The problem with this one in the pandemic is they’re not just taking a risk for themselves,” Polis said. "They’re taking a risk for older Coloradans as well, their parents, their grandparents, because we don’t live in bubbles.”
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.
Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Department of Public Health and Environment, said Tuesday that Colorado keeps close track of how well people are distancing and how fast the disease is spreading, but “our early warning system has begun to blink red in a few areas.”
“The spread of the disease is increasing in Colorado, and the rate of increase is speeding up,” she said.
Last week, 15 Colorado counties that had been allowed to be less restrictive than statewide orders aimed at curbing the virus were notified that COVID-19 was spreading too quickly in their communities and they risked having their freedoms revoked.
“What is at stake is our economic stability. ... If we can control the spread of disease on a county level, it reduces the need for statewide disruption,” Ryan said.
More than 40,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Colorado, and more than 1,700 people have died with the disease, according to state health officials.