The Journal is providing free access to this story and other stories that provide critical information about the coronavirus
Your support will help us to continue our work.Subscribe today
Gov. Jared Polis on Monday afternoon ordered the closure of all Colorado restaurants and bars to in-person dining in a dramatic effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus as it rapidly spreads across the state.
The order is for 30 days, but is renewable.
“Our hearts go out to the 240,000 employees who are in the food and beverage industry,” Polis said in a news conference at the state Capitol. He said the decision to enact the order was difficult but necessary.
The order comes after Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and several mountain communities – including Gunnison, Summit and San Miguel counties – made the same decision for their cities and counties just hours earlier on Monday in response to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The Denver order is set to last eight weeks.
Takeout and delivery are still allowed under the orders.
Gunnison and Summit counties, which have been among the hardest hit by the virus, have gone so far as to order the closure of lodging businesses, including hotels, motels, timeshares and short-term rentals. They’re also shutting down non-essential businesses.
“The only retail locations permitted to remain open will be banks, grocery stores, liquor stores, marijuana dispensaries, pharmacies and gas stations,” Summit County said in a news release Monday.
On Sunday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment warned recent visitors to and residents of Summit, Gunnison, Eagle and Pitkin counties to limit their contact with others because the virus is spreading so quickly in those areas. That’s even if those people are not showing symptoms.
“There is widespread community transmission in Eagle County,” Scott Bookman, Colorado’s coronavirus incident commander and the leader of the state’s public health lab, told reporters on Monday.
Colorado is following other states across the country – including Illinois and Ohio – which have already ordered the closure of their restaurants and bars. Polis has said that he hoped to avoid such significant actions, but that he wouldn’t hesitate to use his broad powers under an emergency declaration issued last week should they become necessary.
Over the weekend, he issued his first executive order shutting down businesses with a Saturday night demand that the state’s ski areas close for at least a week.
Polis made the decision about restaurants and bars after members of a state committee that advises him on how to respond to the epidemic recommended Monday that the governor issue a sweeping order to close them all statewide. The Governor’s Expert Emergency Epidemic Response Committee, or GEEERC, also recommended that gyms, casinos and theaters, including movie theaters, be closed.
The GEEERC also is looking into how to define essential vs. non-essential businesses, setting the stage for it to recommend that non-essential businesses should be shuttered as soon as this week.
Polis sat in on the meeting – which was conducted virtually, via telephone and Google Hangouts.
“The rest, I think you need to do more work on and bring back in a few days when we figure out what’s in and what’s out,” Polis told the committee, referring to the debate over essential and non-essential businesses.
The exact economic impact of Polis’ order on Monday is unknown but expected to be swift and broad. There are thousands of servers and bartenders across Colorado who could be out of a job.
Also on Monday, Hancock said the Denver Sheriff Department would cease serving eviction notices and stop jailing certain low-level offenders in response to the viral outbreak. He also ordered the cancellation of any events of 50 people or more and said no new ones may be planned for sooner than May 11.
Governments across the state are limiting how many people can gather.
State health officials on Monday afternoon also announced that the state’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases had jumped to 160. Colorado has completed test results on 1,200 people since Feb. 28, but there are many still pending.
“What is so frustrating about this virus is we are always, from a data perspective, chasing where it was three to five days ago,” Polis said. “We are doing our best to extrapolate, to predict, to use modeling.”