The other shoe inched closer to the floor on Tuesday, November 17, in the longest, most agonizing wait for it to drop we’ve ever experienced. Governor Jared Polis pointed to exponential growth in Colorado’s COVID cases in the last week (from 3,500 to 6,000 new cases per day); the fact that more patients are now hospitalized for COVID than ever before (currently 1,300); and that at least one hospital in the state has reached capacity before announcing additional restrictions for many of Colorado’s 64 counties. He also noted a change to the state’s dial framework: Level Purple is now the highest level of concern and reflects official stay-at-home orders and a full shutdown of non-essential businesses.
Restaurants in counties moving into the new, less-severe “red phase” will no longer be able to seat customers indoors, and while patio seating is still allowed, groups must consist of individuals from just one household. A last call time of 8 p.m. is in effect. Takeout and delivery remain unaffected. Bars remain shuttered.
Polis repeatedly urged people to continue to dine outdoors and take advantage of to-go and delivery options.
The Governor did not say when counties would announce these changes (though the new dial framework takes effect Friday, November 20), nor did he indicate which counties would be moving to Level Red on Colorado’s COVID dial; he simply said the state is working with municipal and county officials across Colorado to determine any changes in the coming days. He said he expected 15 to 20 counties to introduce more restrictions shortly; Hancock confirmed Denver county is among them and would be moving to Level Red.
Polis also announced he will be calling a special legislative session with the purpose of passing legislation that would provide immediate economic relief. The session will focus on a small business relief package (including both tax relief and direct aid); housing and rental assistance; support for child care providers; and expanding broadband access for educators and students. The legislature will be working with up to $200 million in funding.
“Absent intervention, [the situation] just keeps getting worse,” said Polis. He emphasized these steps are required to avoid a full shutdown or stay-at-home orders. Denver mayor Michael Hancock also chimed in, saying, “I’m calling on Denver and the metro region to step up mightily like we have before.”
Colorado Restaurant Association President Sonia Riggs was blunt in her response:
“There’s no getting around it, these new restrictions are going to be catastrophic for this industry. According to our most recent survey, we could lose 24 percent of the restaurants in counties entering this new Severe Risk level in less than a month. This feels like an especially difficult blow considering there is little evidence tying dining to surging cases—most spread is happening in private gatherings. If we want our restaurants to survive, they need significant cash help.
“We ask the State to pass meaningful relief for this industry as quickly as they can, and we ask local governments to continue to support local restaurants with grants and loans, rent and mortgage assistance, and reduced regulatory costs. And we ask the public to avoid private gatherings, to wear masks, and to wash hands to get these numbers down as quickly as possible so we can reopen. We also ask the public to please continue to order takeout and delivery and dine outdoors—consider what you’d lose if you lost your favorite restaurants and understand that they are on the brink. They need your help to get through.”
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