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Bars and nightclubs to close to in-person service again following 2 weeks of increases in Colorado COVID-19 cases

Next week, counties or regions can begin to apply to enter the "protect-your-neighbor" phase, which will remain in place until there's a cure or vaccine.

DENVER — Bars and nightclubs are being ordered to close once again to in-person service after two weeks of slight upticks in coronavirus cases in Colorado and large spikes in two neighboring states, Gov. Jared Polis announced Tuesday.

"We simply aren't ready to have the level of socializing that is inherent in a bar or nightclub setting," Polis said.

Gov. Jared Polis made the announcement during his weekly news conference on COVID-19.

He said that change would begin within the next 48 hours, but did not specify exactly when they would have to close.

They will be able to serve take-out alcohol, and bars that serve food and function as restaurants may stay open if they maintain guidelines such as social distancing of at least six feet and only sitting with members of their own group or party.

Polis said he has spoken with the governors of both Texas and Arizona where he said the bars and nightclubs "directly led" to the health crises in their states and resulted in the shuttering of other businesses that had opened.

"Our country and the world has not yet figured out in a pandemic how to do bars and nightclubs safely in a pandemic, we just haven't," he said. "It's too big a risk of a setback in Colorado." 

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Polis made the announcement at a briefing where he was joined by state and some local health officials. Colorado is currently under the "Safer at Home in the Vast, Great Outdoors" public health order, which will likely be extended past July 1. It eases some restrictions put into place to slow the spread of COVID-19, and it also encourages Coloradans to get outside – as long as they can maintain proper social distancing.

Last week, Polis mentioned that guidelines for "protect-your-neighbor," the next phase in the response to the novel coronavirus, were still being finalized. 

"The underlying premise of protect-your-neighbor is, in order to reopen to a greater extent we need to have really three things," Polis said. "Low virus prevalence, and that might mean low prevalence or a trend in the right direction, health care capacity to handle a surge, beds at the hospitals and then strong public health capacity, to contain [outbreaks] locally, including testing and tracking."

Tuesday, the state provided specific information about the new phase and said counties or regions who met the requirements outlined could apply to move forward next week. This essentially means that everyone in the state will be operating under the current state-wide orders or local variances until at least some time next week.

State and local health officials from across the state met to come up with the guidelines, which are outlined in the graphic below.

Credit: KUSA

Polis said state and federal funding would be made available to help local communities meet the requirements necessary to move to the next phase, which he said would remain in effect until there is a cure or vaccine for the virus.

"That's where we exist with the virus," he said. "We have the maximum freedom, full economic activity, almost full social activity including sporting, bars, nightclubs, up to 500 people initially with the pathway to go beyond that in a reasonably safe way."

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Polis said a big factor in how quickly we move forward will depend on personal responsibility. He stressed with less restrictions by the state, it's more important than ever for people to avoid large gatherings, maintain social distancing and wear masks.

"I can't stress enough that the fate of Colorado with suppressing this virus and our economic recovery is largely in your capable hands," he said. "Our ability to suppress the virus relies on individual choices Coloradans make."

Last week, Polis noted local outbreaks in the San Luis Valley, Boulder County, El Paso County, San Miguel County and Eagle County.

The upcoming 4th of July holiday is also a concern for state officials who urged people to celebrate safely by avoiding large gatherings.

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