DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis held a news conference Friday on the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic, including an update on his last call executive order.
Polis officially extend an executive order requiring bars and restaurants to stop serving alcohol at a certain time, but modified it to give businesses an extra hour, during the news conference.
Polis said restaurants will now be able to serve alcohol until 11 p.m., and hopes to move last call to midnight within a month, depending on COVID-19 trends.
"It's important restaurants and bars observe social distancing protocols," Polis said. "There's no fooling the math. If there's huge outbreaks, that means we can't handle those activities."
Polis said epidemiological data, including data from contact tracing, and other scientific studies are guiding his decisions on last call and other coronavirus-related actions.
Polis said that the data shows a decrease in COVID-19 cases among 20 to 29 year olds, the age group that spends more times in bars than others.
The Tavern League, which has filed a lawsuit challenging Polis' last call order, said the lawsuit is still ongoing.
According to the league, restaurants and bars are in desperate need of relief from current indoor capacity limits, and will not survive if current restrictions remain.
However, the Tavern League did support the move to 11 p.m. and released the following statement:
“While The Tavern League would prefer a midnight last call, we are very pleased that 11:00pm is a step in the right direction. Every hour counts in the fight for economic survival and we greatly appreciate Governor Polis’ efforts to remain flexible during this extremely challenging time.”
Colorado Restaurant Association CEO Sonia Riggs also released a statement follow Polis' announcement:
"An 11 p.m. last call is a step in the right direction, and we are grateful to the Governor for making this change. However, the restaurant industry is in a desperate struggle for survival right now, and urgently needs to see increased capacity in order to have a chance. A later last call will help add critical revenue to many establishments' bottom lines, and we will continue work with the state to remove last call restrictions. But we can't lose sight of the fact that restaurants need as much help as they can get going into fall and winter - and we will continue to work on creative ways to safely expand capacity so that we don't lose this vital industry."
Sources told Colorado Politics that "last call for alcohol," under the executive order expected on Friday, was likely to be 11 p.m., an hour later than the current executive order allows.
The move to 11 p.m. unlikely to be late enough for bar and restaurant owners who had hoped to keep their alcohol sales flowing as sports playoffs continue late into the evening. Some Colorado Avalanche games, for example, don't start until 8:30 p.m., and with overtime could go to midnight.
Polis originally issued the executive order on "last call" on July 21, which required any establishment selling alcohol to stop doing so at 10 p.m. Two days later, the order was amended to allow liquor stores to continue selling until midnight.
Polis also announced that the way COVID-19 data is displayed on the Colorado Department of Health and Environment's website has been changed to increase transparency.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said that improvements include consolidating various data into one place, make the website more interactive and giving users more options to filter data.
Dr. Herlihy also said the hospital data has been expanded to show patient demographics, more detailed information on outbreaks and where outbreaks are occurring.
As of Thursday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) reported 53,901 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,815 deaths due to the virus. The state's positive rate increased slightly to 3.03% on Wednesday.
Polis said he is particularity concerned about a potential outbreak at residential colleges and universities.
According to Polis, congregate living facilities are at a greater risk of spreading COVID-19, and there is also concern about socializing on campuses creating "super-spreader events," particularly large, private parties.
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