Restaurants, bars, movie theaters in Aspen and statewide closed for business |

Restaurants, bars, movie theaters in Aspen and statewide closed for business

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis ordered all bars and restaurants in the state to stop serving food and drink in their businesses effective at 8 a.m. Tuesday. The order also includes movie theaters and casinos.
(Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Monday ordered all bars and restaurants in the state to stop serving food and drink in their businesses effective at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

The governor’s public health order, which is in response to the spread of COVID-19 across Colorado, is for the next 30 days.

However, restaurants throughout the state can provide take-out and delivery services.

The order also temporarily suspends the operations in gyms, gymnasiums, theaters, casinos, movie and performance theaters, opera houses, concert halls, music halls and other similar places of public accommodation offering food or beverage for on-premises consumption.

The draconian move is designed to slow the spread of the highly contagious novel coronavirus, and to prevent the disease from getting passed onto high-risk individuals, specifically the elderly and those with comprised immune systems.

Polis said during a news conference Monday afternoon that it was a difficult decision but without taking proactive measures, the outbreak could last longer and keep businesses shut down for extended periods of time.

“The more seriously we take it as a public health emergency, the better we can weather the storm and get through this crisis with as little loss of life and as little damage to our economy as possible,” he said. “We want to be ahead of the curve in Colorado. That’s why we’re acting now, closing down the restaurant dining, bars and in particular, clubs. These are places that young people congregate and some might be positive and asymptomatic and spreading it with uncles, aunts and grandparents.”

Pitkin County has at least 13 positive cases of COVID-19, 10 of which are Australians who have been in isolation since they were tested March 8.

One local resident has tested positive, and the remaining two were determined by the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment to be positive based on their contact with others who have the disease.

They were not tested, however, according to Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn, who is a public information officer on the local incident team.

The CDPHE on Monday confirmed 29 new cases in the state, but did not provide a demographic breakdown.

Officials with the Pitkin County Public Health Department and the local incident management team could not confirm if any new cases are local.

The total cases confirmed in Colorado are 160, but Polis estimated that there are thousands.

Just over 1,200 tests have been completed at the state lab.

Summit County has shut down not only bars and restaurants, but also all businesses, including all lodging properties. Banks, marijuana dispensaries, and liquor and grocery stores remain open in Summit.

Those types of businesses remain open in Aspen as well, along with retail stores.

Linn said the incident management team has not discussed how to enforce Polis’ order.

“It’s too new,” Linn said Monday evening.

Aspen Mayor Torre said he supports whatever measure leads to separating people in town so they don’t spread the disease through droplets by coughing and sneezing.

“If that is what it takes, then absolutely,” he said, backing the in-house dining prohibition. “I support isolation and social distancing.”

Polis’ decision comes on the heels of President Donald Trump’s recommendation Monday that people avoid going to bars, restaurants and food courts, and not be with more than 10 people at once.

The president also recommended that Americans stay away from their places of work and school campuses for 15 days.

Meanwhile, the CDPHE issued a statement early Monday saying that testing for COVID-19 is being increased in Pitkin, Gunnison and Eagle counties, all mountain communities that are presumed to have community spread of the new coronavirus.

But Telluride, San Miguel County and Routt County will be the first priority so health officials can get a better understanding of the spread in those areas, said Scott Bookman, the state’s public health incident commander during a news briefing Monday.

“We are trying to get testing where it needs to be … so we are setting up mobile testing sites in several locations in the mountains to gather that surveillance data, and we are working on getting that information back, so that we can guide decisions about future social distance,” he said.

Still, the CDPHE only has the capacity to process 250 tests a day, according to Bookman.

That number has increased from 160 a day.

“We are doing everything we can to ramp up testing capacity locally and across the state and by sending out to private labs across the country,” Bookman said. “We are doing everything we can at the state lab to work through the backlog.

“As we know, the volume of testing that has been required in response to this incident has been overwhelming,” he continued. “We have not had as much support from our private partners as we expected … their focus seems to be on working with their clinical partners right now … (and) the state lab is now working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We have hired additional people, pulling out results.”

Polis said it’s time for Coloradans to make sacrifices for the greater good.

“Our hearts go out to the 240,000 employees in the food and beverage industry,” he said. “We know that by acting boldly now, we are saving lives and we’re minimizing the medium- to long-term economic damage to businesses and workers in the state of Colorado.”

Torre said the city officials have local residents on the top of their minds, particularly on a financial level, and are pursuing unemployment pay options from the state and federal governments for the short and long terms.

“The mayor and the City Council are advocating on behalf of our community at the local, state and federal level,” he said. “We are working in tandem with our county health department and incident management team.”

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