Gov. Jared Polis Tuesday offered something of a carrot-and-stick approach to young people who get inebriated — last call for alcohol at restaurants and bars that have converted to restaurants is being shortened from 2 a.m. to 10 p.m. by executive order.
The carrot? Polis said he is "very irritated" by last call laws, and called on the legislature next year to allow communities the flexibility to have a "vibrant nightlife to whatever hours they choose," suggesting 4 a.m. or even later.
Tuesday's news conference focused on those 20 to 29 years of age, a group that Polis said is driving the spike in COVID-19 cases.
"We don't live in generational isolation," the governor said. Younger people aren't just taking a risk for themselves, they're taking that risk for older Coloradans, too, including parents and grandparents.
What Polis was most concerned about is the habit of some young people to go out to bars and get drunk, which he said lowers inhibitions, causes people to lapse on social distancing and wearing masks.
"I know it's summer," Polis said, but "this is not the summer to party," whether it's in a bar or in large private parties. "Your health and your job depend on it," given that so many young people work in service businesses, such as restaurants and bars.
He asked that young people learn a new way to party: in small groups of five or less.
For now, the last call order is a short-term sacrifice that will keep Coloradans safe and the economy going.
The number of new cases in Colorado has doubled in recent weeks, from 200 per day to between 400 and 500 per day. "We can't afford another doubling" in cases, Polis said Tuesday.
Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, announced that 15 counties in Colorado have been notified that the rate of increase of cases exceeds a state "early warning system" of metrics.
Those counties could lose state-granted variances that allowed more relaxing of public health orders around the number of people who can be at a gathering, for example. Of the 15, eight have decided to voluntarily go back to the previous phase, known as "Safer At Home," which requires more telecommuting and limits gathering to 10 people or fewer. Those that don't voluntarily go back have two weeks to reverse the trend of increased cases, Ryan explained. If they don't reverse the trend, the variances will be revoked.
The metric Ryan pointed to is a county with more than 100 cases per 100,000 population. That puts the county in the red zone, she said.
The counties notified that they needed mitigation plans or go back to Safer at Home: Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Chaffee, Custer, Denver, Douglas, Eagle, El Paso, Garfield, Grand, Larimer, Mineral, Pitkin and Prowers counties. Ryan said the eight that voluntarily went back one phase were the smaller ones, which could include those outside the Front Range: Chaffee, Custer, Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Mineral, Pitkin and Prowers.
What's at stake is economic stability, Ryan said. "If we can control [the virus] at the county level, it reduces the need for a statewide disruption. Getting children back into the classroom also is at stake, she said, as well as overwhelming hospital systems.
Polis said his next briefing on Thursday will be on the situation around testing. The state is collecting thousands of samples per day but complaints are rising on the turnaround for test results, as much as 14 days.