Denver prohibits inside bar and restaurant service, OKs to-go and curbside; mountain communities hit hard


DENVER  | Restaurants and bars in Denver will be limited to take out and delivery orders under a ban on gatherings of 50 people announced by Mayor Michael Hancock on Monday to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The limits on bars and restaurants will start Tuesday and will be enforced by city inspectors, rather than police, Hancock said. Movie theaters and gyms will be allowed to remain open but are expected to keep crowds under the 50-person limit. Health department director Bob McDonald acknowledged that limit could change later.

Hancock announced other measures to try to limit the spread of the disease as well as to prepare for handling more cases. People arrested for low-level crimes will no longer be booked into jail, and social distancing would be increased in jail, he said. To keep people in homes, sheriff’s deputies will not enforce eviction notices during the crisis, and the city is also negotiating with hotels to house homeless people, prioritizing those who have significant respiratory problems.

Hancock also called on the federal and state government to address a “critical shortage” of protective gear like masks so that city workers and volunteers could continue to help those at risk.

Hancock’s order came as the state took more measures Monday to mitigate the increase in the virus’ spread, including hiring 50 nurses to staff testing sites and health care facilities, with a special emphasis on ski country.

The Department of Public Health and Environment said it was opening a testing site Tuesday outside Telluride to serve about 100 people chosen by area health care providers as needing testing.

The department said it is sending testing kits to other mountain communities owing to community spread in a region with high numbers of tourists.

The state said it received additional testing kits from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week and planned to distribute them statewide. The private firms Labcorp and Quest Diagnostics augmented state testing.

State authorities have targeted Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Gunnison counties because of high rates of community spread. As of Sunday, the four counties accounted for at least 40 of the state’s 131 cases.

The region includes Vail, Aspen, Telluride and other ski areas. Gov. Jared Polis ordered all ski areas closed this week.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The World Health Organization says people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while severe cases may last three to six weeks.

From her hometown of Vail, World Cup ski racer Mikaela Shiffrin used her social media channels to urge personal and community responsibility to cope with the crisis.

Shiffrin said that during a recent trip home she saw people using bathrooms without washing their hands and sneezing without covering their mouths. At stake is the health of loved ones, the greater community and especially the elderly, she said in a video posted Sunday and first reported by Vail Daily.

“Now personal hygiene is really global hygiene,” Shiffrin said. “This isn’t supposed to be a tattletale message but more of a call to action.”

“Lastly, be kind,” she concluded. “You never know what someone is going through.”