Colorado has hit another bleak milestone in its effort to combat the threat of COVID-19: For the first time since the pandemic hit and adequate testing was in place, the state’s positive test rate officially exceeded 5 percent, meaning more than 5 percent of COVID-19 tests over a three-day period returned positive results. Moreover, on October 10, Colorado recorded more than 1,000 new cases in a single day for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic—which happened again on Tuesday, October 13.

“It’s very worrisome. It’s very alarming,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a press conference Tuesday. “It’s a critical juncture. We need to get this under control now as we head into winter. People are heading indoors. They’re seeing their families. There’s holiday travel. We have to be able to get this under control before the Thanksgiving and holiday season.”

While the governor did not announce any new regulations or restrictions, he noted that the World Health Organization maintains five percent positivity as a threshold of how well a community is responding to the pandemic. Colorado’s three-day positivity of 5.4 percent, he noted, “Poses a major risk for our health and our economy if it continues this way.”

Polis also noted that hospitalizations in Colorado are climbing again as the state battles a third wave of the virus. Right now, 290 people are hospitalized with the virus and ICU beds across Colorado are at an average capacity of 79 percent. More than 2,000 people have now died due to COVID-19 in Colorado.

While the governor stressed the impending cold weather would be detrimental to containing the spread of the virus, he also noted the impact it will have on the local restaurant economy.

“Consumer confidence is slow to return for in-person dining,” he said.  “Our restaurants are neighborhood institutions. Gathering places. Community building places. They’re part of our rich cultural fabric…They sustain livelihoods, they’re party of our vibrant culture and, of course, restaurants support jobs.”

Polis and Sonia Riggs, president and CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association, announced a new program by which the state plans to help restaurants through the winter. Along with a group of architecture, design, landscape professionals, the Colorado Restaurant Association are convening a workshop on October 19 about ways to create a safe outdoor dining experience in the winter.

“We’re confident we’ll come out of this workshop with concrete ideas for helping restaurants across the state use their patios and outdoor spaces all winter,” Riggs said. She also announced that restaurants would have access to a cash assistance fund to which they can apply in order to update their outdoor dining experiences to accommodate winter weather. More information on the grant program—which includes a $750,00 contribution from Xcel Energy—can be found here.

“Each restaurant that closes means dozens of people lose their jobs,” Polis said. “We want Colorado’s restaurant industry to bounce back.”

Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard is a Denver-based writer and a former editor on 5280's digital team.