The psychology behind Gov. Polis’ 10 p.m. last call order

Coronavirus

DENVER (KDVR) — For at least the next 30 days, alcohol sales will end at 10 p.m. at Colorado bars and restaurants.

Gov. Jared Polis announced the order Tuesday, in a move Denver bar owners called “devastating.”

While alcohol does not cause or contribute to COVID-19, Polis said inebriation can lead to people disregarding social distancing requirements and therefore spreading the virus more easily.

Addiction psychologists say there’s plenty of truth to that statement, with inhibitions going out the window with each drink you consume. 

“Alcohol kind of softens the nervous system,” says UCHealth Psychiatrist Dr. Patrick Fehling. “Very often, people’s judgement can wane in their choices.”

Fehling says alcohol increases sexual and aggressive tendencies, while decreasing inhibitions. 

He says that makes it more likely someone will remove a mask or close that 6-foot recommended gap, even after just a few drinks.

“If you really want to be heard, what’s the best way to be heard? Talk loudly and take your mask off,” he says. “So is that going to happen when a lot when people are socializing and connecting and drinking? I think so.”

Polis says that’s a concern among 20-29-year-olds, which now make up the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Colorado. 

“It is that very reduction of inhibitions that leads to the reduction of mask wearing and social distancing,” said Polis. 

But local bar owners argue the data doesn’t back up this decision. 

Less than 5% of COVID-19 outbreaks in Colorado have been linked to full-service bars and restaurants. 

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