Fauci: Unrestricted bars, restaurants quickly spread COVID-19

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DENVER (KDVR) – Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, spoke to the people of Colorado on Tuesday. He said the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic are still ahead unless more is done to mitigate the disease.

Fauci added that bars and restaurants can be huge COVID hotspots and need restricting.

In a virtual news conference, Gov. Jared Polis — infected with COVID-19 himself — appeared next to Fauci, saying more Coloradans are infected with the coronavirus than ever before.

Polis said, “Every time we interact with other people at the grocery store or walking your dog, you should make the assumption that person could be contagious with the coronavirus because there’s a one in 41 chance they are.”

With the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, Fauci said a “purple” status stay-at-home order may not be out of the question, but it would be up to the state to make that decision.

Fauci added, “It may come to a lockdown. I think if you start to see over-running of your hospitals and your health care systems, I can assure you that there will be serious consideration for lockdown.”

Fauci said among the primary methods of transmission in Colorado was the lack of mask use and social distancing as well as large gatherings and travel.

Fauci also said restaurants and bars without restrictions are places where the virus spreads rapidly.

“It’s clear when you do tracing about where you get these outbreaks, it’s bars, indoor seating at restaurants at full capacity. When you’re in a restaurant, it’s very tough to eat with a mask on unless you figure out something I don’t know about,” Fauci said.

Colorado restaurant and bar owners argue they’ve gone to great lengths to keep their establishments safe by meeting social distancing requirements and limiting capacity and hours.

Per current state rules, they currently do not allow indoor dining and instead offer delivery and carryout.

The state’s most recent data show bars and restaurants have had the fewest outbreaks among settings monitored.

Colorado Restaurant Association CEO Sonia Riggs said, “Restaurants are not the main culprit in spreading the virus – yet they’re still being further restricted. Shutting them down is pushing people into private settings, which is where we’re seeing the majority of the spread.”

A Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment spokesperson said there are 202 restaurant outbreaks statewide. Among those outbreaks, only 3.5% of cases are among restaurant patrons; the rest are among employees.

“While we expect employees to have more contact with one another than patrons, we believe patrons are underestimated in our outbreak data,” the CDPHE spokesperson said.

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