EL PASO COUNTY — Gov. Jared Polis and state health officials are warning it's vital to continue to mask up and social distance in the wake of a spike in COVID-19 cases in El Paso County and elsewhere. If the virus keeps spreading, officials warn they may have to slow or stop the reopening process, and that's a scary thought for business owners.
For restaurant owners like Russ Ware, the shutdown brought on by COVID-19 was setback for business.
“The challenges of the pandemic are significant for all of us,” Ware said.
Ware is the co-owner of the Wild Goose Meeting House on Tejon Street in downtown Colorado Springs.
“For us I think it was a particular challenge because our entire ethos, our value, is so much about gathering people, so much about community,” he said.
Which is why he was happy when case numbers dropped enough to allow him to open at a reduced capacity.
While Colorado has been on a downward trajectory, that may be changing.
As of June 23rd, Colorado only has 225 COVID-19 cases, with the 3-day average of 182.
“Now we are starting to see new outbreaks in different parts of the state, San Luis County, El Paso County,” Polis said during a briefing Wednesday.
State officials said the numbers are showing a trend in the wrong direction.
On June 21st, Colorado had 140 cases with the 3-day average of 173.
“Last week our numbers were higher than the week before. And because of this, the timing is really critical,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said.
Officials said young people are the major contributors to this uptick.
Currently, the age group with the most amount of COVID-19 cases is 20-29 years-old with 5,488 cases.
“Teens and young adults that have been gathering together for parties,” Herlihy said.
“All of our gains could be reversed very quickly if we’re not careful,” Polis said.
Polis warned the next phase of reopening might not happen in certain counties until they’re ready.
“It wouldn’t occur after a spike or outbreak in a particular county,” he said.
As for business owners like Ware, his livelihood depends on people being able to go out.
“We have always been known as a place that’s about… ‘meet at the goose, let’s have this discussion at the goose,” Ware said.
He’d hate to have to take a step back because of a spike, but he’s prepared, no matter the cost.
“If that’s what we need to do, then that’s what we’re gonna do,” he said. “We are much more committed to the idea of getting through this and being safe than we are a particular bottom line or a monetary value, or even keeping our doors open.”