By Alan Gionet

DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado’s counties in red on the COVID dial are going to orange on Monday. Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday night said in a tweet he is asking for the move after “reviewing the data, Colorado has been in a sustained decline for 13 day. And only 73 percent of ICU beds statewide are in use. In light of this … I’m asking the State Health Department to move counties in red on the dial to orange effective Monday.”

It followed a difficult discussion with people in the restaurant industry earlier in the day on the web based program “The Modern Eater.” Polis was asked questions by host Greg Hollenback and restaurant owner Juan Padro of the Culinary Creative group.

“Everybody’s angry. We want our lives back. … We want our jobs back, our lives back, young people want to go out. We want to enjoy restaurants,” said Polis.

Padro asked if restaurants will see normalcy in the dining rooms when the at-risk population is vaccinated.

“First of all I think 2021 is going to be a great year,” Polis began to answer. “January will start better than December but I think it will be a very banner year when you look at all 2021 when it’s over.”

He later intimated that change on indoor dining restrictions could be coming in “a couple days.” But by the evening, had tweeted out his desire for a move from red to orange.

Among the uncomfortable moments in the show was the governor’s reference to what some in the restaurant industry have been saying about the spread of the virus.

“I think it’s a lot of willful ignorance of people in the restaurant industry. They’re saying ‘Why can people go to an independently owned clothing store but not here?’ Here’s how the virus spreads. It’s very simple … the predominant way it spreads is 15 minutes contact in proximity … mixed parties sitting at a dinner table for about an hour is exactly how it’s spread.”

Stores, he noted, may be open, but the duration of exposure is far shorter and people are wearing masks.

“This is a customer behavior issue,” said the governor. “Not a restaurant issue.”

Padro also noted later during an interview at a bar he’s waiting to open in the former Forget Me Not flower shop in Cherry Creek, “The biggest thing I don’t understand is how the heck DIA could be operating at full capacity in restaurants and then getting in a … tube with 250 separate households for six hours. How does that make sense?”

Polis had said during the program he thought DIA restaurants were take-out.

“No they’re not,” answered Padro.

The two have communicated often, said Padro, who owns about a dozen restaurants, mostly in Denver.

“He’s always taken calls and emails and texts and he’s been willing to talk about things … he’s been very responsive. This is a business guy and business guys don’t want other businesses to be shut down.”

During the show, Polis seemed to be thinking about re-opening as he spoke. “I think all restaurants should be open personally,” he said. “The biggest risk is who you go with. It’s not the fact that you’re at a restaurant, it’s who you go with. In close contact for an hour and a half without masks.”

(credit: Colorado Department of Public Health And Environment)

Several hours later, the state was planning to move the red counties to orange. The head of Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment, Jill Hunsaker Ryan, released a statement late Wednesday night:

In general, countries restricted in level red have reduced viral transmission to a point where we can provide economic relief and move them into level orange, recognizing the fact that economic hardships also cause poorer health outcomes. We plan to work with local public health agencies on the next steps. Counties are always able to set more restrictive orders than the state if they so choose.

Padro replied to a message about the change late, writing, “I’ll take it.”

Alan Gionet