The issue: 

Businesses can loosen restrictions. But should they?

What we think: 

There needs to be better guidance regarding COVID precautions.

Tell us what you think: 

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It appears Colorado, down to its cities and counties, is conducting its own version of the marshmallow test, and the consequences could be severe. 

You know the sugary study of delayed gratification — from a 2014 Atlantic article, “The image is iconic: A little kid sits at a table, his face contorted in concentration, staring down a marshmallow. Over the last 50 years, the ‘Marshmallow Test’ has become synonymous with temptation, willpower, and grit. ... There are ‘Don’t Eat the Marshmallow!’ T-shirts and Sesame Street episodes where Cookie Monster learns delayed gratification so he can join the Cookie Connoisseurs Club. Investment companies have used the Marshmallow Test to encourage retirement planning.” 

But that was 2014, a simpler time. Today’s marshmallow test — whether businesses and their customers do the right thing even if it means delayed gratification — is a matter of life and death.

Many are getting vaccinated and, heading into summer, a segment of the population may see at least a temporary return to “normal.” But on April 16, Colorado retired its COVID restrictions dial; aside from a few specific state regulations, public health mandates will come from counties and local governments. El Paso County and the city of Colorado Springs have left things like mask requirements and capacity limits in restaurants, gyms and other venues up to each business. 

The loosened restrictions are of course coming when the county’s incidence rate, as of this writing, is over 220 per 100,000 (up 3 percent over the last week). Its positivity rate is 7.23 percent (up 4 percent over the past week) — and it has seen a 33 percent increase in hospitalizations over the past week. 

The state is extending the mask mandate in El Paso County for when 10 or more people who are unvaccinated (or whose vaccine status is unknown) are gathered. Masks are still mandated by the state in hospitals, state government facilities, schools and a few other places. 

Some other regulations have been issued by the state but they are loose and don’t realistically reflect the seriousness of the numbers. And the patchwork of regulations will make compliance a logistical nightmare, not just from county to county, but from business to business. Also, there is no guarantee businesses will put in place mandates that protect employees. More should be done locally to ensure businesses are operating safely, both for the sake of their customers and their employees. Pueblo County is instituting its own dial. Doing the same here would be a start. 

But until everyone who wants to be vaccinated has the opportunity, until we know how vulnerable current vaccines are to variants sweeping the globe (and our state), until cases and hospitalizations are falling instead of rising (we can’t believe this needs to be written), we can’t think about packing restaurants, music venues and coffee shops with no oversight. 

Some say Colorado is looking at a fourth spike by this summer. We’ve failed the marshmallow test before. Thanks to this laissez-faire approach, it just became exponentially harder to pass.