(Courtesy of The Spinoff)

Compiled by Eric Lubbers, eric@coloradosun.com
CTO/Newsletter Wrangler, @brofax

Good morning! Coronavirus is the topic of conversation right now, as any glance at the stock market, social media or TV will tell you. But such a complex topic can generate so much information that’s it hard to separate the hype from the facts you need to stay safe (while not succumbing to panic).

We’re helping you cut through that noise here at The Sun. In every coronavirus story we publish, keep an eye out for this box, which we will keep updated with only the most important news and facts about how Colorado is dealing with the outbreak:


In addition, we’re building a page full of resources that actually answer the questions you have and gives you practical advice on how to deal with it. Keep coloradosun.com/coronavirus in your bookmarks and we’ll be keeping it up-to-date. (And if you have any specific questions you’d like to see addressed, email health@coloradosun.com.) 

Vital news about public health in Colorado is not going to come from a big national news outlet. It’s only going to come from a dedicated team of local journalists like The Sun. If you can afford $5/month (or more) and you care about keeping Colorado reliably informed during a crisis, it’s time to step up and become part of the solution.

Click here right now to become a member and help keep Coloradans in the know.

OK, let’s flatten this curve, shall we?

(and I promise, we have a lot more in today’s newsletter that isn’t virus-related)


The Latest from The Sun





Polis declares state of emergency, drive-thru testing and more

The official count of coronavirus cases in Colorado is up to 17 (see our map of confirmed cases here) — and that’s with the state’s relatively meager testing capacity. Yesterday Gov. Jared Polis announced a state of emergency that will give his administration the power to temporarily halt gatherings, create programs and more. Some of his first actions:

  • Ordering emergency rules requiring service, child care and education workers be guaranteed paid sick leave if they have to miss work to seek testing for COVID-19.
  • Allowing drivers 65 and older to renew licenses online to avoid the DMV crowds.
  • Creating a rule to allow state employees to work from home if they test positive.

John Ingold and Jesse Paul have more, including what other authority the declaration gives the governor and a major expansion of testing in the state (which will likely raise the number of known infections) and the doctor’s-note-only drive-thru testing location opening today in east Denver. >> STORY



Inside the Colorado State University lab that is trying to develop the world’s first vaccine for COVID-19

“Inactivating viruses is not necessarily the hard part. It’s, once they’re inactivated, making sure it works.”

— Alan Rudolph, CSU’s vice president for research

In a curving, three-story building in Fort Collins, scientists who have battled SARS, MERS and other novel infectious diseases are focusing full-force on the complex and delicate work of creating a brand new vaccine. John Ingold went inside the lab to explain just how complicated the process is, how much work is still ahead of them and why this disease’s potential longevity makes the creation of a vaccine so vital. >> STORY



More COVID-19 news

  • COLORADO COLLEGES COULD SOON CANCEL IN-PERSON SPRING CLASSES: Erica Breunlin reports that Colorado College is one of the institutions currently weighing whether to have a spring classes on campus at all — and how professors and students are preparing for months of online-only classes. >> STORY
  • NO CO-PAYS FOR TESTING (IF YOU MEET CRITERIA): On Monday, Polis ordered Colorado health insurers to waive any costs associated with testing for COVID-19 — if you meet the state’s criteria (which has broadened). >> STORY
  • TEACHERS UNION CANCELS RALLY, DENVER CANCELS PARADE: The major teacher rally planned for next week at the state Capitol — one that had already prompted several districts to call off school — has been canceled due to coronavirus fears. Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Denver has also been called off, as social distancing remains one of the most effective methods of slowing transmission. // The Colorado Sun, Denver7
  • ASPEN OFFICIALS WAITING ON AUSTRALIANS’ RESULTS: A woman who traveled to Aspen and later tested positive for COVID-19 when she returned to Australia stayed with 13 people during her time in Colorado, all of whom are in isolation awaiting results.
  • BLOOD DONATIONS, SKI RESORTS AND GYMS: Blood donation centers are saying donations are low because of virus fears and urging people to donate. After one of the state’s confirmed cases said they had worked out at the Denver Country Club, gyms and yoga studios are getting serious about sterilization. And meanwhile, it’s business as usual at the state’s ski resorts — though worries about a dip in out-of-state tourists are on the horizon. // CPR News, US News, Westword, OutThere Colorado
  • ONE CHART TO EXPLAIN ALL THE FUSS: I’ve seen a lot of chatter online (and in public) from people confused as to why cities, states and whole countries should disrupt daily life to keep people from getting sick if coronavirus is “basically like the flu.” It’s all about flattening the curve. It’s not just about avoiding the sniffles, it’s about making sure we don’t run out of hospital beds, ventilators and other finite resources — which could cause cascading problems for everyone. If that doesn’t quite make sense, take a look at this, one of the most effective pieces of data visualization I’ve ever seen. // The Spinoff

(Courtesy of The Spinoff NZ)




Pregnant women in Moffat County have lost their obstetrics care, the latest victims of the rural health crisis

45 miles

The distance — down a winding, two-lane highway that hugs the mountains and where hazards include blizzards as well as crossing elk and mule deer — pregnant women have to drive to get from Craig to the nearest hospital with a labor and delivery department.

Pregnant women in far northwest Colorado suddenly have to look much farther from home for mom-and-baby care after Memorial Regional Health in Craig closed its labor and delivery department. Jennifer Brown explains the budget crisis facing rural hospitals and why some doctors are questioning why obstetrics got the ax over other departments. >> STORY




Colorado lawmakers wanted to tackle the state’s firefighting chemical problem. They are taking more of a baby step.

“We’ve made a lot of changes and a lot of concessions … We just couldn’t get to a point where we could keep the bill as it was.”

— State Rep. Tony Exum, a Colorado Springs Democrat and retired firefighter who spearheaded House Bill 1119

Firefighting foam containing chemicals known as PFAS substances have been used to extinguish jet fuel fires for decades — especially by the Air Force. And those substances have now been known to leach into drinking water and cause long-term health impacts. But a bill originally designed to take a big swing at rectifying the situation in Colorado is looking more like a bunt. Moe Clark explains how the bill lost its teeth. >> BILL EXPLAINER




Auto dealers, electric-vehicle startups reach compromise to allow Colorado direct-to-consumer sales

Coloradans are one step closer to getting electric vehicles from startups like Rivian after a once-contentious bill allowing some EV manufacturers to bypass dealerships and sell directly to consumers cleared its final legislative committee. Tamara Chuang explains why this bill survived where others failed. >> STORY

+ DEALER OP-ED: Colorado Automobile Dealers Association CEO Tim Jackson writes, “Colorado new car dealers welcome competition and electric vehicles



First the trade war, now the coronavirus. Jefferson County gets new tool to tackle international trade

In the middle of the twin threats of an ongoing trade war and now a global pandemic, businesses in Jefferson County can postpone tariff payments — or even skip them all together in some cases — as they do business internationally with the county’s new foreign trade zone designation. Tamara Chuang explains what FTZs are and how they might help bolster small businesses here in the state. >> STORY



“The impact to tax revenue was going to be really considerable.”

— state Rep. Yadira Caraveo, a Thornton Democrat who is leading the push for the measure
  • BILL TO BAN FLAVORED VAPES, TOBACCO NOW HAS A BIG ASTERISK: An ambitious bill to ban all flavored vaping and nicotine products — from bubble gum vapes to menthol cigarettes — just got a major rewrite to protect a major source of tax revenue. Jesse Paul explains. >> STORY
  • THE SUN, OTHER OUTLETS SEEK TO UNSEAL STEPMOM AFFIDAVIT: The Colorado Sun has joined with other news organizations seeking the arrest affidavit for Letecia Stauch, the stepmother accused of murdering 11-year-old Gannon Stauch. >> STORY


The Colorado Report



// A BEAUTIFUL, HAUNTING STORY ABOUT MOUNTAIN LIONS: I am always excited to see a new piece by reporter and illustrator Sarah Gilman. In this edition, she focuses her keyboard and brush over the West’s relationship with the mysteries, myths and science of mountain lions. // High Country News

// RTD STILL EYEING CUTS + LOW-INCOME RIDERS STRUGGLE WITH NEW PROGRAM: The plan to cut bus and train routes to relieve RTD’s small pool of overworked drivers got initial approval last night because — surprise — the state’s driver shortage didn’t suddenly solve itself while we weren’t looking. Meanwhile, the transit authority’s program for low-income riders casts a wide net, but the program requirements mean that many of the area’s homeless are no longer able to get tickets. // CPR News

// AS OIL PRICES COLLAPSE, WELD COUNTY PREPARES FOR THE WORST: The market slide triggered by coronavirus kicked into high gear by a price feud between Russia, Saudi Arabia and OPEC. The end result is a massive drop in the price of oil and Weld County worrying about major local employers’ debt burdens. // BizWest ?

It seems worthwhile to repeat what public health officials have been telling us at briefings on the coronavirus: wash your hands, keep your distance from other people and stay home if you’re ill.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that we (as in you, me and everyone else reading this newsletter) have as much power to slow this thing as any government or health official. So be respectful, be careful and stay informed.

And check back with The Sun to stay updated on what’s going on with the disease’s spread (and send this newsletter to any of your friends and family who are either panicking or in full-denial mode).

Stay clean, stay healthy and we’ll see you back here on Friday. 

— Eric

Eric Lubbers is one of the co-founders of The Colorado Sun, focused on making technology work hand-in-hand with journalism. He was born and raised in Yuma, Colorado, and since starting his career with the Rocky Mountain News/YourHub in 2005...