Colorado on Friday announced its first death from the new coronavirus, about a week after the state’s first case was confirmed and as the outbreak has quickly spread from Aspen to Colorado Springs and Centennial to Fort Collins.
The person who died was a woman in her 80s with underlying health conditions. She lived in El Paso County.
“While we were expecting this day, it doesn’t make it any less difficult to hear and share this news. As a state we are in mourning and our hearts go out to the family and loved ones of the Coloradan we lost,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a written statement.
Polis earlier in the day, speaking to reporters, said a fatality from the outbreak was a matter of when, not if.
There are now at least 77 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Polis has declared a state of emergency and warned the outbreak will worsen.
“We offer our deepest, heartfelt condolences to the family and are saddened by this news,” Susan Wheelan, El Paso County Public Health director, said in a news release. “We have a dedicated team of experts working around the clock to protect the health and safety of our community. We are doing everything we can to prevent more loss of lives. We know all of El Paso County, and Colorado, will join us.”
The woman who died was one of two cases in El Paso County. Details of her case, including her name, were not released on Friday, with officials citing her family’s privacy.
But at a news conference in Colorado Springs, Polis said that the woman did not live in a care center.
More than 30 people have died of coronavirus in the U.S. Globally, the virus has killed more than 5,000 people.
Colorado public health officials have been warning that older people are at a high risk of becoming seriously ill, or even dying, from the disease. They pointed to the fatality on Friday as a clear example of that.
“We care deeply about our older Coloradans and people who have chronic diseases,” Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said in a written statement. “This is an all-hands-on-deck effort to slow the spread and support people during these trying times. We know Coloradans will do whatever it takes to help protect those at risk of getting very sick.”
Colorado Sun staff writer Moe Clark contributed to this report.