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The emergency room entrance to Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver, photographed on Oct. 22, 2019. (John Ingold, The Colorado Sun)

Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday opened a special health insurance enrollment period for Coloradans needing coverage as part of more sweeping actions to try to limit the spread of the new coronavirus in the state and prepare for an influx of infected patients.

He also extended the period for which restaurants and bars in Colorado are closed to in-person dining.


The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

  • MAP: Cases and deaths in Colorado.
  • TESTINGHere’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • VACCINE HOTLINE: Get up-to-date information.


The enrollment period for uninsured Coloradans will begin on March 20 and last through April 3. People who need health insurance can buy plans on the state’s Affordable Care Act’s individual exchange — called Connect for Health Colorado — during that span.

Coloradans who have lost their jobs — or who may lose their jobs in the coming weeks — and find themselves without their employer-based coverage are allowed a 60-day window after their employment ends to enroll in an individual health insurance plan. There is no date restriction for people who fall into that category.

Polis also added hair and nail salons, spas, and tattoo and massage parlors to the list of businesses ordered closed by an executive action earlier this week that mandated the shut down of restaurants and bars to in-person dining. Casinos, theaters and gyms have also been ordered to close.

The order is now in effect until at least April 30 — a longer period than when it was first signed into action earlier this week for 30 days. Take out and delivery are still available from restaurants, but scores of people have been laid off because of the order.

MORE: Read the orders and actions from the governor

The action opening up the insurance exchange
The order elongating the closure of restaurants, bars, casinos, etc.
The order barring elective and non-essential surgeries

Finally, the governor temporarily suspended all elective and non-essential surgeries and procedures in an effort to preserve important medical equipment, like personal protective gear and ventilators, needed to combat COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

That order is in effect from March 23 to April 14 and includes an exception for rural and critical-access hospitals.

“While we cannot anticipate how many Coloradans will need hospital care in the coming weeks, we must ensure that the state has enough capacity to treat patients who require hospital-level care both as a result of COVID-19,” the order says.

“As a state, we are looking at all possible solutions to ensure we are protecting the health and safety of Coloradans and minimizing the duration of the crisis,” Polis said in a written statement. “This is a coordinated effort with all state agencies and community partners to utilize every resource available during this difficult time to reduce the severity and duration of the crisis. Together, we will get through this.”

Polis has said he is looking at all applicable actions to limit the spread of coronavirus in Colorado. That could also include a temporary shelter-in-place order.

As of Thursday, there were nearly 300 cases of the disease reported in the state and four deaths. Polis has said the outbreak will likely last for months and will get get worse before it gets better.

MORE: Colorado announces third, fourth coronavirus deaths

El Paso County senior care facility has six cases

On Thursday, health officials in El Paso County announced they had identified six cases of coronavirus in a senior care facility called Laurel Manor Care Center.

It’s at least the second senior care facility in the state where the virus has been found.

“With the strong support of partners, we are working diligently to ensure ill patients are receiving the proper care while limiting further spread of disease,” El Paso County Public Health said in a statement. “Proactive efforts are focused on identifying, isolating and testing all of those who may be at risk because of these new cases.”

People over 60 and with preexisting health conditions are at the highest risk of becoming critically ill and/or dying from coronavirus.

Jesse Paul

The Colorado Sun — Desk: 720-432-2229 Jesse Paul is a political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is...