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The Sunriser

Sunriser: Colorado prepped for the wrong pandemic / Coronavirus deaths spike / COVID reaches homeless population / Mental health via video chat / + more

Your guided tour through Colorado news, compiled by your friends at The Sun.

Good morning, on what the calendar says is Monday (I’m grateful for this newsletter for giving me some structure to avoid a blur of work). Here are two things I did this weekend:

How are you staying busy/sane? My inbox is open for tips, ideas and insights into what you, as a reader, want from a news outlet during this time → eric@coloradosun.com.

But you aren’t opening this newsletter for recipes. I’m kind of amazed looking at the amount of really vital, interesting reporting in this newsletter that spans the entire state — geographically, but also in all corners of life from the toniest ski resorts to Denver’s homeless camps and suburban kitchens.

Your support is what is helping The Sun continue to provide this much-needed reporting, so I want to say thank you again. This pandemic is going to hit local news — hard — and you can make your support go even further by sharing our stories, newsletters and more with your home-bound friends and neighbors.

I want to be clear: this kind of local journalism is more important than ever for public safety, but this pandemic is going to strike the financial underpinnings of local news, hard. Because The Colorado Sun is funded by readers just like you, we can weather this storm, but only if you become a member right now for just $5/month and directly help the state stay informed. If you’re stable at the moment, go to coloradosun.com/join while it’s on your mind to help provide the best information for everyone.

Alright, we have so much to read, so let’s roast these jalapeños, shall we?

The Latest from The Sun

CORONAVIRUS MAJOR UPDATES

STATS: Coronavirus deaths reach at least 48, including 11 in one county

  • MORE DEATHS IN COLORADO SPRINGS AREA: The latest numbers on Colorado deaths linked to COVID-19 include several more residents of El Paso County, bringing the county’s total to 11, the most in the state. >> STORY
  • MAN IN HIS 40s DIES IN EAGLE COUNTY: Health officials keep saying it, but allow me to repeat it — this virus doesn’t discriminate, and, young people, you are not immune. A man in his 40s, a father of three from Eagle County, became the youngest person in the state yet to die from COVID-19 complications. >> STORY
  • MAP: The state’s latest numbers show more than 2,300 confirmed cases in the state, up from just over 600 this time last week — though the state has said it assumes “thousands” of untested or undetected cases exist in the state. See the latest county counts on our map. >> MAP

SPREAD: Each Colorado coronavirus patient is spreading the disease to as many as 4 people, governor says

In his Friday update, Gov. Jared Polis said one reason the stay-at-home order is so vital to public health is that Colorado coronavirus patients are infecting three to four people each, trending much higher than the global transmission average of two infections. More quick stats from the briefing:

  • Without any physical distancing measures, the state could have seen 33,000 deaths.
  • In the same worst-case scenario, Colorado would need 14,000 critical-care hospital beds at its peak — the state has 1,800 now.
  • Colorado has about 900 ventilators, but would need as many as 7,000 in the worst-case scenario.
  • A reduction of social interaction of 60% would drastically reduce those needs, and he hopes this order will achieve a 70-80% reduction.

John Ingold and Jesse Paul explain more from the update. >> STORY

ECONOMY: 6 ways Congress’ $2 trillion aid package will help Coloradans + major unemployment surge

  • STATE PROCESSED 61,000 UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS IN FOUR DAYS: Tamara Chuang has the latest on the upgraded system that has seen a volume of applications nearly eight times higher than the peak of the Great Recession. >> STORY
  • HOW THE AID PACKAGE WILL HELP COLORADANS: Jesse Paul rounded up six ways Coloradans will benefit from the massive (but still fairly limited) aid package signed into law over the weekend, from direct checks for most to gig workers being eligible for unemployment for the first time. >> STORY

POLITICS: Democrats are fighting among themselves about returning to the statehouse for a vote

“I think it’s irresponsible for us to go in [Monday], and I think we should follow the example we want to set for everybody.”

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg

“[Returning to the Capitol] is the safest course of action right now.”

House Speaker KC Becker, referring to the possibility that a letter-based vote may not be legal

Everyone agrees that the state legislature needs to remain paused for the good of public safety. But Jesse Paul reports on a split between two of the most powerful Democrats on how to execute that pause in an unprecedented situation. >> STORY

 


 

IN-DEPTH

Months ago, Colorado trained to prepare for a pandemic. But not one like the coronavirus.

A worker at a coronavirus drive-up testing site in Montrose. (Handout)

“None of this is built around the fact that we’re all going to get hit at once and there is no federal support. The federal system has failed us here.”

Scott Bookman, CDPHE’s incident commander for the response to COVID-19

It was dubbed “Crimson Contagion” and for a few days last August, federal, state and local agencies, health departments and hospitals trained for how to deal with a hypothetical pandemic. But assumptions made during the training — from the amount of federal help available to the national stockpile of supplies to the fact that the training was built around a strain of influenza, not coronavirus — left those same agencies struggling to keep up when the real thing hit. John Ingold has an excellent deep-dive into the gaps between training and reality. >> STORY

Mental health care in Colorado has gone virtual thanks to coronavirus. For some patients, it’s long overdue.

“When they are in the office, I can feel, gut-feeling how they are doing. I don’t get all that now.”

Deby Williamson, a licensed clinical social worker in private practice in Colorado Springs 

“My last clinic this week, I saw 100% of people on my schedule. That has never happened in my career. No one missed a bus. No one didn’t have transportation.”

Dr. Carl Clark, president and CEO of the Mental Health Center of Denver 

Of all the face-to-face experiences ground to a halt by the coronavirus stay-at-home order, mental health appointments are one of the most urgent. And while the overnight transition from in-person sessions to privacy-protected online chats is causing some uncomfortable adjustments for some therapists, many patients who struggled to regularly attend appointments say the ability to flip open a laptop and see a doctor is a game changer. Jennifer Brown has more.  >> STORY

Colorado families are getting a taste of homeschool thanks to the coronavirus crisis. Could it stick?

Jacqueline Maldonado checks her son’s homework as her daughter does an online math lesson at their home in Timnath on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Maldonado started homeschooling her 8-year-old twins, Cecilia and Ruben, this week when they would have returned to school after spring break. (Valerie Mosley, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Suddenly, many Colorado parents have a greater appreciation for the teachers that educate their kids. Erica Breunlin reports on how Colorado families are adjusting to the nearly instant need to become parent and teacher — and why a few are considering making the switch to homeschooling permanent. >> STORY

The ski resort industry is hoping for federal relief from its $2 billion in coronavirus losses

March 14 is typically the busiest day of the Colorado ski season, with throngs of spring breakers arriving to contribute to the 20% of the resorts’ revenues the month generates. But this year, March 14 was the date every resort in the state was ordered closed. Jason Blevins looks at the industry fallout, from the obvious revenue losses to the not-so-obvious, like restaurants full of food, the ripple effect of ski pass sales and employee housing costs. >> STORY

Colorado is still figuring out how to protect the homeless as Denver shelter reports two coronavirus cases

“We need more guidance from public health on what to do because obviously if these cases begin to rise among this population, and we find out that these positive cases have been in the shelters, then that’s more likely to indicate exposure. We’re really starting to feel anxious about what the public health guidelines might be on this.”

Cathy Alderman, vice president of communications and public policy at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless

Moe Clark reports on the growing concern at the lack of a coordinated statewide plan for how to deal with coronavirus spreading among people without homes in Colorado as the first two infections among Denver’s homeless population are confirmed. >> STORY

 


 

MORE COVERAGE

Democrat Phil Weiser, left, Colorado’s attorney general, poses for a photo with the Rev. Terrance “Big T” Hughes after his investiture ceremony in the Colorado Supreme Court chambers in January 2019. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

“This virus is going to hit some neighborhoods and neighbors worse than others and the idea of health equity is going to be tested in the coming weeks.”

Rev. Terrance Hughes, aka “Big T”, in a statement from his hospital bed before he was placed under sedation 

  • DENVER PASTOR CRITICALLY ILL WITH COVID-19: From The Colorado Independent, editor Susan Greene has an in-depth look at how the coronavirus has struck a prominent pastor’s family and left him in critical condition and his wife isolated with symptoms at their home in Montbello. >> STORY
  • CORONAVIRUS IS ALREADY PRESSURING RURAL HOSPITALS: From The Colorado Trust, Michael Booth looks at how a drop in profitable elective surgeries and facility upgrades are already putting pressure on rural hospitals, even in areas with no confirmed cases. >> STORY
  • LACK OF TOURISTS LEAVES MOUNTAIN HOSPITALS IN GOOD SHAPE: Meanwhile, some hospitals used to treating winter tourists have found themselves with extra space as they prepare to treat pandemic cases. >> STORY
  • PREGNANT WOMEN ADAPTING: From instituting strict no-hugging policies to considering avoiding hospitals for births, pregnant women in Colorado are on alert. >> STORY
  • GREAT OUTDOORS OFFERS ESCAPE, RISKS: The Associated Press has a look at the tradeoffs facing people wanting to physically distance themselves outdoors — even when doing so breaks stay-at-home rules. >> STORY

The Opinion Page

Columns from thinkers around Colorado

Write On, Colorado!

A note from Kevin Simpson, who has been managing our Write On, Colorado! project: The reader response has been nothing short of incredible. We’ve received thoughtful, heartfelt essays — plus poetry and even an original song — describing the many impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Events move quickly, and readers’ submissions provide an instant time capsule for this unprecedented challenge. You can read what Coloradans have written so far — we’re publishing a few new ones each day — and learn how you can become part of the project here: coloradosun.com/writeon.

The Colorado Report

THE BEST JOURNALISM FROM IN AND AROUND THE STATE

//KILLER ACQUISITIONONE REASON FOR VENTILATOR SHORTAGE: Warning: this story is going to make you angry. A decade ago, scientists saw that the U.S. would be in trouble during a pandemic because of the small supply of old, expensive ventilators. So a federal program contracted with a small company to design and build thousands of cheaper, portable ventilators to stockpile against a pandemic. But somewhere in the process, a company that made the expensive, older machines bought that small company and effectively killed the program — an act officials and executives suspect was to prevent a cheaper product from cutting into their existing sales. >> The New York Times

// MULTIPLE POLICE IMPERSONATIONS REPORTED IN COLORADO: People impersonating police and pulling over drivers to interrogate them about violating the stay-at-home order have been reported in Aurora, Greeley and Erie in the past few days. REMINDER: If you get pulled over, you can call 911 immediately to verify if the person pulling you over is legit before you roll down your window. >> Aurora Sentinel, KDVR, 9News

// CORONAVIRUS HIGHLIGHTS INEQUALITY: Earlier this month, The Sun published a report on Colorado’s efforts to ensure the coronavirus fight was applied equally around the state. But as the global pandemic expands, the gap between the rich (with more opportunities for kids, better broadband and more space to isolate in) and the poor is in sharp relief in the U.S. And the people deemed “essential” — grocery store workers, delivery drivers, frontline health care workers — are both more at risk of getting sick and having their lives disrupted more significantly by illness. >> The Colorado Sun, The New York Times, Brookings Institute

// PRESIDENT IMPLIES HEALTH CARE WORKERS STEALING MASKS, DENVER DOCTOR RESPONDS: President Trump, when answering a question about the dire shortage of personal protective equipment that has led nurses to wear trash bags, implied that masks could be being stolen by hospital staff — which led to backlash by furious doctors. A Denver ER doctor posted a reality check video on Twitter about where all the masks are going.  >> New York Post, Newsweek, @KyleClark and @comilla_s on Twitter

// THE AIR REALLY IS (a little) CLEANER IN DENVER: If you’ve been outside in Denver since the stay-at-home order kicked in, it’s hard not to notice that there’s a lot less brown in the cloud over the city. At least one measurement shows that the lack of car travel really is resulting in (slightly) cleaner air. >> Denverite

// SOCIAL DISTANCING, BOULDER STYLE: Let’s end on a slightly lighter note, shall we, with this photo of an over-engineered solution to social distance spotted on a Boulder trail. // /u/crylon on /r/boulder

 


 

You may be stuck at home, but you still have things to do, so thanks for spending some time with us and reading through The Sunriser. Don’t forget to share anything that piques your interest with your fellow shut-in friends and families to help grow this community.

Stay healthy, stay engaged and we’ll see you here on Wednesday.

— Eric