Across the country, rents were due on April 1, but countless Americans — many of whom joined the record 10 million new unemployment claims — can’t pay.

In Colorado alone, an informal survey of 300 residents by my Senate campaign found that 23% of respondents were unable to afford rent in April. By May, that number jumps to 37% and an additional 24% are uncertain they can afford rent.

That’s the reality of the COVID-19 crisis: more than half of Colorado renters are worried they can no longer afford to pay for their housing. 

Lorena Garcia

Coloradans immediately need a rent/mortgage/debt freeze to avert housing displacement during this crisis. An eviction freeze only delays future evictions for those who have lost jobs or have had hours reduced.

We have the tools to prevent a housing crisis in Colorado and the U.S., if we are willing to adopt such freezes. But it will take more than that. We must also eliminate future balloon catch-up payments that will just reignite the problem down the road. 

On April 15, models released by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation project the impact of COVID-19 will peak in the U.S. It is projected that our country will experience 2,212 deaths in one day at our peak.

We will be short 15,852 hospital beds and 9,047 ICU beds. We will need 16,524 ventilators to prevent even more deaths. And that doesn’t include the residual deaths of those with non-COVID medical issues and emergencies who cannot get the medical care they need.

These numbers are staggering. But also, the data provide an opportunity for the federal and state governments to accelerate action.

Some models suggest Colorado has not yet reached its peak of COVID-19 cases, and some suggest the state could be facing shortages of beds and ventilators.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

These are not just numbers; these are people with names, stories, families and communities that love them. They deserve to have leadership that will do everything possible to prepare for their care.  

These projections give Colorado and the country enough time to begin to prepare for peak impact. We must immediately do the following:

  • Create tent hospitals to serve patients who are not critically ill while converting regular hospital rooms into ICU units.
  • Provide care to all who are experiencing illness or symptoms due to COVID-19 despite their insurance status. 
  • Enact a nationwide rent/mortgage/debt freeze for individuals who have lost their jobs or who have lost hours. 
  • End President Donald Trump’s arbitrary favoritism in allocating life-saving resources to those who show him deference.  

The Trump Administration has already failed the country through its late and lackadaisical approach to fighting COVID-19, and now he is taking supplies Colorado secured for our state.

We now have the numbers and the data to guide our planning. It is imperative that our leaders prioritize the health and well-being of the American people in their efforts to mitigate the threat of COVID-19.

Anything short of rapid response to these model projections will be not only negligent, but should be considered criminal.

Lorena Garcia Lorena Garcia is a U.S. Senate candidate and a seventh-generation Coloradan.

Special to The Colorado Sun