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Denver’s stay-at-home order extended until May 8. Mayor says more time is needed to scale up coronavirus testing, tracing

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said he made his decision after consulting with other mayors in the Denver area, suggesting the rest of the metropolitan area could soon follow his lead.

The downtown Denver skyline, photographed on Oct. 22, 2019. (John Ingold, The Colorado Sun)
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UPDATE: Most of Denver area to remain under stay-at-home order as governor eases statewide restrictions

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Thursday evening announced that Colorado’s largest city will remain under a stay-at-home order until May 8 even as Gov. Jared Polis relaxes his statewide mandate starting Monday.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said he made his decision after consulting with other mayors in the Denver area, suggesting the rest of the metropolitan area could soon follow his lead.

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“Extending our stay-at-home order will give us more time to do the things necessary for our community to reopen safely and in stages,” Hancock tweeted. “So, we need a little more time to scale up testing and tracing.”

Hancock is expected to release more information on Friday morning at a news conference.

Polis said Wednesday that extending the statewide stay-at-home order would have a negligible effect on reducing the coronavirus’ peak. “It inflicts very severe economic pain on people, but also hurts the will and psychological ability of the people of Colorado to be in this for the long haul in exchange for really no reduction in the number of (intensive care unit) beds we need at the peak of the crisis,” Polis said.

This is the second time Hancock has taken more restrictive action than Polis to address the crisis stemming from COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus. In March, Hancock issued a stay-at-home order for Denver the day after Polis said such a mandate was unenforceable and the wrong course of action.

Two days later, the Tri-County Health Department and Boulder, Douglas and Jefferson counties issued public health orders telling people to stay at home. Later that day, with the entire Denver metro area shut down, Polis followed suit.

Health officials in Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Douglas and Jefferson counties hinted on Thursday that they are also leaning toward extending the stay-at-home order in their communities.

“Many parts of the state do not have growing numbers of COVID-19 cases and it makes sense for them to open, but in the more densely populated counties in the metro area, opening too soon could be detrimental to keeping us healthy and open moving forward,” Dr. John M. Douglas, executive director of Tri-County Health Department, said in a written statement.

Tri-County covers Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties. The agency said in a news release that it was “reviewing the need to extend the stay-at-home order for two weeks until May 8 for specific locations that are still experiencing high numbers of people sick with COVID-19. A decision will be made by Sunday on most appropriate steps to be taken to begin to slowly reopen our local businesses.”

On Thursday evening, Tri-State announced that it had ordered the closure of the Walmart Supercenter at 1400 East Exposition Avenue in Aurora because of a coronavirus outbreak among employees and their family members that has left three people dead. As many as nine other employees are infected with the disease.

Polis has said that as the state moves next week into what he describes as a “safer-at-home” period, some counties may choose to keep more restrictive measures in place while others can apply to allow their citizens more freedoms.

Gov. Jared Polis before speaking to reporters at the governor’s mansion in downtown Denver on Monday, April 20, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

But the governor has been clear that Coloradans should still be staying in their homes as much as possible, wearing masks whenever they leave and staying vigilant to prevent themselves from spreading or contracting coronavirus.

The disease had killed more than 550 people in Colorado through Thursday, including 101 in Arapahoe County and 98 in Denver. More than 11,000 people across the state either have confirmed or probable cases of the virus.

More than 800 people with confirmed coronavirus cases are currently hospitalized.

The Denver metro area has seen the highest number of total infections and deaths in the state, though other counties have had higher per capita rates of spread.

Hancock’s decision to extend Denver’s stay-at-home order comes days after hundreds gathered at the Colorado Capitol on Sunday to call for an easing of restrictions.

About 300,000 people have filed unemployment claims in Colorado as the coronavirus wreaks havoc on the state’s economy.

Alcohol, group sports and use of shared equipment — like frisbees and footballs — are banned in Denver parks until at least July 23. Park visitors must stay six feet apart from each other and cannot congregate with others.

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