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The Sunriser

Sunriser: Colorado’s $60K per day emergency hospital / Eastern Plains county hardest hit by COVID / Local teams racing for a vaccine / + much more

Extreme drought has officials bracing for a wild fire season, theaters are clinging to life and so much more Colorado news.

Compiled by Eric Lubbers, eric@coloradosun.com
CTO/Newsletter Wrangler, @brofax

Your newsletter writer is somewhere behind all those accessories on his daily constitutional to the mailbox and back. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

Good morning! I refuse to let coronavirus diminish the feeling of accomplishment that Making It To Friday brings and I’m encouraging you to bask in it — even if you weren’t sure what day it was when you opened this newsletter.

We have so much news in today’s Sunriser, literally criss-crossing the state with stories touching all aspects of Colorado life, and we’ll get to that quickly.

But first I want to say “welcome aboard” to the hundreds of new Sunriser subscribers who have joined us in the past few days! Buckle in, because the staff of The Sun is working around the clock to make this newsletter the most in-depth look at Colorado news in the state (and we have cartoons!).

And if you haven’t picked up a Colorado Sun facemask (seen above), you’re going to want to get them soon. Our first run is nearly sold out at our merch store, and until we get a new shipment, the only way to get them will be to become a new member (free for new annual Newsletters+ members, 50% off for new annual basic members). All the details are here.

OK, let’s butter this waffle already, shall we?

THE NEWS

The latest from The Sun

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES

(CDPHE)
  • AT LEAST 18,371 CASES, 945 DEATHS: Coronavirus cases and deaths continue to rise in Colorado, with the most recent 3-day average (a slightly more consistent way to measure cases) saw a slight spike after an early May dip. And, as usual, these numbers come with the caveat that health officials say there are potentially tens of thousands of uncounted cases because of limited testing. >> STATE DATA, MAP
  • SENIOR FACILITIES ACCOUNT FOR 57% OF DEATHS: Roughly 100 new deaths at senior care facilities and nursing homes were reported in the past week. Jesse Paul and Jennifer Brown have more. >> STORY
  • 420,000 COLORADANS HAVE FILED UNEMPLOYMENT: More traditional workers applied for unemployment last week, but they were joined by self-employed and gig workers who, for the first time, can file for benefits. Jesse Paul and Tamara Chuang dig into the numbers, including the 150 people who were reported for refusing to go back to work as the state’s patchwork of reopening policies took effect. >> STORY
  • EXTREME DROUGHT, FEWER FIREFIGHTERS WORRYING WILDFIRE MANAGERS: If the pandemic wasn’t enough to deal with, early snowmelt and high temperatures could lead to an unpredictable summer fire season. Moe Clark has more. >> STORY
  • MOUNTAIN PASSES WON’T BE OPEN FOR MEMORIAL DAY: You’re not supposed to be traveling more than 10 miles for recreation, but if even if you were planning a scenic holiday drive, two of Colorado’s high country highways will remain closed. >> STORY

IN-DEPTH

The Colorado county with the highest coronavirus infection rate is now on the Eastern Plains

A colorful display in the storefront of Brown’s Shoe Fit Co. in Fort Morgan on Wednesday, May 6, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Colorado’s coronavirus outbreak started out in the jetsetting world of the ski country, with Eagle County once ranking among the hardest-hit areas in the nation. Now, just two months later, the county with the highest per capita infection rate is Morgan County, which has more cases and deaths than Larimer County — despite having one-twelfth of the population. Jesse Paul has more on what’s driving the high infection rates. >> STORY

Here’s what four Colorado research teams have learned from working on a coronavirus vaccine

A researcher at Fort Collins-based BioMARC holds up samples of culture material that represent the starting place for growing out large viral stocks on Oct. 9, 2014. (Provided by Colorado State University)

Here’s a harsh reminder from John Ingold’s latest story: Humankind has never successfully produced a vaccine against any type of coronavirus. So, as he puts it, the “gonzo-scientific, just-crazy-enough-to-work pace” that is going into developing a vaccine is truly headed into uncharted territory. But among the many teams pushing for a breakthrough, four are based here in Colorado, and John has more on what they’re finding in the process. >> STORY

What if we never need the $100 million coronavirus overflow hospitals Colorado is building?

$60,000 per day

The rental cost Colorado and the feds will be paying for space in the Colorado Convention Center

Even as Coloradans start scheduling haircuts and go back to work, the state is still constructing five makeshift medical sites with the potential to hold thousands of sick patients. And even with the huge cost to build and maintain them, the best-case scenario is that they’ll never need to use a single room. Jennifer Brown has a fascinating look at the expensive “insurance policy” still under construction. >> STORY

Coronavirus is threatening school safety efforts prompted by STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting

Thursday was the one-year anniversary of the STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting that claimed the life of 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo. Colorado lawmakers worked on a slate of school safety legislation in the wake of the tragedy, all of which was supposed to pass during this year’s legislative session. But now, with coronavirus wreaking havoc on the state budget and cutting back the lawmaking term, it’s unclear how much will get done. >> STORY

ARTS

Colorado theater companies are clinging to life and worry coronavirus means shows never go on again

Laura Jo Trexler performs in “Play On! A One-Woman Musical Romp with Shakespeare’s Heroines.” The show will be live streamed from Troxler’s living room on May 9, 2020. (Photo by Theresa Stroll)

About 60% of the arts groups supported by the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District are only moderately or not at all confident that they will survive the coronavirus shutdown. That’s the haunting backdrop to Joanne Ostrow’s story about how Colorado’s live theater community is scrambling, seeking emergency funding and putting on living room livestream performances. >> STORY

OUTDOORS

Warnings are working (for now) to keep visitors out of Colorado’s high country. But tickets, legal battles loom.

Signs informing visitors of the presence of COVID-19 and stating that public lands and trails are open only to Gunnison County residents are posted at Hartman Recreation Area’s main parking area on May 6, 2020. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun)

So far, Colorado’s mountain police have been issuing warnings to help maintain closures, restrictions and mask mandates. But if the patchwork of restrictions continues for months, the warnings will turn into tickets, and the district attorneys tasked with prosecuting violators are worried about the legal ramifications. Jason Blevins has a really fascinating look here. >> STORY

Colorado could stop tourism marketing as budget writers look to slash $3 billion in spending

Back in 1993, Colorado was the No. 1 tourist destination in the country. Then the state cut the Colorado Tourism Office’s $12 million budget to zero — and the state dropped to No. 17 before the funding was reinstated in 2000. That’s the history lesson looming over the proposed slashing of the tourism office’s budget amid an unprecedented effort by legislators to cut spending — even as the state looks ahead to the post-pandemic recovery. >> STORY

BUSINESS

Coronavirus dampens debut of program to give mobile home owners a fighting chance in disputes

“I thought we’d be deluged with complaints by now.”

Maulid “Mo” Miskell, manager of DOLA’s Mobile Home Park Oversight Program

In one of the biggest legislative victories for mobile home owners in recent years, a program designed to level the playing field between home owners and park owners has seen only four total complaints as of May 7 — a far cry from the surge of pent-up complaints advocates expected. Kevin Simpson digs into the factors at play. >> STORY

Colorado entrepreneurs already faced a steep startup curve. Coronavirus increased the grade.

What do Colorado’s mom and pop businesses and its VC-backed startups have in common? They’re both looking for ways to launch, grow and stay alive. Tamara Chuang has a sweeping story looking at the landscape of small businesses in Colorado. >> STORY

MORE NEWS

$39

The fee Frontier Airlines was planning to charge passengers to guarantee they would be sitting next to an empty seat.

THE FUN STUFF

JOHN FRANK’S BEER PICK

Ska Brewing opened its new place in Boulder for a mere one hour and 11 minutes before a statewide order related to the coronavirus closed bars and restaurants. But the new Ska Street Brewstillery is reopening for take-out dining in the former Fate Brewing location. The concept is a mashup of the Durango brewery we all know and love and its sister spirits maker Peach Street Distillers from Palisade. Consider it a one-stop shop for to-go food, cocktails and beer. For the latter I recommend the classic Modus Hoperandi to cure social distancing blues.

CARTOONS

  • We’re well past baseball’s Opening Day, but Drew Litton has found the silver lining. >> CARTOON
  • In “What’d I Miss?” Ossie compares and contrasts two forms of protest that are revealing a strain of racism — that’s barely even concealed anymore. >> CARTOON

The Colorado Report

THE BEST JOURNALISM FROM IN AND AROUND THE STATE

  • You’re not wearing a mask to save yourself. This is a pretty good, comprehensive look at the science behind mask-wearing >> The Atlantic
  • The most vulnerable in Colorado are still getting sick:
    • 17 grocery store workers in Breckenridge have contracted COVID-19. >> Summit Daily
    • The worst outbreak in Denver is in the city’s downtown jail. >> Denverite
    • Two JBS employees say they were fired after staying home sick. >> The Denver Post
  • Meanwhile, a suburban restaurant tried to open, closed after order: A Centennial business decided to offer dine-in service, before the Tri-County Health Department ordered them to close. >> Centennial Citizen
  • If you’re hankering for fresh produce, curbside farmers markets are here. OutThere and 5280 have guides on how local farmers are working to quickly create an online ordering platform to make sure their produce gets on to your plate this summer. >> OutThere Colorado, 5280
  • Future murky for Littleton immigrant center. The Littleton Immigrant Resources Center helps legal immigrants learn English, find jobs and become citizens. And now four of the five employees of the center have been furloughed, casting its future in doubt. >> Littleton Independent
  • Here are a few articles that’ll make great weekend coffee reads:
    • About a century before the recent tiny home trend, Colorado Springs was leading the way with rows and rows of cute little huts — that you could live in only if you had tuberculosis. >> Mental Floss
    • Have you seen the front of a modern pickup or SUV lately? That big flat grill and high clearance might look properly menacing and scratch the itch to look extra masculine while you drive around the suburbs, but those designs are extra-deadly for pedestrians and cyclists when involved in accidents. >> Outside Magazine
    • Down in Four Corners (mostly on the New Mexico side), the Ancestral Puebloans built structures and villages that some archaeologists suggest show some sophisticated understanding of astronomy. >> Deseret News

 


 

WRITE ON, COLORADO

Stories, thoughts and essays from authors, thinkers and readers like you.

If you haven’t been following our “Write on, Colorado” series, now is a great time to check out all of the entries from people across the state. And, remember, we’re always taking contributions if there’s something you’d like to share.

A few recent entries:

 


 

Phew! That was a heck of a trip through Colorado news, and I’m thrilled you took the time to come with me. There is no shame in saving some of these stories to read this weekend. Sun stories often pair best with a hot cup of coffee and some great early morning sunshine.

As always, you can help spread the word about The Sun’s journalism by posting links to stories that moved you in some way or another on Twitter, Facebook or even screenshotting a headline and posting to Instagram.

Have a safe, relaxing weekend and we’ll see you on Monday!

— Eric