Colorado coronavirus live updates: Closures, case counts and other major pandemic news

More than eight months into the coronavirus pandemic in Colorado, cases and hospitalizations are rising once again. State health officials have warned that if the trend doesn’t abate, Colorado’s hospital capacity could be overwhelmed in a matter of weeks.

To help you stay updated as the situation evolves, The Colorado Sun has launched this live blog with updates on closures, restrictions, and other COVID-19 developments.

You can also check out our map of Colorado coronavirus cases and deaths here, as well as charts showing the national and international COVID-19 situation. That page is updated daily.

(Email questions, comments, concerns and/or tips to newsroom@coloradosun.com)


Colorado governor: Restaurants that don’t follow coronavirus rules could lose their licenses

4:13 PM | 11-24-2020🔗
An empty Potager restaurant in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood on Friday, May 22, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Gov. Jared Polis warned Tuesday that some Colorado restaurant owners who defy or ignore strict state health orders to stem spread of the coronavirus could lose their licenses to operate.

Colorado’s restaurant sector has been hit hard during the pandemic, with many forced to close and thousands of workers laid off.

In recent days, restaurants in counties designated “red” by the state in a color-coded scheme that gauges increasing COVID-19 infection cases have been forced to halt indoor dining.

“Every business in the state of Colorado needs to follow our laws and, whether you agree with it or not, in red counties, not having indoor dining is the law of Colorado,” Polis said. “Any type of business that violates a health order, whether it’s hepatitis, salmonella or COVID … could lose their license to operate.”

The Democratic governor’s comments came after several Loveland businesses in Larimer County signed a letter stating that they will continue operating at full indoor capacity even though the county was placed in the “red” restriction category on Tuesday.

Polis said government financial aid for the restaurant sector is coming — possibly in the form of sales tax breaks — when the Legislature convenes in a special session next week to consider relief measures for small businesses, public school students and residents hurt financially by the pandemic.

“It’s really important that we keep consumer confidence in places being safe. And we don’t want a few bad actors undermining that for the restaurant industry,” Polis said. “Especially at a time when I have called our state legislature to step up to help the good actors in the restaurant industry.”

— Patty Nieberg, The Associated Press


As Thanksgiving approaches and coronavirus rampages, Colorado’s ICU beds are growing scarce

2:16 PM | 11-24-2020🔗

In a week where hundreds of thousands of Coloradans are expected to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday and the state’s coronavirus numbers continue to get worse, Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday delivered one of his strongest warnings to date about what the consequences of that travel could lead to.

If Colorado does nothing to change its current rate of transmission of the virus, the state’s model projects that 6,600 people will have died from COVID-19 by the end of the year. That’s more than double the current number of deaths in the state so far in the pandemic. Though deaths initially did not rise when cases did earlier in the fall, the number of deaths per day is now approaching levels seen during the worst of the spring pandemic surge.

COVID-19 IN COLORADO

The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

  • LIVE BLOG: The latest on closures, restrictions and other major updates.
  • MAP: Cases and deaths in Colorado.
  • TESTING: Here’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • STORY: Colorado researchers are gathering data on coronavirus survivors. Here’s what they’ve found.

>> FULL COVERAGE

On its current trajectory, the state will exceed its intensive-care hospital bed capacity in mid-January, according to the model. Already, ICU beds are growing scarce in the state. Polis said Tuesday there were only 25 ICU beds available in Denver, 14 in Colorado Springs, five in Pueblo and three in Weld County.

And the virus continues to spread rapidly throughout the state. The public health model estimates that one out of every 41 Coloradans is currently contagious with the virus, the highest level seen yet.

“It’s not a time to be fearful,” Polis said, “but a time to be very cautious.”

A let-up in social distancing over the Thanksgiving holiday would only make these numbers worse. If holiday gatherings result in an overall 5% decrease in transmission control, the state would have to activate its field hospitals, ICU bed capacity would be breached by mid-December and deaths could hit 7,400 by the end of the year, said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state epidemiologist. (The state’s model uses a general “transmission control” parameter to account for the impact of social distancing, mask-wearing and other efforts to slow the virus’ spread.)

For those reasons, Polis urged Coloradans to cancel travel plans and not celebrate Thanksgiving with anyone outside their household. He said that’s what he will be doing, forgoing the normal large-family gatherings he, his partner and their children typically enjoy.

“We simply love them too much and they love us too much to put one another at risk,” Polis said of his parents and other family members. “… I think most people don’t want to gamble with the lives of their, particularly, elderly family members.”

Gov. Jared Polis walks into a news conference on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, to announce new coronavirus restrictions in Colorado. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Herlihy said there has been one positive sign in recent data. The number of new cases reported each day has leveled off over the past few days. But Herlihy said it’s too soon to say if that is cause for relief.

“We’d like to see several more days worth of data to see if this is going to be a lasting trend,” she said.

Polis also announced Tuesday that he is forming a task force to look for ways to reopen schools that have switched to remote learning and to keep open those that are currently teaching in-person. The task force’s first meeting is Wednesday.

“We are going to be more hands-on in working with school districts and teachers and schools and families to get kids back to in-person learning in January,” Polis said. “… We can’t let the future of our kids become another casualty of this pandemic.”

— John Ingold, Staff writer


Mask rules in jails vary from county to county as pandemic worsens in Colorado

9:43 AM | 11-24-2020🔗
Inside Denver’s downtown detention center. Oct. 11, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty, Denverite)

Nine months into the coronavirus pandemic and amid the state’s largest surge in critical cases, how much protection jail inmates get from the virus depends a lot on where they’re incarcerated.

CPR News has found that jails across the state have varying policies on both supplying masks and requiring inmates to wear them throughout their jail stays.

In Arapahoe County’s jail, for example, inmates are issued a surgical mask once they’re booked but are allowed to take it off while they’re in the dayrooms. The sheriff’s office issues N95 masks to medically vulnerable people.

In Adams County, arrestees are tested for COVID-19 when they get to jail. If they are negative, they don’t have to wear masks when they’re in their housing units.

Read the whole story here.

— Allison Sherry, CPR News


Colorado researchers are gathering data on coronavirus survivors. Here’s what they’ve found.

9:24 AM | 11-24-2020🔗
A health care worker in the COVID-19 ICU at UCHealth Memorial in Colorado Springs. (Provided by UCHealth)

Eight months into the coronavirus pandemic, Colorado doctors and scientists have a growing study sample: tens of thousands of people in the state who have survived COVID-19. 

Their initial findings are beginning to trickle in, helping piece together the long-term effects of a virus that has killed more than 2,300 Coloradans and infected more than 200,000.

The first long-term study of COVID-19 Colorado survivors, from UCHealth, is finding that about one-third of highly symptomatic patients who survive reported that after six or seven weeks, they were still struggling. 

Read the whole story here.

— Michael Booth, Colorado Sun contributor and Jennifer Brown, Staff writer


Gov. Jared Polis signs executive order allowing hospitals to transfer patients without their consent

1:52 PM | 11-23-2020🔗
The emergency room entrance to Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver, photographed on Oct. 22, 2019. (John Ingold, The Colorado Sun)

Gov. Jared Polis on Monday signed an executive order allowing Colorado emergency rooms that reach capacity to turn away patients or transfer them to another facility without written or informed consent.

The move comes as hospitals across the state are filling up with COVID-19 patients. As of Monday afternoon, more than 1,500 people were hospitalized in Colorado because of the disease.

Intensive-care capacity was reached last week at Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo and in Mesa County. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says 11% of facilities are expecting ICU bed shortages in the next week as of Monday. Thirty-five percent of facilities are anticipating staffing shortages in the next seven days.

“Unfortunately, given the increase in infections, the number of persons seeking medical treatment at hospitals may far exceed the capacity of any given hospital,” Polis wrote in his order.

The executive order also allows CDPHE to “direct a hospital, skilled nursing facility, or other facility to accept patients.”

The order says facilities cannot consider a patient’s insurance status or ability to pay for their care when making transfer decisions. 

“Hospitals, physicians, health insurers or managed health care organizations, health care providers, public health workers, or emergency service providers that in good faith comply completely with this Executive Order shall be immune from civil or criminal liability,” the order also says.

— Jesse Paul, Staff writer


Coronavirus has led to booming ranch sales in Colorado, across the West

9:24 AM | 11-23-2020🔗

BILLINGS, Mont. — The coronavirus is one of the likely factors fueling a boom in large ranch sales in the U.S. West, real estate industry professionals said.

Real estate brokers are experiencing high demand for ranches in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho and Washington, The Billings Gazette reports.

“It’s the craziest year I’ve ever seen,” said Jim Taylor, director and real estate partner for Hall and Hall, which has offices in Montana and other Western states.

COVID-19 IN COLORADO

The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

  • LIVE BLOG: The latest on closures, restrictions and other major updates.
  • MAP: Cases and deaths in Colorado.
  • TESTING: Here’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • STORY: Colorado researchers are gathering data on coronavirus survivors. Here’s what they’ve found.

>> FULL COVERAGE

Taylor said buying a ranch is not always a compelling investment because the rate of return can be low. But he is working with buyers who see fewer stable alternatives.

“People look at them as an investment even though the ranching business isn’t good,” Taylor said.

Andy Rahn of Montana Land Source, a website tracking land listings and sales in the state, said factors driving buyers to rural areas can include a “get me out of here kind of mentality” concerning the pandemic.

That mindset may be propelled by fear of social unrest as well as mask and social distancing mandates with which buyers disagree.

Some in the industry theorize buyers believe rural areas are safer from COVID-19, while others said people who already planned to buy property in the future were spurred to action by the pandemic.

Executives now have the ability to work from home with greater ease and a higher level of social acceptance, reducing the need to be present in offices or travel to business meetings, Taylor said.

“That whole world is definitely changing,” Taylor said. “Now they can spend more time on their ranches.”

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

— The Associated Press


“Severe risk” coronavirus alert sent to residents of 20 Colorado counties under level-red restrictions

1:40 PM | 11-22-2020🔗

A blaring smartphone push alert warning of “severe” COVID-19 risk was sent out Sunday morning to residents in 20 Colorado counties that have been placed under level-red coronavirus restrictions.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says the alert was sent out to “notify Coloradans about the direness of the COVID-19 situation in our state.” It reached phones at about 9 a.m. 

“This region is at severe risk from deadly COVID,” the alert read. “Use caution.”

The alert was sent out by the state’s Emergency Operations Center. 

“We need everyone to avoid gatherings outside of their household, including Thanksgiving,” the CDPHE spokesperson said.

Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are surging in Colorado ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. State health officials and Gov. Jared Polis have warned that hospitals could be overwhelmed in the coming weeks if the trend does not abate.

— Jesse Paul, Staff writer


Colorado hotels are struggling to survive coronavirus

9:39 AM | 11-22-2020🔗

Add hotels to the growing list of business sectors fighting for survival as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into its eighth month.

“I say to people, ‘I’m in a hotel and restaurant business in the middle of a pandemic, so that’s how I’m doing,’” said Walter Isenberg, president of Sage Hospitality. His line of hotels includes the Oxford and the Crawford in downtown Denver.

Denver-area hotels were less than half full in October. Occupancy was 47.7 percent, down from 78.6 percent in October of last year, according to data from STR, a hotel analytics firm.

Read the whole story here.

— Ben Markus, CPR News


In Colorado and across the U.S., people are proving to be the weakest link for coronavirus exposure apps

9:34 AM | 11-22-2020🔗

The app builders had planned for pranksters, ensuring that only people with verified COVID-19 cases could trigger an alert. They’d planned for heavy criticism about privacy, in many cases making the features as bare-bones as possible. But, as more states roll out smartphone contact-tracing technology, other challenges are emerging. Namely, human nature.

The problem starts with downloads. Stefano Tessaro calls it the “chicken-and-egg” issue: The system works only if a lot of people buy into it, but people will buy into it only if they know it works.

“Accuracy of the system ends up increasing trust, but it is trust that increases adoptions, which in turn increases accuracy,” Tessaro, a computer scientist at the University of Washington who was involved in creating that state’s forthcoming contact-tracing app, said in a lecture last month.

Read the whole story here.

— Rae Ellen Bichell, Kaiser Health News


Gov. Jared Polis: 1 out of every 49 Coloradans is now contagious with coronavirus

12:04 PM | 11-20-2020🔗

One in every 49 Coloradans is currently contagious with the coronavirus, Gov. Jared Polis said Friday, citing modeling data.

“This is the worst it has ever been,” Polis said of the state’s COVID-19 situation during a video briefing with reporters. 

Polis again pleaded with Coloradans to avoid gathering with people from other households for the next several weeks in an effort to abate the state’s trend of surging coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. 

“What was reasonably safe is no longer reasonably safe,” Polis said.

— Jesse Paul, Staff writer


Weld County commissioners say they won’t enforce new coronavirus restrictions, setting up potential showdown with the state

12:04 PM | 11-20-2020🔗

As the state Health Department prepares to move Weld County to a higher level of restrictions amid a surge in coronavirus cases, the county’s board of commissioners has announced that it will do nothing to enforce those new restrictions.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment included Weld in a list of counties that will on Sunday move to red status, the second-most restrictive level behind a full stay-at-home order. At red-level restrictions, personal gatherings with people outside your household are banned, indoor dining at restaurants is prohibited and gyms and other businesses are limited to 10% of capacity.

COVID-19 IN COLORADO

The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

  • LIVE BLOG: The latest on closures, restrictions and other major updates.
  • MAP: Cases and deaths in Colorado.
  • TESTING: Here’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • STORY: Colorado researchers are gathering data on coronavirus survivors. Here’s what they’ve found.

>> FULL COVERAGE

On Friday, Weld County’s five-member Board of County Commissioners released a statement saying Weld County government would “promote and encourage residents and business owners to take individual responsibility and make decisions to protect themselves, their families, their community and their businesses.”

The statement continued: “The county will not enforce a rule confining individuals to their homes for an undetermined length of time; the county will not enforce a rule that states residents cannot have personal gatherings; the county will not tell the school districts how to provide education to their students; the county will not enforce a rule requiring a reduction of attendees in places of worship; the county will not enforce a rule demanding restaurants close their indoor dining areas; the county will not enforce any rule that forces a business to shut down or impedes their ability to operate.”

Weld’s commissioners have fought previous state public health restrictions aimed at curbing the coronavirus pandemic. The commissioners issued a similar statement following Gov. Jared Polis’ mask mandate, and the commissioners pushed to reopen the county’s economy following this spring’s statewide stay-at-home order earlier than the county’s public health director recommended.

Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams also placed emphasis on personal responsibility in a post on Facebook on Thursday night shortly after CDPHE announced that Weld County will be moved to level red. The new restrictions go into effect at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

“The governor moved Weld County to ‘code red’,” Reams wrote. “Please remember that these recommendations and mandates are not law enforcement related and are a public health topic.  Wear a mask if you are at risk (if you choose to) and take the appropriate actions to keep safe.  #weareallessential”

If restaurants or other businesses operate in violation of the state’s restrictions, they could still face action against them. The Colorado Attorney General’s Office has sent dozens of cease and desist letters during the pandemic to businesses not complying with state orders. The state can also suspend the business license of places operating in violation of public health restrictions or it can enforce them through court order.

— John Ingold, Staff writer


Denver Broncos will stop allowing fans to watch games in person at Empower Field at Mile High

10:13 AM | 11-20-2020🔗
Empower Field at Mile High Stadium. (Unsplash photo)

The Denver Broncos announced Friday that Sunday will be the final game at which fans will be able to watch games in person this year at Empower Field at Mile High Stadium.

The team says it made the decision “in consultation with state officials and public health experts.”

“Although we are confident in our strong safety protocols and have no evidence of any COVID-19 transmission traced to our home games, the increase in cases and hospitalizations locally requires us to adjust our future plans,” the team said in a written statement on Friday. “Taking this precaution is consistent with the recent guidelines issued by local officials to limit gatherings with the holiday season approaching.”

The Broncos play the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at 2:05 p.m. in Denver.

The state has allowed 5,700 fans to watch Broncos games at Empower Field over the past several weeks. But coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Denver and across the state have been sharply rising over that span.

The Broncos say they look forward to welcoming fans back in 2021.

— Jesse Paul, Staff writer


Five more Colorado counties will move to level-red restrictions on Sunday

10:02 AM | 11-20-2020🔗

Starting at 5 p.m. on Sunday, five additional Colorado counties will move to the state’s level red coronavirus designation, meaning more restrictions on businesses and gatherings. 

Those counties include: Alamosa, Otero, Prowers, Weld and Pueblo. 

The addition of the five counties brings the total number moving to red-level restrictions to 20. Fifteen of the counties will fall under the level starting on Friday. Colorado has 64 counties. 

At level red, indoor dining shuts down, last call for alcohol sales at restaurants and bars is 8 p.m. and personal gatherings are prohibited. Any county-specific variances are likely to be rescinded.

Gov. Jared Polis changed Colorado’s coronavirus county dial system on Tuesday to make the red level less severe than it had been. Earlier, counties under the red level were supposed to be under lock down. 

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has added an additional color to the dial, purple, at which counties will have to lock down their residents. 

Lucy Haggard, Staff writer


Mesa County says all of its intensive-care hospital beds are full as coronavirus rages

3:12 PM | 11-19-2020🔗

There are no more intensive-care hospital beds available in Mesa County as it contends with a sharp rise in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. 

The county’s public health department announced that ICU capacity had been reached in a Thursday news release. Mesa County Public Health said hospitals are activating their surge capacity plans to ensure there is enough space for the region’s need. 

COVID-19 IN COLORADO

The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

  • LIVE BLOG: The latest on closures, restrictions and other major updates.
  • MAP: Cases and deaths in Colorado.
  • TESTING: Here’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • STORY: Colorado researchers are gathering data on coronavirus survivors. Here’s what they’ve found.

>> FULL COVERAGE

Grand Junction, which is Mesa County’s county seat, provides advanced health care for much of the Western Slope. 

The county is also pleading with retired or displaced health care professionals to return to active work, citing the potential for staffing shortages.

“This is a call to arms,” Richard Salgueiro, executive director of the VA Western Colorado Health Care System, said in a written statement.

For months, Mesa County was a coronavirus success story. It even attained the state’s protect-our-neighbors status, which is only given to counties with the least amount of COVID-19 transmission. But in the past two weeks, there have been over 2,000 new COVID-19 cases in Mesa County. 

The county will move to the state’s red level — denoting widespread coronavirus transmission — on  Friday, putting it on the edge of being locked down.

Lucy Haggard and Jesse Paul, Staff writers


JBS meatpacking plant, corporate headquarters in Greeley are dealing with second coronavirus outbreaks

1:20 PM | 11-19-2020🔗
The JBS meat-packing plant in Greeley resumed operations April 24, 2020, after a brief closure due to a coronavirus outbreak. (John Frank, The Colorado Sun)

The JBS meatpacking plant and the company’s corporate headquarters in Greeley are contending with their second coronavirus outbreaks since the pandemic began. 

As of Wednesday, 20 workers at the beef plant — where thousands work — had tested positive for COVID-19. An additional 34 people at the corporate headquarters have contracted the disease.

In the spring, at least 292 employees at the meatpacking plant caught the coronavirus. Six of them died, according to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment data. 

At the corporate headquarters, five people caught coronavirus in the spring. 

“As the virus continues to spread in Weld County, we have seen an increase in the number of positive cases at our corporate office and our Greeley beef facility, but fortunately not nearly at the rate we are seeing in the local community,” JBS spokesman Cameron Bruett said in a written statement.

Bruett said the company has “aggressively implemented free, random surveillance testing of asymptomatic team members at our corporate offices and across our U.S. facilities, including our Greeley beef facility.” He added that the company has spent more than $200 on coronavirus health and safety measures.

Colorado has reported 494 coronavirus outbreaks this month. An outbreak is defined by the state health department as two people testing positive for COVID-19 in a span of two weeks.

In all of October, Colorado had 510 outbreaks — by far the greatest number since the pandemic began. November remains on pace to far exceed last month’s tally.

Lucy Haggard and Jesse Paul, Staff writers


Colorado ski areas can remain open under new coronavirus restrictions

7:42 AM | 11-19-2020🔗
Skiers line up to get on a lift at Arapahoe Basin on May 27, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Ski areas in Colorado counties that are listed at level red, or “severe risk,” will be allowed to keep their lifts turning when new restrictions take effect Friday, according to state health officials.

Summit County, where Keystone, Arapahoe Basin and Breckenridge have already opened, is one of 15 counties across Colorado that will move to Level Red on Friday, The Denver Post reported. Copper Mountain, also in Summit County, is scheduled to open in two weeks.

The new dial level announced by Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday “does not affect ski resort on-mountain operations specifically,” according to an email sent Wednesday evening by the Colorado State Joint Information Center.

Ski areas in level red counties can operate their lifts according to their approved plan but must suspend indoor dining.

Facilities “essential for health and safety like restrooms” can remain open, and families also can go indoors for warmth or shelter from inclement weather.

Loveland ski area is in Clear Creek County, which also will be at level red. Winter Park is in Grand County, which is at level orange.

— The Associated Press


State Rep. Meg Froelich tests positive for coronavirus

7:30 AM | 11-19-2020🔗

State Rep. Meg Froelich, an Englewood Democrat, has tested positive for the coronavirus as the disease runs rampant across Colorado.

Froelich announced her diagnosis on Twitter Wednesday night.

“I am experiencing symptoms,” she said on Twitter. “I haven’t been in the Capitol recently, and I’ll be quarantining for at least 10 days. Please wear a mask, practice social distancing and take this virus seriously. I’ll continue to work remotely.”

The news comes as state lawmakers prepare to return to the legislature later this month for a special legislative session to provide Coloradans with economic relief from the pandemic. 

Also this week U.S. Reps. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican, and Ed Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat, announced they had contracted COVID-19.

— Jesse Paul, Staff writer


Denver Public Schools will end in-person learning on Nov. 30 because of rising COVID-19 cases

4:48 PM | 11-18-2020🔗
Anahi Zaldana works on a laptop in a classroom in Newlon Elementary School early Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, which is one of 55 Discovery Link sites set up by Denver Public Schools where students are participating in remote learning in this time of the new coronavirus from a school in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Denver Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, will abandon in-person learning starting on Nov. 30 through the end of 2020 as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations spike across Colorado.

The majority of the district’s students are already learning remotely, with the exception being learners in second grade and below.

“Increasing spread of COVID-19 in the Denver community is causing severe staffing shortages that affect our ability to offer in-person learning for early childhood education programs,” Superintendent Susana Cordova wrote in a letter to families. “… This shift to remote learning will allow our teachers and students to work on consistent, uninterrupted class routines and focus their energy on the important work of learning.”

Corodova said she is “committed to returning all elementary students at the start of second semester in January.”

Many school districts across the state have ended in-person learning because of Colorado’s worsening COVID-19 situation.

— Jesse Paul, Staff writer


U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn tests positive for coronavirus, has symptoms

1:45 PM | 11-18-2020🔗
Doug Lamborn gives a thumbs-up as President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the World Arena in Colorado Springs Thursday, February 20, 2020. (Mark Reis, Special to The Colorado Sun)

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Lamborn is experiencing mild symptoms, according to a news release from his office.

“He has been in contact with the U.S. House attending physician and is following all CDC guidelines and isolating at his home in Colorado Springs,” the release said. “The congressman will continue to work for the district from home and his staff will continue to provide the best of constituent services.”

The release added: “He looks forward to resuming his normal schedule soon.”

Lamborn, 66, was reelected in November to his eighth term.

Earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat, announced he had tested positive for COVID-19, but was asymptomatic.

— Jesse Paul, Staff writer


Colorado’s coronavirus-tracking phone app is struggling to keep up with cases, but a key change should help

12:46 PM | 11-18-2020🔗

Despite more than a million downloads and activations, the new phone app that can anonymously tell Coloradans if they have been in contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus is off to a slow start.

Sarah Tuneberg, the state Health Department’s special COVID-19 advisor who oversees the app project, said Wednesday that about 3,400 people who have tested positive for the virus have used the app to notify their contacts. But, since the app launched in late October, there have been more than 75,000 new cases of coronavirus reported in Colorado — meaning the app has been used in about 4.5% of cases.

The app uses Bluetooth technology to exchange anonymous “tokens” with other nearby phones running the app. When a person tests positive for coronavirus, they can then use the app to send out a notification to other app users whose phones had recently been near theirs. 

The goal is for the technology to take over some of the laborious and time-consuming contact-tracing work that is so important in getting ahead of the virus.

Tuneberg said one of the early problems with the app was that it still required a human being to contact each person who tested positive in order to give them the special code needed to send out the notifications. For the first couple of weeks the app was in use, health workers — overwhelmed with the latest surge in cases — only gave out 10 to 30 such codes a day.

“We recognized very, very early that the system we hoped was going to work wasn’t,” Tuneberg said.

But now, Tuneberg said the state has automated the process, with everyone who tests positive getting a text message providing them with the needed code.

“People should be getting notifications much, much, much more quickly,” she said.

In recent days, the state has sent out around 5,000 codes per day, Tuneberg said. But, since only about 17% of Coloradans are using the app, most of those texts are being sent to people who do not have the app installed or activated.

Colorado developed the state’s version of the app, known as Exposure Notifications, in conjunction with Google and Apple. 

It is free and can run on almost any phone using Google’s Android operating system, but it must be downloaded from the app store. Apple iPhones already have the app installed on the phone, but it must be activated under the Settings menu. It only works on iPhone models 6s and newer.

For more information on the app, visit www.addyourphone.com.

John Ingold, Staff writer


Two Colorado public defenders refuse to proceed with trial over coronavirus concerns

12:34 PM | 11-18-2020🔗

Two public defenders in Colorado have refused to proceed with a jury trial in Larimer County over coronavirus safety concerns, prompting a judge to declare a mistrial in one of the few counties in the state where trials are still taking place during the pandemic.

The two public defenders on Tuesday refused to proceed with the jury trial for a man accused of assault and false imprisonment, The Denver Post reported.

As a result, District Judge Stephen Jouard declared a mistrial and ordered the attorneys back to court in December to explain why they should not be held in contempt of court, a charge that carries sanctions up to six months in jail.

Jouard had previously denied the defense’s request for a mistrial, and the attorneys filed an emergency petition with the Colorado Supreme Court challenging the judge’s decision. That petition was denied Tuesday.

The Eighth Judicial District, which includes Larimer and Jackson counties, is one of only four judicial districts in the state with counties in high coronavirus restriction levels that have not suspended jury trials.

Sixteen of 22 judicial districts in the state have suspended all jury trials, and two additional districts have suspended trials in counties where virus cases have surged.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

Eighth Judicial District Chief Judge Stephen Howard on Tuesday defended his decision to keep jury trials going and said the court has required masks, social distancing and other safety precautions. The district has successfully completed 24 jury trials since August.

The public defender’s office has disagreed with the chief judge in court filings, taking the stance in one motion that they objected to “going forward with a jury trial in the midst of a global pandemic with trial procedures that risk lives and violate (the defendant’s) fundamental constitutional rights.”

Howard argued that the evidence gets cold, witnesses go away and victims should be able to seek closure. He also said once jury trials are suspended it’s unclear when they will be able to resume.

— The Associated Press


Denver International Airport TSA officer dies after catching coronavirus

9:01 AM | 11-18-2020🔗
Security lines at Denver International Airport on July 3, 2019. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

A Transportation Security Administration officer who worked at Denver International Airport died Monday after contracting the coronavirus.

Eduard Faktorovich started working for TSA at the airport in April 2018 and “worked exclusively” at DIA’s security checkpoint. Denver7 reports he was 49 years old.

“His last date on duty at the checkpoint was Nov. 2,” the TSA said in a news release. “His colleagues remember him as a kind and respectful person, who always had a smile on his face.  Although Eduard was with TSA for only two and half years, the entire team at DEN is saddened by the loss of one their own.”

The agency says it remains “committed to continuing to take every precaution to help protect our workforce as well as airline travelers.”

Thousands of TSA officers across the U.S. have contracted COVID-19 and a handful have died.

Jesse Paul, Staff writer


Colorado releases list of 15 counties that will face new coronavirus restrictions starting Friday

6:54 PM | 11-17-2020🔗

Colorado health officials on Monday night released a list of 15 counties that will face new coronavirus restrictions — including a ban on indoor dining and all personal gatherings — starting Friday.

The counties are: 

  • Adams
  • Arapahoe
  • Boulder
  • Broomfield
  • Clear Creek
  • Denver
  • Douglas
  • Jefferson
  • La Plata
  • Logan
  • Mesa
  • Morgan
  • Routt
  • Summit
  • Washington

In addition to the restrictions on indoor dining and personal gatherings, alcohol sales at restaurants and bars in those counties must cease at 8 p.m. and gyms can operate only at 10% of their capacity or with 10 people visiting at a time. All indoor events are also outlawed.

The restrictions are part of changes to Colorado’s coronavirus dial system enacted Tuesday by Gov. Jared Polis. The changes are aimed at giving counties another chance to avoid a full-blown lockdown as their COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise. 

“We have great confidence this path will succeed,” Polis said. “It’s not a given.”

— Jesse Paul, Staff writer


U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter tests positive for coronavirus, is asymptomatic

5:57 PM | 11-17-2020🔗
U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Arvada, at a town hall in Aurora on Monday night, Aug. 27, 2019. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat, has tested positive for the coronavirus. He is asymptomatic.

“I learned today that I have tested positive for COVID-19,” Perlmutter said in a written statement on Tuesday. “As of now, I am asymptomatic and I’m feeling good. I am currently in Washington D.C. and plan to isolate in my apartment while continuing to work and voting remotely.”

Perlmutter, who is 67, won reelection to his eighth term in Congress on Nov. 3.

“This serves as an important reminder that this virus is highly contagious and should be taken seriously,” Perlmutter said. “As we enter the holiday season, I encourage everyone to continue to heed the warnings of no personal gatherings, social distancing, and wearing a mask.”

Several other Colorado politicians, including Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman and state Rep. Jim Smallwood, R-Parker, have caught COVID-19.

— Jesse Paul, Staff writer


Sixth Colorado prison inmate dies from apparent coronavirus infection

5:39 PM | 11-17-2020🔗

A 57-year-old man who had been incarcerated at the Fremont Correctional Facility died Tuesday at a hospital in Pueblo after experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms. The man is the sixth Colorado prison inmate to die after apparently contracting the coronavirus.

The state Department of Corrections did not release more information, including the man’s name or whether his diagnosis was confirmed through a positive test, citing medical privacy laws. The man died at Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo, which Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday said had become the first hospital in the state to max out its capacity during the latest surge in cases. Pueblo County is seeing one of the fastest increases in coronavirus cases in the nation.

There are now nearly 1,000 active COVID-19 cases in Colorado prisons. Nearly 2,800 inmates have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began.

The largest active prison outbreak in the state is at the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility, where there are 332 inmates who have tested positive. The facility is in rural Crowley County which, in large part due to the prison outbreak, had the highest per capita rate of new cases of any county in the country on Tuesday, according to The New York Times.

The man who died Tuesday is the second inmate from Fremont Correctional Facility, in Cañon City, to die of apparent COVID-19. A 58-year-old man housed at the same facility died last month. Four men incarcerated at the Sterling Correctional Facility have also died from apparent COVID-19.

John Ingold, Staff writer


Colorado health officials provide coronavirus guidance, promise protective gear for upcoming special legislative session

4:22 PM | 11-17-2020🔗
Colorado lawmakers meet in the state Senate on Thursday, May 28, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is providing coronavirus guidance to keep state lawmakers safe at the Capitol ahead of the upcoming special legislative session aimed at providing people with economic relief.

The state says the Colorado General Assembly should “as much as possible” conduct its business remotely. Anyone who enters the building should be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and lawmakers and staff should be tested before and during the session. 

COVID-19 IN COLORADO

The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

  • LIVE BLOG: The latest on closures, restrictions and other major updates.
  • MAP: Cases and deaths in Colorado.
  • TESTING: Here’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • STORY: Colorado researchers are gathering data on coronavirus survivors. Here’s what they’ve found.

>> FULL COVERAGE

“The state’s Emergency Operations Center can provide masks to be worn by essential personnel (members of the General Assembly, staff, press, and others),” a CDPHE news release said. “Outside visitation to the building should be limited as much as possible.”

Details about when the session will take place are expected to be released by the end of the week. The plan to hold a special session was made public on Monday night.

Colorado lawmakers abruptly ended their regular 2020 legislative session in March because of the pandemic. They returned in May with precautionary measures to finish out the term. 

A big controversy at the Capitol when lawmakers returned was the partisan mask-wearing split — Democrats almost always had face coverings on, while many Republicans rarely wore them. 

“Making sure that we have the safest environment that we possibly can at the Capitol is one of our top priorities,” said House Speaker-designate Alec Garnett, D-Denver.

Garnett said he has spoken with Republican leadership about mask wearing and he is hopeful there will be better compliance during the special session.

Colorado Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert, a Douglas County Republican who is one of the most coronavirus-conscious conservatives in the legislature, said he hopes the slate of special-session legislation is broken up to prevent lawmakers from being in the Capitol for long periods of time.

“That’s probably better than trying to put everything on the table at once,” he said Monday night.

Holbert said he is hopeful there will be mask wearing and social distancing, but he said that’s really up to individual lawmakers.

“Since the president went through that and tested positive (for coronavirus), I think that everybody understands it’s really better for us all to be responsible and try to be COVID conscious,” he said.

— Jesse Paul, Staff writer


Colorado governor unveils new coronavirus restrictions aimed at preventing lockdowns

2:04 PM | 11-17-2020🔗
Gov. Jared Polis walks into a news conference on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, to announce new coronavirus restrictions in Colorado. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Gov. Jared Polis announced new coronavirus restrictions Tuesday aimed — at least temporarily — at preventing about half of Colorado’s counties from being forced into lockdown as COVID-19 sickens more people and fills more hospital beds each day.

The new mandates are intended to give counties with a worsening COVID-19 situation another chance to improve before returning to an all-out stay-at-home order as the Democrat issued in the spring. 

Coronavirus is running so rampant in many counties — including Denver, Adams and Jefferson — that they should already be locked down under metrics defining the state’s old dial system. Roughly half of the state’s counties Tuesday morning were teetering on the edge of having such bad rates of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations that they would meet the criteria for a lockdown.

“We clearly need a more drastic shift in behavior,” Polis said at a news conference at the governor’s mansion in downtown Denver where he announced the new restrictions. “Absent intervention, it just keeps getting worse.”

Read more here.

— Jesse Paul, Staff writer


Chaffee County enacts tighter restrictions after prison outbreak

🔗

Chaffee County is limiting personal gatherings to 10 people from no more than two households starting this week under a plan tightening coronavirus restrictions. 

The county’s COVID-19 cases the last two weeks have reached a rate of 319 per 100,000 people, partly due to an outbreak at the Buena Vista Correctional Complex.

Chaffee County Public and Environmental Health director Andrea Carlstrom told Colorado Public Radio hospitalizations remain low and that the county is “doing everything we can with the resources we have to meet the virus head on.” 

The new restrictions include encouraging people to work from home and limiting places of worship, as well as indoor and outdoor events, to 25% of capacity. The county worked with the state health department to develop the mitigation plan, CPR reported. 

Read the full story from CPR here.

Jen Brown, Staff writer


She is healthy, young and active. But the coronavirus has taken months to recover from.

10:30 AM | 11-17-2020🔗
Lisa Merck stands in the doorway of her home in Crested Butte on March 14, 2020, where she was quarantined after testing positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus. Merck, a nurse practitioner, was sick for weeks before she was tested and diagnosed with the disease. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Lisa Merck, a 51-year-old nurse practitioner in Crested Butte, was among the first Coloradans with a confirmed coronavirus infection.

She started feeling ill on Feb. 18 as she returned from a trip to Hawaii. By March 8, she was in the hospital. Months later, she’s still not 100%.

“Even though you think you’re healthy, and you’re immune to it, you’re not immune to it,” she said in an interview with The Colorado Sun. “We don’t know how it’s going to affect each person. Everybody is different.”

Listen to our full interview with her below:

Jesse Paul, Staff writer


Colorado lawmakers to return for special session to address coronavirus relief

8:19 PM | 11-16-2020🔗
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis delivers his second State of the State address in the House chambers on Jan. 9, 2020. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

The Colorado General Assembly is preparing for a special session that will provide more relief to those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, The Colorado Sun has learned.

“We’ve been having conversations with the governor’s office about how to best provide economic support to families right now,” said Senate Majority leader Steve Fenberg, a Boulder Democrat “We feel like we can’t just leave people out to dry.”

The move — which is expected to be announced as soon as Tuesday — comes as Gov. Jared Polis pushes a $1.3 billion stimulus package and demands lawmakers take immediate action to provide $105 million in tax breaks for restaurants and other businesses hurt by public health orders on capacity limits, and $100 million in payments to support renters, mortgage holders and child care centers.

Read more here.

— John Frank and Jesse Paul, Staff writers


Football game between Arizona State, University of Colorado shelved due to coronavirus

7:58 AM | 11-16-2020🔗
Folsom Field at CU Boulder. (Unsplash)

Arizona State’s game against Colorado next Saturday has been canceled, the second straight game the Sun Devils will miss due to positive COVID-19 tests.

The Pac-12 announced cancelation of the game Sunday due to Arizona State not having enough scholarship players available to meet the conference’s 53-player minimum.

Arizona State’s game against California on Saturday was canceled after numerous Sun Devils players and coaches, including head coach Herm Edwards, tested positive for COVID-19.

“The cancellation of another game is very difficult to accept for all of us, but it continues to be the right decision under the circumstances,” Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson said in a statement. “The health, safety and welfare of our student-athletes is our number one priority and will continue to be at the forefront of every decision.”

The Mid-American Conference also had its first cancellation Sunday. Ohio’s game at Miami on Tuesday night was called off because of roster issues related to COVID-19 with the Bobcats.

The MAC started its season the day after Election Day and has no room in its six-week regular-season for makeup dates.

Last week 15 major college football games were postponed, the most of any week during the season. The total number of games involving FBS teams postponed of canceled by coronavirus issues since schedules were set in late August is 65.

A game between Utah and UCLA scheduled for Saturday also was called off on Friday due to the coronavirus, capping the most tumultuous week of COVID-19 disruptions of the college football season. Of 59 games scheduled for Week 11, 15 were called off.

UCLA and Cal quickly worked to play a game against each other, which the Bruins won 34-10 on Sunday in Pasadena.

John Marshall, The Associated Press


A coronavirus survivor’s message to Colorado

7:25 AM | 11-16-2020🔗
Doug Summerfield, 75, enjoys his first moments back at his Arvada home on Saturday, May 23, 2020, after spending more than a month in hospitals battling the coronavirus. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Doug Summerfield, 75, survived coronavirus in the spring after being placed on a ventilator for about a month. He says the fact that he lived was a miracle.

We caught up with Summerfield, who lives in Arvada with his wife, Mary, about his difficult recovery and his thoughts on the fact that COVID-19 is making a big resurgence now.

“All these things seem like an inconvenience,” he said of coronavirus restrictions. “But believe me, they are not inconveniences compared to trying to recover from this, compared to trying to deal with the financial expense that hits you. You don’t want to get it.”

Jesse Paul, Staff writer


Colorado governor, local officials urge companies to switch to remote work

4:56 PM | 11-15-2020🔗

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis teamed up with local officials on Sunday to urge companies in the state to move to remote work.  

Polis cited Colorado’s rising coronavirus cases and hospitalizations at the impetus for his request. 

“Coloradans working remotely when possible will save lives,” Polis said in a written statement. “Every Coloradan needs to step up and do our part to keep our communities healthy and our economy running, and they include working from home whenever possible these next few weeks.”  

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman echoed Polis’ request. 

“Aurora will answer the governor’s request by making sure that every city employee that can work remotely is working remotely and to set an example for other local governments, and for our private sector employers, to do the same,” Coffman, who recently battled his own coronavirus infection, said in a statement.

Polis has already ordered all state employees who can work from home to do so.

Jesse Paul, Staff writer


Colorado hospitals say staffing — not bed space — is the real looming shortage in the coronavirus fight

3:48 PM | 11-13-2020🔗

Even as Gov. Jared Polis on Friday said he would order hospitals to provide more detailed information about their bed capacity to handle the current explosion in coronavirus cases, doctors and hospital representatives said the real number that needs to be considered is staffing.

One quarter of Colorado hospitals are anticipating staffing shortages in the next week, according to state data — compared with 11% that are expecting a shortage of intensive care beds. The staffing shortages mean hospitals could effectively reach their capacity for treating new patients much sooner than bed counts suggest.

“It’s not beds,” Dr. Anuj Mehta, a pulmonologist and emergency medicine specialist at National Jewish Health and Denver Health, said Friday during a meeting of medical experts working with a committee that advises Polis on pandemic response. “We don’t have the nurses or respiratory therapists to staff them.”

Cara Welch, a spokesperson for the Colorado Hospital Association, said hospitals across the state are seeing doctors, nurses and other staff who are either out sick with the virus or who are quarantining as a result of being exposed to someone who has it.

On top of that, the temporary staffing services that hospitals usually rely on to fill gaps in work schedules are all tapped out, both locally and nationwide. Welch said hospitals are being quoted prices four times the normal rate to hire temporary workers. The reason is because the country has never before had case surges so large in so many places.

Typically, states that become coronavirus hotspots can draw from states where things are under control. In the spring and summer, for instance, nurses from Colorado traveled to New York and Arizona to help local health workers in those places.

“We always kind of hoped when the time came, Colorado could benefit from that,” Welch said. “Since it’s all over the country right now, the nurses and the providers in every state are desperately needed there.”

Welch said Colorado hospitals have activated a combined transfer center to optimize use of hospital space across the state. But there’s concern that isn’t enough to head off the looming crisis.

The issue came to a head Friday in a meeting of a medical advisory subgroup to the Governor’s Expert Emergency Epidemic Response Committee. The committee provides recommendations to Polis about how to respond to the pandemic. It has previously drafted crisis standards of care for hospitals — a document that spells out how to decide who gets life-saving care and who doesn’t if hospitals are overwhelmed with patients.

The standards were written with physical limitations in mind — intensive-care bed space, for instance, or available ventilators. Mehta and others during the meeting talked about the need to update those standards to include what should happen during staffing shortages.

Dr. Darlene Tad-y, an internal medicine specialist who is the hospital association’s vice president of clinical affairs, said policymakers also need to be cognizant of burnout among health care workers and how that could affect staffing long term. The solution to staffing shortages, she said, isn’t just to expect health care workers to individually treat more and more patients.

The urgency among those in the meeting was so great that some called on the state to issue a new stay-at-home order immediately or to move toward activating the crisis standards of care. 

“I think we need to be abundantly clear that we are there,” said Dr. Jeffrey Sankoff, an emergency medicine specialist at Denver Health who said he has been admitting at least 10 new coronavirus patients every shift he has worked in recent days. “I would rather be too early on crisis standards of care than too late. … We’re pretty close to bursting.”

— John Ingold, Staff writer


Colorado governor will order hospitals to report bed capacity, surge plans by the end of next week

2:37 PM | 11-13-2020🔗
The emergency room entrance to Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver, photographed on Oct. 22, 2019. (John Ingold, The Colorado Sun)

Gov. Jared Polis on Friday said he will issue an executive order requiring Colorado hospitals to report their bed capacity and patient-surge plans by the end of next week as COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases continue to increase.

“The situation for surge capacity is becoming very real in our state,” he said during a briefing with reporters at the governor’s mansion in downtown Denver.

Polis and his health officials have been warning for weeks that Colorado’s hospital capacity could be overwhelmed in December if Coloradans don’t change their behavior. 

The executive order will also require hospitals to report their capacity status to the state twice daily — at 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.

“A lot of this data, in different formats, we have at different times,” Polis said. “This (executive order) organizes it and requires more real-time updating to better ensure we can serve the people of Colorado who contract COVID or who contract any other type of condition that requires hospitalization.” 

The governor also said that an order requiring hospitals to halt elective procedures to ensure there is enough space and medical supplies for coronavirus patients is “on the table.” Such a mandate was enacted in the spring.

Polis said some hospitals are already pulling back on their elective procedures. 

— Jesse Paul, Staff writer


Colorado Hospital Association activates joint plan to transfer patients during coronavirus spike

1:44 PM | 11-13-2020🔗

The Colorado Hospital Association announced Friday that it has activated its Combined Hospital Transfer Center to help redistribute coronavirus patients across the state’s hospitals.

The CHTC was formally announced just over a week ago and is aimed at allowing hospitals to transfer patients to another facility if they don’t have enough capacity, or if a patient needs a different level of care.  

The transfer system’s first of three tiers focuses on using hospital data to determine which patients are transferred. The first tier is activated “at the request of partner hospitals” according to CHA documents, while Tier 2 and Tier 3 have specific statistical markers. 

So far, according to the hospital association, the state’s hospitals have not met triggers that would warrant activating higher tiers of the transfer system.

The announcement comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have skyrocketed in the past few weeks. As of Friday, there were more than 1,100 people hospitalized with a COVID-19 infection in Colorado, the highest level since the pandemic reached the state in March.

Darlene Tad-y, CHA vice president of clinical affairs, implored Coloradans to wear masks, wash their hands, maintain physical distance and postpone social gatherings until the caseload slows.

“Our hospitals and health care workers are continuing to do their part,” Tad-y said in a written statement. “We need Coloradans to do their part as well – now is the time to change our trajectory and control the virus.”

Lucy Haggard, Staff writer


Colorado Department of Corrections resolves class action coronavirus lawsuit with ACLU

12:06 PM | 11-13-2020🔗
The Colorado Territorial Prison in Cañon City. (Frank Carey, via Creative Commons)

The ACLU of Colorado in May sued the Colorado Department of Corrections, alleging the agency failed to protect medically vulnerable people in its prisons from contracting coronavirus. 

As of Friday, the organization and the state have come to accord, submitting a consent decree in Denver District Court as part of the resolution. The consent decree will become an enforceable court order if and when the court accepts it.

Included in the document are requirements for access to masks and hygiene supplies for prisoners, prioritizing safe housing for people who are medically vulnerable, improving conditions during pandemic-related lockdowns, and streamlining the parole process. 

Colorado’s prisons have been hotbeds for viral outbreaks since the beginning of the pandemic; in the two weeks preceding Friday, 727 prisoners tested positive for COVID-19 and 410 staff members were on leave due to confirmed positive cases or possible exposure.

Five prisoners have died after falling ill with coronavirus-like symptoms.

Another lawsuit from the ACLU of Colorado is still pending. This one, against Gov. Jared Polis, seeks class-action status for state prisoners.

The ACLU alleges that the governor’s lack of effort to reduce the state’s prison population violates the Constitution and endangers hundreds of prisoners, especially those who are most vulnerable to becoming seriously ill with COVID-19.

Lucy Haggard, Staff writer


It could take up to a year before every Coloradan who wants a coronavirus vaccine can get one

11:06 AM | 11-13-2020🔗

Most Coloradans who want a coronavirus vaccine could begin receiving one as early as spring but may have to wait up to a year, two state health officials said Thursday, tamping down expectations that promising news about vaccine development could rescue the state from the current surge in cases.

Based on current projections, Colorado is expected to receive enough vaccine next month and in the first few months of 2021 to inoculate no more than a couple million adults. That would leave still millions more in need of a shot — and leave the state short of what is needed to achieve herd immunity to the virus.

The state currently has no plans for a vaccination campaign for children, since none of the vaccines in development has completed extensive testing in kids.

Read the whole story here.

John Ingold, Staff writer


Fifth Colorado prisoner dies after falling ill with COVID-19 symptoms

6:24 PM | 11-12-2020🔗
An aerial image of Sterling Correctional Facility in northeast Colorado. (Google Images screenshot)

A fifth Colorado prisoner has died after falling ill with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the state says.

The 71-year-old man died Tuesday at North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, according to the Colorado Department of Corrections. He had been housed at the Sterling Correctional Facility in northeast Colorado. 

Annie Skinner, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Corrections, declined to confirm whether the man tested positive for coronavirus, citing privacy concerns. But data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment indicates that his infection was confirmed through a test. 

Three other Sterling Correctional Facility inmates have died after contracting the coronavirus since the pandemic began. Last month, a 58-year-old man imprisoned at the Fremont Correctional Facility died from the disease.

About 2,000 Colorado prisoners have contracted COVID-19 since the pandemic began. As of Thursday, 528 of them had active infections.

Jesse Paul, Staff writer


Jeffco Public Schools, Colorado’s second largest school district, will move to remote learning

6:11 PM | 11-12-2020🔗

Colorado’s second largest school district announced Thursday evening that it will transition all of its students — with the exception of preschoolers — to remote learning before December. 

Jeffco Public Schools is the latest district to abandon in-person learning as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations spike across the state. 

Students in grades 6-12 will move to remote learning on Monday. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade will continue learning in person through Nov. 19, at which point they will begin transitioning to fully remote learning by Nov. 30.

Curtis Durham helps his son, Wyatt, 10, with schoolwork at home on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, following the closure of JeffCo Public Schools in response to the new coronavirus. (Dagny Durham, Special to The Colorado Sun)

“Simply put, we’ve now reached the point at which the benefits of in-person learning are outweighed by the disruption caused by abrupt transitions to quarantines and by the risk of COVID-19 exposures within our buildings,” Interim Superintendent Kristopher Schuh wrote in a letter to the district community.

COVID-19 IN COLORADO

The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

  • LIVE BLOG: The latest on closures, restrictions and other major updates.
  • MAP: Cases and deaths in Colorado.
  • TESTING: Here’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • STORY: Colorado researchers are gathering data on coronavirus survivors. Here’s what they’ve found.

>> FULL COVERAGE

Douglas County School District, which currently has nearly 5,000 students and staff members in quarantine, announced Thursday will move to fully remote learning for all students following Thanksgiving break through the rest of the semester.

“DCSD will continue to evaluate the COVID-19 situation during December to make further decisions about the second semester,” Interim Superintendent Corey Wise wrote in a letter notifying parents of the change.

Finally, Greeley-Evans Weld County School District 6 also announced Thursday it will move fully remote starting on Monday.

“We have closed a third of our schools in recent days, and we continue to quarantine numerous cohorts daily. We are contact tracing more than 3,000 individual students and staff who are currently quarantined, and we have exceeded the capacity to manage these numbers,” Superintendent Dr. Deirdre Pilch wrote in a letter notifying parents.

Jesse Paul, Staff writer


Roughly 25 patients hospitalized with coronavirus in Colorado came from out of state

4:40 PM | 11-12-2020🔗
A graph showing the number of patients currently hospitalized because of COVID-19. (Screenshot)

Only about 25 of the 1,183 people currently hospitalized in Colorado because of COVID-19 were transferred in from another state, state health officials said Thursday.

“Right now, it’s a very small number,” Kevin Klein, director of Colorado’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said during a video briefing with reporters. 

Klein said Colorado has partnerships with its surrounding states to share resources in the event of a disaster like the COVID-19 crisis. 

“But right now we’re not seeing either big requests to move people in or big requests to move stuff out of Colorado,” Klein said.

He said it’s not surprising that some patients have been transferred to Colorado from other states given the vast expertise of doctors at Colorado’s hospitals, including those in the UCHealth system.

Jesse Paul, Staff writer


Colorado’s top epidemiologist says state’s coronavirus case surge is getting worse, not better

2:00 PM | 11-12-2020🔗

In a stoic presentation to a group of state health leaders on Thursday, Colorado’s top epidemiologist said the state is seeing a “week-over-week acceleration” in the increase of new cases of COVID-19, each day bringing worse and worse news for the state’s control of the coronavirus.

“To me this is a clear indication of exponential growth in the state,” said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state epidemiologist at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“We’re not even seeing a hint of a plateau at this point.”

Her comments came during an update to a group of health experts called the GEEERC, for Governor’s Expert Emergency Epidemic Response Committee. The group offers guidance to Gov. Jared Polis on how to respond to the pandemic.

Herlihy said the state has reached all-time highs for the number of coronavirus outbreaks currently underway, the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and the number of new cases reported to the state. Over the past week, more than 3,000 new cases have been reported per day.

Cases have grown so rapidly, Herlihy said, they now exceed the state’s capacity to do investigations and contact tracing for all of them. She also said the state’s trajectory continues to exceed earlier projections.

A slide from a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment presentation on Nov. 12, 2020, shows how the state’s increase in hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have exceeded previous modeling forecasts. (Screenshot)

“We’re trending in the wrong direction,” she said.

A month ago, when the GEEERC last met in full, Herlihy said Colorado ranked 31st among all states and the District of Columbia in the incidence rate for new coronavirus cases. At that time, the state’s 7-day average per-capita case rate was 72 new cases per 100,000 people.

Since that time, the case rate in Colorado has more than quintupled to an average of 412 new cases per 100,000 people. Colorado now ranks 17th in the country for highest incidence rate.

“This is a really clear indication of how quickly things have changed in the state,” Herlihy said.

A slide from a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment presentation on Nov. 12, 2020, shows Colorado ranked 17th in the nation for highest incidence rate of new COVID-19 cases. The smaller inset chart shows Colorado ranked 31st just one month prior. (Screenshot)

Herlihy also offered new insight into one of the pandemic’s more hopeful trends. While hospitalizations have reached an all-time high, the percentage of those patients who are being treated in intensive-care units in Colorado has hit a new low — about 19%. Doctors who are members of the GEEERC said this is due to treatment advances such as new medications and greater comfort with treating people with oxygen in regular hospital beds rather than moving them to ICU beds for intubation.

Dr. Michelle Baron, an infectious disease specialist at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital, said during Thursday’s meeting that most ICU patients today are in such serious condition when they arrive that they are admitted straight to the unit. This is different from the first surge of the virus in spring, when many ICU patients were first admitted to a general ward before their deteriorating conditions forced them to move to the ICU.

A slide from a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment presentation on Nov. 12, 2020, shows that the percentage of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 who are in intensive-care units has hit an all-time low. Doctors said advances in medications and changes in how the disease is treated have made the difference. (Screenshot)

But, overall, the worsening situation has state health leaders increasingly urging people to adopt stay-at-home-like behavior, even if Polis has signaled he does not want to issue a new stay-at-home order.

“For the rest of November,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the state health department, “we’re recommending people only interact with their own households.”

— John Ingold, Staff writer


Inmates at El Paso County jail, site of major coronavirus outbreak, only given masks last week

10:58 AM | 11-12-2020🔗

Inmates at Colorado’s El Paso County jail were not routinely given masks to stop the spread of the coronavirus until last week when it turned into the site of the state’s second-largest outbreak, a jail spokesperson said.

The jail in Colorado Springs, which has has held 1,200 detainees on average daily lately, previously only gave inmates masks if they were moving around the facility, going to to court or if recommended by medical staff, El Paso Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. Deborah Mynatt told The Denver Post.

The jail initially did not issue masks to all inmates because there was a limited supply of face coverings that suitable for detention facilities. Mynatt said she did not know why suitable masks were not procured later.

“I’m not sure on who made the decision or why, but I know that the entire time we were taking recommendations from public health,” she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises detention facilities to provide all inmates with masks at no cost and to frequently wash them.

Officials first reported the jail outbreak on Oct. 26 when eight inmates who were asymptomatic tested positive for COVID-19.

The El Paso County jail. (Handout)

According to the sheriff’s office, 90 jail workers and 863 inmates have tested positive since the pandemic began, all but 14 of them since mid-October.

The number of inmates with the disease who were considered infectious dropped to 148 on Wednesday because some inmates have left the jail and others are past the 10-day window when they are able to spread the disease.

Colorado’s largest coronavirus outbreak is at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where there have been 1,766 cases.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks.

For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The Associated Press


25 Colorado counties are teetering on the edge of lockdown

9:58 AM | 11-12-2020🔗
A screenshot of Colorado’s current county-by-county status.

As of Thursday morning, 25 of Colorado’s 64 counties are on the edge of being locked down by state health officials because of rising coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. 

Those 25 counties are under Gov. Jared Polis’ orange — or “high-risk” – level on the “safer-at-home” scale, one level above being forced to enact a stay-at-home order.

The counties at level orange are: 

  • Sedgwick
  • Phillips
  • Logan
  • Morgan
  • Washington
  • Adams
  • Arapahoe
  • Douglas
  • Jefferson
  • Denver
  • Broomfield
  • Boulder
  • Gilpin
  • Clear Creek
  • Summit
  • Routt
  • Mesa
  • San Miguel
  • La Plata
  • El Paso
  • Elbert
  • Crowley
  • Otero
  • Prowers
  • Kit Carson

“We are rapidly catching up to the uncontrolled levels of disease seen in the rest of Colorado and we are at risk of serious consequences for our hospitals,” Liane Jollon, executive director of San Juan Basin Public Health, said in a written statement on Tuesday announcing that La Plata County was moving to the orange level. “ We know everyone is tired of this pandemic, and we are so thankful of the sacrifices everyone has made in their workplaces and social lives. We must ask all community members to once again come together and adopt good public health practices to keep our families and neighbors safe.”

Only two counties remain in the state’s “protect-our-neighbors” status, the highest level a county can achieve. Those are Moffat and Rio Blanco counties in the northwest corner of Colorado. 

Moffat County, however, is struggling to maintain that status because of rising cases and an increased test positivity rate that would drop it down a level. 

You can see where your county is on the state’s scale here.

Jesse Paul, Staff writer


Colorado has identified 247 coronavirus outbreaks already this month

6:47 PM | 11-11-2020🔗
A screenshot of Colorado’s outbreak tracker. Notice the increase in October and November.

Colorado has identified at least 247 coronavirus outbreaks that began November, just 11 days into the month, according to data released by the state on Wednesday.

In all of October, Colorado had 510 outbreaks — by far the greatest number since the pandemic began. November is on pace to far exceed last month’s tally.

An outbreak is defined by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment as two people testing positive for COVID-19 in a span of two weeks.

The largest share of the outbreaks this month — 80 of them, or 32% — have been at camps, schools and childcare facilities. The second largest share — 33 or 13.1% — have been at manufacturing facilities and construction sites. 

Businesses on the state’s active outbreak list include Argonaut Wine and Liquor in Denver, cannabis company Charlotte’s Web Inc., three Costco stores, the Denver Broncos, four King Soopers locations, an Orange Theory Fitness location and four Target stores. 

Other organizations on the list are Red Rocks Country Club, Pikes Peak Christian Church and Pitkin County Public Works. 

Jesse Paul and Jen Brown, staff writers


Report: Colorado health agency deleted emails on pandemic

11:33 AM | 11-11-2020🔗
Dr. Rachel Herlihy, Colorado’s state epidemiologist, speaks to reporters at the governor’s mansion in downtown Denver on Monday, April 20, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has routinely deleted emails sent and received by officials responding to the coronavirus pandemic even though the state archives has asked that they be saved, a newspaper has found.

The Denver Post reported that it discovered that emails sent and received by state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy were deleted after the newspaper requested some documents that are considered public records.

The department said it would provide some records, including emails. But it said emails “from May would have already been auto-deleted unless otherwise preserved, or they were previously deleted by Dr. Herlihy as part of a normal business process,” said Monica Wilkerson, the department’s records and legal services liaison.

As of last year, the department deleted most employee emails after 90 days. The policy mirrors similar practices by the state government, including the governor’s office.

Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition Executive Director Jeff Roberts said it is important to keep records so that journalists can report on a crisis impacting the health and safety of the state’s residents.

“I’m disappointed because we asked for this,” Roberts said. “Just because they may not think the messages are important to keep, those are government records and they are the public’s records.”

State officials have argued they are following procedure and the law.

“To be clear, we haven’t changed our record-retention policy during the pandemic; we are, of course, preserving what the law requires us to preserve,” said Ann Hause, director of the agency’s office of legal and regulatory compliance.

The Colorado State Archives posted a notice online in June asking various agencies to “keep all records related to COVID-19.”

The state Department of Public Health and Environment said it is following the state archives’ guidelines.

“The State Archives Office recommends we save correspondence showing significant new policies or work practices in place during the pandemic,” the department said. “Correspondence includes letters, memos and emails.”

The Colorado State Archives did not immediately respond to questions Tuesday.

More than 60 news organizations, including The Post, sent a letter to Democratic Gov. Jared Polis in April asking for transparency in the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“These primary records will become particularly important in the future, as journalists and social science researchers attempt to reconstruct this chaotic period to determine what we can learn from the response,” the letter read.

Polis’ Press Secretary Conor Cahill said in response that Polis “believes in transparency in government,” and that his office saves the final versions of contracts, orders, press releases and other documents to retain.

The Post’s discovery follows a report by the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition that found state agencies, cities and other government entities have charged large amounts of money to retrieve requested public records.

The Associated Press


As contact-tracing capacity becomes strained, Colorado health officials are looking to automate notifications

11:04 AM | 11-11-2020🔗
Exposure Notifications Express. (Screenshot)

More than 800,000 people in Colorado have now enabled a smartphone app that notifies them if they’ve potentially been exposed to the coronavirus.

The app allows phones that are near one another to exchange non-identifying bits of information. If a person tests positive for the coronavirus, they can then use the app to anonymously notify everyone whose phone had recently been near theirs of the possible exposure.

State health officials have touted the app as a way to expand their ability to hunt down new infections and get people isolated before they can spread the virus to others. But it comes with one increasingly significant bottleneck: A health worker has to contact each person who tests positive and text them a link that allows them to use the app to notify others. 

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says this is a key security feature of the app — it prevents pranksters from sending out exposure notifications without having received a verified positive test.

But, with contact-tracing capacity across the state under strain as the number of new cases explodes, that has created a drag on the app’s usefulness. So CDPHE says it is testing out an automated approach.

In response to emailed questions from The Sun, the agency says it is “piloting” a system where the state’s electronic communicable disease reporting system will automatically text out the link when a positive test is reported and a mobile phone number is associated with the record. That would eliminate the need for a human being to get in touch with the infected person before the exposure notifications could go out.

The state says it is also working to bring on more people who can do the test-result calls and handle exposure notification requests.

The exposure notifications app works on both iPhones and phones running Google’s Android operating system. Android must download the Exposures Notifications app. iPhones have the app automatically installed — it just has to be enabled under the Settings menu. But it doesn’t currently work on iPhones older than the 6s.

For more information, go to www.addyourphone.com.

— John Ingold, Staff writer


Boulder Valley School District, Aurora Public Schools shift to remote learning

8:42 AM | 11-11-2020🔗
MIles Love, 12, works on an online physical science problem in a Google chat room with one of his Manhattan Middle School classmates as his brother, Foster, 7, who is in first grade at Pioneer Elementary School, takes a break from his studies on March 31, 2020, the first week that the Boulder Valley School District used all-online learning to teach its students. (Dana Coffield, The Colorado Sun)

Two more Colorado school districts will abandon in-person learning for the rest of this year as coronavirus cases continue to surge across the state.

Boulder Valley School District and Aurora Public Schools announced their decisions on Tuesday, citing an inability to stop outbreaks and keep in-person classes running smoothly.

COVID-19 IN COLORADO

The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

  • LIVE BLOG: The latest on closures, restrictions and other major updates.
  • MAP: Cases and deaths in Colorado.
  • TESTING: Here’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • STORY: Colorado researchers are gathering data on coronavirus survivors. Here’s what they’ve found.

>> FULL COVERAGE

Aurora was mostly offering online-only classes, but preschool and kindergarten students who were receiving in-person instruction will move to remote learning after Thanksgiving for the rest of the year, Chalkbeat Colorado reports. Special needs students and immigrant learners will also shift to remote classes at that time after being allowed back in school.

“While we know that our students and staff can thrive with more in-person learning, the sustained community spread interferes with our ability to maintain the full range of our mitigation measures across all of our grades,” Superintendent Rico Munn wrote in a letter to the district community.

Boulder Valley School District will move all of its schools to remote learning starting Nov. 17 for at least the rest of 2020. The next semester begins on Jan. 5.

“While my team and I remain firmly committed to providing in-person learning opportunities whenever it is safe to do so – it has become abundantly clear that we can no longer handle the situation on a school-by-school basis,” Superintendent Rob Anderson wrote in a letter to the district community. “Unfortunately, the contact tracing team has been overrun with cases and with growing quarantines, we simply do not have enough school or district staff to fill all the gaps.”

Jesse Paul, Staff writer


Colorado’s coronavirus deaths haven’t yet spiked as cases have. Health leaders say that’s not a reason for complacency.

🔗

As coronavirus cases and hospitalizations reach record heights in Colorado, there is one metric so far resisting the same kind of upward pull.

Deaths among people infected with COVID-19 have begun to rise again in recent weeks, but they are so far nowhere near the peaks of earlier this year. Data from the state Health Department shows that currently about 10 people infected with the virus are dying every day in Colorado. That’s up from three or four deaths a day at the end of summer, but it is far below the 30 or more people who died a day during the worst of the state’s spring coronavirus surge.

But state health leaders also caution that the improved chances of surviving a coronavirus infection are not reason to take the virus less seriously or to be less alarmed by the rising number of cases in Colorado

Read the entire story here.

John Ingold, Staff writer


Coronavirus outbreak at El Paso County jail infects 859 inmates, 66 workers

8:12 AM | 11-11-2020🔗

COLORADO SPRINGS — The El Paso County jail in Colorado has reported 859 of the 1,246 inmates in custody Sunday tested positive for COVID-19 along with 66 employees, authorities said.

The El Paso County sheriff’s office said two of the employees were hospitalized over the weekend, The Gazette reported.

Sheriff’s office spokeswoman Deborah Mynatt did not disclose the status of the two employees who were hospitalized or if they were civilian employees or deputies, citing privacy concerns.

Officials first reported the outbreak on Oct. 26 when eight inmates who were asymptomatic tested positive for COVID-19. Mynatt compared the outbreak to a “wildfire” and said officials are trying to control the virus from spreading more.

The El Paso County jail. (Handout)

Sheriff’s office officials reported that 927 inmates and 78 staff members at the jail have tested positive overall since the pandemic began in March. Mynatt said 1,755 tests were administered to inmates and 782 were administered to employees since Monday, including people who have had more than one test.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The Associated Press


Local officials to Gov. Jared Polis: Enact tougher coronavirus measures

8:09 AM | 11-11-2020🔗
Gov. Jared Polis speaks to reporters at a news conference on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Colorado’s local public health directors have implored Gov. Jared Polis to issue tougher measures to stem the rapid spread of the coronavirus, including lockdowns in individual counties as needed.

The state’s metro public health directors and the president of the Colorado Association of Public Health Directors made the appeal in a Nov. 5 letter to Polis and the state health department that was obtained by Colorado Public Radio news.

“We are at a critical juncture in the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter said. “Cases are increasing at an alarming rate. Contract tracing and investigation capacity is tapped. Hospitalization rates are at an all-time high since the pandemic began and are projected to exceed capacity by year’s end.”

Polis’ administration has adopted a color-coded scheme that increases social distancing and other restrictions as case counts mount or lessen in individual counties. Colorado Public Radio reported Tuesday that the local directors asked the governor to better enforce those measures and require counties to impose “stay at home” measures as needed.

Polis ordered a statewide lockdown in the spring as the pandemic spread in Colorado. He has resisted doing so again, in part because of the significant damage to businesses and workers who lose jobs. He has repeatedly urged pandemic-weary residents to avoid social gatherings, wear masks and practice other behaviors to stem virus transmission.

The governor prefers to let individual counties make the best choices for their residents but won’t hesitate to take statewide action “if there comes a time we could lose lives due to a lack of medical capacity,” his press secretary, Conor Cahill, told Colorado Public Radio.

MORE: Why another statewide lockdown is unlikely, even as Colorado’s coronavirus situation worsens each day

Thirteen of Colorado’s 64 counties are under an “orange” level of restrictions, and all of them exceed Colorado’s threshold for the rate of new cases needed to move to a “red level” lockdown, according to state data. Factors in that threshold include are a two-week cumulative incidence rate of 350 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents and the number of hospitalizations.

At least 1,174 people were hospitalized on Monday with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, according to the state health department. The high of 1,277 patients was set in April. The seven-day average percentage of positive tests has reached nearly 11.5%, compared with 3.7% a month ago.

While local authorities can impose stay-at-home orders, “we think that that authority is more effective if it comes from the chief elected official in the state,” Dr. John Douglas, executive director of Tri-County Public Health, told Colorado Public Radio. His department serves more than 1.5 million people in Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties.

Without a new stimulus package from Congress, the decision whether to impose a lockdown is even more difficult, especially if it’s made by a non-elected local health official, Douglas said.

“I think all of my colleagues are getting weary of being the target of criticism, death threats, hostile comments,” Douglas said, adding that “nobody who makes this decision, by the way, is going to be popular. The governor’s not going to be popular if he makes it. We’re not going to be popular if we make it.”

COVID-19 causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

Colorado has had more than 134,000 confirmed coronavirus cases. More than 2,100 residents have died, according to the state health department.

The Associated Press


Colorado will require more testing at nursing homes as coronavirus becomes more prevalent

7:11 PM | 11-10-2020🔗
Emergency personnel from South Metro Fire Rescue transfer a patient into an ambulance at Libby Bortz Assisted Living Center in Littleton on Friday, April 3, 2020. Several residents there died from coronavirus. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Colorado health officials Tuesday night announced new testing requirements for nursing homes as the coronavirus becomes more prevalent in the state

Hundreds of nursing home residents died after COVID-19 first reached Colorado in March. The new mandates appear aimed at preventing a repeat of those staggering fatalities. 

The new requirements, which go into effect Nov. 20 and were placed in an existing public health order, state:

  • Facilities must test all staff weekly.
  • Residents must be tested weekly if they have left facilities to interact with people who live elsewhere in the past 14 days. 
  • A facility that reaches a two-week positivity rate of 10% or greater must increase its testing to twice weekly until the rate returns to less than 10% for two consecutive weeks.
  • Facilities must test all residents and staff if there is a single COVID-19 case, regardless of whether the infected person has symptoms.

“Facilities may choose to expand testing beyond these minimum requirements, such as testing all residents on a weekly basis,” the order says.

Assisted-living residences, group homes and intermediate-care facilities also must adhere to the new testing requirements.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says it will provide testing supplies to the facilities. 

“Expanded testing at long-term care facilities will further protect many of the Coloradans most at risk of experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms,” Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of CDPHE, said in a written statement. 

Jesse Paul, staff writer


Douglas County tells Tri-County Health it won’t withdraw until at least 2023

3:12 PM | 11-10-2020🔗
Outside Tri-County Health Department’s administrative office at 6162 S. Willow Drive in Greenwood Village. The agency serves more than 1.5 million people in Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties. (Ellis Arnold, Colorado Community Media)

In July, the three-member Douglas County Board of Commissioners voted to withdraw from the Tri-County Health Department — which oversees public health in Douglas, Arapahoe and Adams counties — after 50 years of partnership.

As of Tuesday, that withdrawal won’t happen until at least 2023 — if at all.

In a letter sent to the health department Tuesday, Douglas County Attorney Lance Ingalls thanked Tri-County for “efforts to seek a mutual resolution” on the differences between the county and its health authority. The update comes after a Nov. 6 Tri-County board meeting, during which the board voted to give individual counties more input for public health orders. 

The letter, first reported by Colorado Community Media, pushed back the potential withdrawal deadline until at least December 31, 2022. Previously the county was slated to withdraw from Tri-County by July 2021.

The county and health department have been at odds since the beginning of the pandemic. Republican leaders in Douglas County spoke out against the stay-at-home order that Tri-County implemented in March.

When the health department enacted a mask mandate in July, the county’s board of commissioners announced their intent to break up their partnership with Tri-County the next day. It wasn’t clear, however, how difficult it would be for Douglas County to go it on their own. 

MORE: Douglas County to opt out of mask mandate, moves to leave Tri-County Health Department

Before Tuesday’s announcement, progress towards creating a Douglas County-specific health department remained unclear.

Dr. John M. Douglas, who leads Tri-County Health Department, welcomed the withdrawal news.

“We appreciate this action, which gives TCHD the opportunity to work with them, as well as Arapahoe and Adams counties, on each of their unique public health needs,” he said in a written statement. “This is a positive step forward in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and allows TCHD to be more strategic in working with our three counties.”

Lucy Haggard, Staff writer


El Paso County says it is dealing with so many cases that it may not be able to contact trace them all

12:50 PM | 11-10-2020🔗
Julianna Sandoval, 24, pauses for a COVID-19 nasal swab test from Dr. Sarah Rowan from Denver Health Medical Center. Rowan and other medical staff administered a free drive-up COVID-19 testing in the parking lot of Abraham Lincoln High School on November 7, 2020. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

El Paso County Public Health is warning that it is dealing with so many coronavirus cases that it may not be able to complete contract tracing for them all.

“Individuals who are infectious with COVID-19 are required to isolate,” the health department said on a bulletin posted to its website. “El Paso County Public Health recommends that they reach out to their close contacts.”

COVID-19 IN COLORADO

The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

  • LIVE BLOG: The latest on closures, restrictions and other major updates.
  • MAP: Cases and deaths in Colorado.
  • TESTING: Here’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • STORY: Colorado researchers are gathering data on coronavirus survivors. Here’s what they’ve found.

>> FULL COVERAGE

Dr. Rachel Herlihy, Colorado’s top epidemiologist, told The Colorado Sun last week that the state’s rising case numbers are making contact tracing more difficult. Public health officials were aiming to be able to trace about 500 cases a day in Colorado. There has been an average of more than 3,000 a day for a week.

“There certainly is strain on our public health systems,” Herlihy said. “There’s strain on our contact-tracing systems.”

The state is hoping that the new Exposure Notifications Express smartphone system can take some of the burden off of people-powered, time-intensive contact tracing by doing their work automatically. More than 500,000 people have already downloaded it in the state.

Colorado also announced on Monday that it is bringing on more AmeriCorps members to help boost the state’s contact-tracing ability.

Jesse Paul, staff writer

Adams 12 school district to transition online by start of next week

11:58 AM | 11-10-2020🔗
Parents and students pick up backpacks filled with school supplies at the central administration offices of Adams 12 school district in Thornton, August 21, 2020. (Kevin Mohatt, Special to The Colorado Sun)

After attempting to bring students back for at least some in-person classes this fall, the Adams 12 Five Star school district will switch all of their students to online learning by Monday, Nov. 16.

Superintendent Chris Gdowski noted in Monday’s announcement that over 200 students and staff have tested positive for COVID-19, leading to rolling quarantines and online class for more than 3,300 students and 600 staff members. Four elementary schools transitioned online over the past weekend alone.

“Simply put, we’ve now reached the point at which the benefits of in-person learning for our youngest students are outweighed by the disruption caused by abrupt transitions to quarantines and by the risk of COVID exposures within our schools,” Gdowski wrote.

If schools need to go under quarantine, they may transition online sooner. Students who have been quarantined will have the opportunity to pick up items left at school either before or right after Thanksgiving break.

Most students will remain online from Thanksgiving break until the end of the term. Students with special needs, advanced academic needs or those who are learning English may be allowed to come back to in-person learning, but that decision will not be made until Thanksgiving break or later.

The district decided in October to move learning online for students in grades 6 through 12. Its neighboring districts, Aurora Public Schools and Denver Public Schools, have also kept high schoolers learning remotely for the fall, with DPS also keeping middle schoolers remote.

Lucy Haggard, staff writer


With coronavirus cases rising, is Colorado’s ski season at risk?

10:19 AM | 11-10-2020🔗
A snowboarder wearing a medical mask heads down a slope at Arapahoe Basin on Wednesday, May 27, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Gov. Jared Polis says he isn’t worried about Colorado’s ski season being at risk as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to surge in the state.

“Skiing itself and boarding is a lower-risk activity,” Polis said in an interview Friday with The Colorado Sun. “You’re outdoors, you’re on a slope, you’re not near anybody for very long, if at all. You’re frequently masked anyways, even regardless of the pandemic.”

To put it bluntly, Polis said: “The danger is not on the slope. The biggest danger on the slope remains slamming into a tree.”

Polis said the real risk of COVID-19 transmission in resort towns is at bars, but he feels confident those communities are taking coronavirus seriously and implementing restrictions aimed at ensuring the winter tourism season isn’t forced to end early.

MORE: Colorado is trying to figure out what to do when ski country visitors catch coronavirus

“We’ve been pushing outdoors, as you know, all summer. That doesn’t change in winter. Outdoors is better,” Polis said. “It’s one of those things where, if you want to be safe, just go home or go to your hotel if you are done skiing or boarding for the day.”

Three Colorado ski areas are now open — Arapahoe Basin, Keystone Resort and Wolf Creek Ski Area — and others are expected to start operations in the coming days and weeks.

Listen to our full interview with Polis and Dr. Rachel Herlihy, Colorado’s top epidemiologist, here.

Jesse Paul, staff writer


After staving off COVID-19 for months, Western Colorado University switches to online classes

10:17 AM | 11-10-2020🔗
Cars line up during drive up testing for COVID-19 in Gunnison on March 20, 2020. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun)

For most of the fall semester, Western Colorado University was one of the most successful campuses in the state when it came to controlling the coronavirus pandemic. But in the 10 days before Friday, the campus saw 30 cases among its faculty, staff and roughly 2,700 students. Before that, the campus had seen a total of 11 cases all semester.

After months of successful hybrid learning for the majority of their courses, Western switched to online-only classes on Monday. 

The university’s president, Greg Salsbury, announced the changes in an email to the campus community Sunday afternoon, citing high case numbers in tests over the weekend. 

The campus had already planned to shift classes online following Thanksgiving break, which is still two weeks away. 

MORE: Colorado colleges want to offer more in-person classes this spring. Here’s what they learned from a tough fall.

Western is in Gunnison County, which was one of the first to impose restrictions on its residents as the pandemic hit in March. It was successful in maintaining low case numbers for most of the summer. The county even received the state’s protect-our-neighbors variance, which allows for larger gatherings and more normal business operations. 

Recently, Gunnison County, like much of the state, has also seen a rise in case counts, with about 80% attributed to the university. Though it still held protect-our-neighbors status Tuesday, the county is undergoing mitigation efforts to retain that variance. In an update Monday, county officials wrote: “The message is simple, we all need to step up at the individual level to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”

Lucy Haggard, staff writer

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