Update: This page is no longer being maintained. Find the latest COVID-19 news here.

To help you stay updated as the coronavirus 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 frequently.

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

Colorado detects two cases of highly transmissible P.1 coronavirus variant in Boulder County

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. (Provided by the CDC)

The first Colorado cases of a new COVID-19 variant that’s believed to be more transmissible and can easily reinfect people have been identified in two Boulder County residents, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced Tuesday afternoon. 

The variant, known as P.1, is possibly as much as 2.5 times more transmissible than the main strain of COVID-19. But research suggests that the coronavirus vaccines available to the public still provide crucial protection against transmission and severe illness from the P.1 variant and other variants. The Pfizer vaccine has been proven to neutralize it, and the Moderna vaccine is predicted to be equally protective.

State health officials didn’t have information on the travel history of the two Coloradans infected with the P.1 strain. The CDPHE is conducting contact tracing and monitoring the situation closely with Boulder County Public Health. 

The P.1 variant has been identified in 289 people across the U.S. Public health officials initially identified the variant among travelers from Brazil arriving in Japan in early January. 

The P.1 variant first drew real international concern after it devastated a Brazilian city and reinfected people who had already survived a bout with coronavirus.

Coloradans should continue wearing masks, practicing social distancing, washing their hands and getting vaccinated when able to, health officials say. 

— Zach Bright, Staff writer

Buses will distribute up to 2,000 coronavirus vaccine doses daily at mobile Colorado inoculation sites

One of four buses that will host mobile vaccination clinics across Colorado. (Handout)

Colorado launched its mobile COVID-19 inoculation service on Friday with plans to offer 2,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine each day out of four charter buses traveling to medically underserved communities across the state.

“Having this mobile vaccination clinic really helps us reach medically underserved Coloradans, predominantly in rural areas but also in underserved urban areas,” Gov. Jared Polis told The Colorado Sun in an interview.

The buses will mostly distribute Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine so we don’t have to worry about rescheduling and coming back,” Polis said.

“It’s really one and done, and making that available in a convenient way to folks because every person that gets vaccinated helps us end the pandemic,” the governor said.

The state is launching the service with two buses distributing 250 vaccine doses daily each at first. Distribution will ramp up and the mobile initiative will last at least two months.

The mobile vaccine service is part of Polis’ goal to make getting vaccinated easy for Coloradans so that the state can reach herd immunity and end pandemic restrictions faster. He believes that vaccine hesitancy can be overcome by convenience.

“We need to make it convenient and easy for people, no matter where they live,” Polis said.

— Jesse Paul and Zach Bright, Staff writers

90% of K-12 educators in Colorado have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine

Masked children as Gov. Jared Polis visits a second grade class in Aurora. (Cherry Creek School District handout)

Gov. Jared Polis said Tuesday that about 90% of K-12 teachers in Colorado have received at least a first dose of coronavirus vaccine.

The Democrat said that about 108,000 educators and child care workers had been at least partially inoculated, exceeding the state’s goal to have vaccinated 75% of people in that group by the end of last week.

The governor said he’s hopeful the progress will mean schools won’t have to temporarily shut down because of COVID-19 outbreaks since federal health officials say people who are fully vaccinated don’t have to quarantine after being exposed to the disease.

— Jesse Paul, Staff writer

Colorado reworks coronavirus dial system again, loosening many restrictions

The waitstaff serves food and drink to customers sitting inside a line of greenhouse buildings at the Stanley Marketplace which are for dining use at the Annette restaurant during the coronavirus pandemic on Nov. 7, 2020 in Aurora, Colorado. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Colorado health officials have once again reworked the state’s coronavirus dial system, loosening some restrictions and giving counties more leeway as to when rising case counts and hospitalizations lead to tougher disease controls.

Among the biggest changes is that counties won’t be forced to downgrade to a more restrictive level unless their disease incidence metrics are more than 15% worse than the more restrictive level’s minimum metrics for five consecutive days.

Put simply: It will take longer for a county to be downgraded.

Indoor capacity limits have also been increased for counties with low case counts, and alcohol sales at restaurants in level blue may happen until 2 a.m. Performers at events who are wearing masks may now be a minimum of 12 feet away from spectators.

See a full list of the changes here.

— Jesse Paul, Staff writer

Colorado says it has identified 822 people who may have caught coronavirus twice

Colorado health officials have identified 822 who may have caught coronavirus twice, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced Monday.

The cases, which happened from August 20 through Feb. 28, represent 0.19% of the state’s total cases. The people with potential reinfections ranged in age from 1 to 101 and were found in 45 Colorado counties.

“While reinfection is rare, it’s not unexpected based on what we know from similar viruses,” CDPHE said in a news release Monday.

Second infections are defined by two positive PCR test results at least 90 days apart, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each of the tests should theoretically have different genetic material, but most labs only keep samples for a few days, so it is difficult to confirm reinfections genetically, state officials say.

The state has only been able to sequence seven test pairs from people with potential reinfections, according to CDPHE, five of which were found to be true reinfection. 

The agency noted that the criteria determining new cases versus reinfections may change as more is known about the virus.

–Lucy Haggard, Staff writer

12,500 fans will be allowed to attend Colorado Rockies games, starting with April 1 home opener

Coors Field, photographed on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, in downtown Denver. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Colorado health officials will allow 12,500 fans to attend Colorado Rockies games beginning on the baseball team’s opening day game on April 1.

The number is equivalent to 25% of Coors Field’s capacity.

“To create a safe and heath experience for fans, players and staff, the Rockies have implemented all required CDPE, CC and MLB policies and guidelines,” the Rockies said in a written statement. “The Rockies and CDPHE will continue to monitor the conditions, with the hope of safely adding to the capacity number in the future.”

Fans were not allowed to attend Rockies games during the shortened 2020 MLB season.

State health officials and the Broncos allowed a limited number of fans for several of the football team’s home games during the 2020-2021 season. That ended, however, after cases spikes in Colorado and across the nation.

— Jesse Paul, Staff writer

Colorado eager to receive first shipment of one-dose Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine next week

Amy Wells, RN, distributes a supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine during a drive-through vaccine clinic at National Jewish Health in their parking lot on January 29, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Colorado public health officials are waiting with baited breath for the Food and Drug Administration to authorize the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, which could ship out to states as early as next week.

The state does not yet have specific distribution plans for the vaccine, which was developed by the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen. Once the FDA approves the vaccine for emergency use, a separate federal group — the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice, or ACIP — will settle on who should be the target population and how it should be distributed.

The vaccine is not currently expected to change the state’s priority system for who gets vaccinated. The next phase of eligibility — Phase 1b.3, which includes frontline essential workers and people with multiple high-risk conditions — is scheduled to begin on March 5.

The one-shot vaccine has a lower efficacy rate in preventing COVID-19 — 72% in the U.S., according to clinical trials — than Pfizer’s and Moderna’s two-shot vaccines, which are each about 95% effective. But Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is 86% effective in preventing severe illness and death, according to clinical trial data. 

It could be more useful in situations like mass vaccination clinics, Dr. Eric France, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s chief medical officer, said in a news conference Thursday. But ACIP guidance will be needed to make those decisions.

If nothing else, France said, the new vaccine will help the state push toward its goals of reducing hospitalizations and deaths, as well as the expected 70% threshold needed to reach herd immunity. More than 1.3 million Coloradans have already received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

“We look forward to seeing this vaccine coming to Colorado in the next week to 10 days,” France said Thursday.

Officials also announced Thursday they are 95% of the way to their goal of vaccinating 70% of Coloradans aged 70 and older with at least one dose by the end of the month. Whether they hit that benchmark won’t be apparent until next week, once providers have sent in data from the rest of this week’s vaccinations. 

So far, the state is at a roughly two-to-one ratio of people who have received one vaccine dose versus those who have received two. The disparity aligns with the three-to-four-week waiting period between doses for Pfizer and Moderna respectively, according to Colorado National Guard Brig. Gen. Scott Sherman, who leads the state’s vaccine distribution program. 

“That’s exactly on track where we’re supposed to be,” Sherman said Thursday.

Even when the state begins Phase 1b.3 of vaccine rollout, those in earlier phases will still be encouraged to get vaccinated. Few people in the state’s current eligible phases have expressed hesitancy in getting fully immunized, according to Sherman, and there are still thousands of people on waitlists due to limited vaccine supplies.

–Lucy Haggard, Staff writer

Colorado to expand eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations starting next week

Dr. Steve Groshong administers the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Webber during a drive-through vaccine clinic in the parking lot at National Jewish Health on January 29, 2021, in Denver, Colorado. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

State officials in Colorado have said additional frontline workers and people with multiple chronic health conditions could become eligible for COVID-19 vaccines starting late next week.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment confirmed the state is expecting to move into the next phase of its vaccination plan on or around March 5 but did not provide details on when everyone in the phase would be eligible, The Denver Post reported Tuesday.

The new phase will encompass frontline workers across multiple industries, including the U.S. Postal Service, grocery stores, public transportation, faith communities and journalists. It would also expand to people with two or more high-risk health conditions, including cancer, diabetes, Down syndrome, obesity and pregnancy.

People with only one high-risk health condition would be eligible under an upcoming vaccination phase expected in spring, along with people between 60 and 64.

Democratic Gov. Jared Polis said the new phase will start when about half of eligible people in the previous phase have received the vaccine. The state is currently offering doses to first responders, residents 65 and older, residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and people in health care or education.

Health officials said 388,490 residents in the state have received both doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and 412,329 people had received at least the initial dose as of Tuesday.

The Associated Press

Colorado reports substantial decrease in serious flu cases

The emergency room entrance to Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver, photographed on Oct. 22, 2019. (John Ingold, The Colorado Sun)

Colorado has reported a substantial decrease in deaths and hospitalizations from the influenza amid public health measures meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The state Department of Public Health and Environment reported a total of 24 hospitalizations from the flu between Sept. 27 and Feb. 20.

At around this time in last year’s flu season, over 2,400 people had been hospitalized. The state reported a total of 3,546 flu hospitalizations across its 2019-20 flu season.

This year’s flu season will last through May 22, according to the state health department.

And while three people have died from the flu so far this season, 143 died during the 2019-2020 season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I’ve never seen flu this low,” said Larissa Pisney, medical director of infection prevention and control for UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital. “This is certainly unprecedented.”

Medical experts have attributed the decline in influenza cases to multiple factors, including coronavirus-related health orders and the fact that children have not been to school in-person for much of the pandemic, the Denver Post reported. Schools are one of the most common venues where flu is spread, the newspaper reported.

There has also been a 13.5% increase in flu vaccinations this season over last.

Pisney emphasized that the coronavirus is far more infectious, leads to more hospitalizations and is more deadly than the flu.

Nearly 6,000 people have died and more than 23,000 people have been hospitalized in Colorado as a result of the coronavirus since the pandemic began, according to the state health department. That’s more than 40 times the number of deaths and more than six times the number of hospitalizations the state said were caused by the flu in the 2019-20 season.

The Associated Press

Colorado vaccine shipments delayed by weather will be delivered on time

No appointments have been canceled as a result of the vaccine delays, according to state health officials

Extremely cold weather has disrupted coronavirus vaccine deliveries to states across the country, yet Colorado health officials said Thursday that the full quantity of vaccines they expected this week will arrive in the next few days.

The state shifted to 24-hour operations Wednesday night, according to COVID-19 Task Force Deputy Director Kate McIntire, so that tens of thousands of doses from both Moderna and Pfizer can be sent out in time for appointments. Each of these vaccines require two doses for their maximum efficacy.

“We really appreciate that vaccine providers have also been working amongst themselves, working together, to prevent any cancellation of appointments across the state,” McIntire said.

Brig. Gen. Scott Sherman, who leads the state’s vaccine distribution, said Colorado received some of this week’s allotment last week, anticipating potential delays because of President’s Day on Monday. 

A cold weather system moving across the U.S. for the past week has affected multiple aspects of the vaccine process, McIntire said, including planes to ship vaccine supplies, vaccine delivery kits from Tennessee, dry ice from Kentucky and vaccines manufactured in Michigan. 

Colorado is expecting to increase the amount of vaccines delivered in the first week of March to roughly 218,000 doses, Sherman said. The state ordered about 109,000 Pfizer doses and about 97,000 Moderna doses for the upcoming week.

–Lucy Haggard, Staff writer

Winter storms across U.S. are delaying shipments of 133,000 coronavirus vaccine doses to Colorado

Vials of COVID-19 vaccine. (Pool photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

Historic winter storms battering the central United States are delaying vaccine shipments to Colorado, the state Department of Public Health and Environment announced Tuesday.

Colorado was due to receive 133,000 doses of vaccine between Tuesday and Thursday of this week. But the storms mean the shipments are delayed in leaving a distribution hub in Tennessee, according to a CDPHE news release. The storms are also wreaking havoc on vaccination distribution in other states.

According to CDPHE, the state arranged for some of this week’s allotment of doses to be delivered last Friday, in anticipation of Presidents Day weekend.

“This decision helps us have enough on hand to work with providers to move doses around to prevent cancelations,” the agency wrote in its new release.

It is unclear when shipments will resume or whether the delays will have an impact on vaccination appointments beyond this week.

John Ingold, Staff writer

Denver Sheriff Department exposed inmates to coronavirus, lawsuit claims

Inside Denver’s downtown detention center. Oct. 11, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty, Denverite)

More than two dozen people have sued the Denver Sheriff Department, claiming they were exposed to the coronavirus while incarcerated, a newspaper reported.

Most of the federal lawsuits, largely handwritten, were filed without the help of attorneys since the beginning of the year, The Denver Post reported Thursday.

The lawsuits claim inmates are unable to socially distance, deputies inside the jail fail to wear masks and new inmates are housed without being tested.

“I contracted the COVID-19 virus due to them not upholding social distancing, having four men in one eight-man cell,” Johnny Hurley said in one complaint. “The department has no right to expose us to severe illness that could result in death and long-term side effects.”

Mark Silverstein, a legal director at the ACLU of Colorado, said the lawsuits are unlikely to succeed because the inmates face numerous challenges in court without attorneys. But the legal actions do highlight the ongoing struggles faced in jails and prisons throughout the pandemic, he said.

“An inmate who is concerned about taking all COVID precautions just can’t do it in a jail,” he said.

Department data show the Van Cise-Simonet Downtown Detention Center and the Denver County Jail have reported 975 COVID-19 cases in incarcerated people since the pandemic began in March, with case spikes in May and December. However, the state health department reported a total of 1,210 COVID-19 cases in the two facilities.

Denver Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Daria Serna said the department has taken a variety of precautions against COVID-19, including testing and providing masks. The city attorney’s office did not return a request for comment on the lawsuits.

— The Associated Press

“It would cost lives”: Colorado governor rejects Denver’s request to vaccinate homeless sooner

Unhoused Denver resident Marcio Johnson, 43, walks past his tent in an encampment along the 1300 block of Pearl Street in Denver on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. (Andy Colwell, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday rebuffed a request from Denver Mayor Michael Hancock urging the state to allow cities to prioritize people experiencing homelessness to receive a coronavirus vaccine. 

“It would cost lives to defer vaccine from people that are in their 70s to younger, healthier people just because they happen to be homeless,” Polis said during a news conference at the governor’s mansion in downtown Denver. 

Hancock and his Denver Joint Task Force sent a memo to state officials last week urging the Polis administration to sidestep its age-based approach to get vaccines to people living on the streets.

“Our unhoused neighbors have been among our most vulnerable residents throughout the pandemic,” Hancock said in a written statement. “It is critical that we accelerate immunizations not just for people experiencing homelessness, but also for the service providers, case managers and others who work closest with them, which will support the health of the general public as well.” 

Polis rejected that argument, saying he prefers to maintain his current approach to vaccine distribution priority. 

“Logistically,” Polis added, “it will be a lot easier for the needs of the homeless population to use the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.” 

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines must be administered in two doses about three weeks apart. The governor said it’s hard enough to get housed Coloradans to remember to get or follow through on their second dose.

— Jesse Paul, Staff writer

Students move back to University of Colorado Boulder campus after COVID-19 shutdown

The University of Colorado Boulder campus. (Unsplash)

BOULDER — The University of Colorado Boulder said thousands of students are returning to campus as the university prepares to begin in-person and hybrid classes.

University spokesperson Scott Pribble said about 4,700 students are moving into residence halls this week, the Daily Camera reported Monday. Each must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result or take a test on campus before moving in.

The semester began on Jan. 14 with all classes only online. The university intends to begin in-person and hybrid classes on Feb. 15.

“We’re increasing our testing capacity and requirements and will continue with safety measures such as daily check-ins via Buff Pass, required use of face coverings when on campus, reduced density in campus buildings, social distancing in the classroom and proper ventilation,” a statement posted to the university website said.

Freshman roommates Erin Ochs and Ellie Vine were among the first 1,000 students who moved in Monday.

“Being online to start with wasn’t hard, but being online and not being here was difficult — to not be around other people working on their classes. It’s easy to be motivated if people around you are,” Vine said.

“Last semester was pretty difficult, because you don’t know how to make friends through your computer,” Ochs said, adding that students would message each other on group Zoom calls to hang out and grab coffee.

— The Associated Press

Colorado governor hopes to provide rapid, at-home coronavirus test kits to restaurant workers, other essential employees

Gov. Jared Polis speaks to reporters about Colorado’s coronavirus vaccine distribution efforts in Denver on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Gov. Jared Polis said he wants to expand Colorado’s rapid coronavirus testing program to include restaurant workers and other front-line employees.

The state is providing at-home COVID-19 test kits from the company Binax to teachers to allow in-person classes to resume.

“We have secured about 2 million Binax tests a month,” Polis said. “Our first priority for utilization of those tests is safe return to school. Once we get the final numbers back on what we have left after the participating districts and educators use them, we will be able to design the exact parameters around the other programs to support restaurants and other essential businesses.”

Polis did not provide details on when at-home testing may be expanded. He said more information will be released in the coming days.

The governor said the Biden administration’s plans to reimburse the state for its pandemic response costs will help.

The Binax tests can reveal if someone has coronavirus in about 15 minutes.

— Jesse Paul, Staff writer

3 cases of “California” coronavirus variant have been found in Colorado

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)

Colorado health officials have identified three cases of the so-called California coronavirus variant in Colorado.

The variant, known as L452R, has been identified in a number of California counties and has been increasingly tracked in that state since November. It’s not clear if the variant spreads more easily or causes worse symptoms in those who catch it, but health officials across the U.S. are keeping tabs on the variant just in case.

“At this point it’s really still a variant that’s under investigation,” Dr. Rachel Herlihy, Colorado’s top epidemiologist, said Monday. “CDC is actually not yet listing it in its count of variants on its website. But we do know that it has caused some concerning outbreaks in California.”

Herlihy said Colorado has also now identified 13 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant in Colorado. That variant was first identified in the United Kingdom and is believed to spread more easily than the original version of COVID-19. 

Most of the L452R and B.1.1.7 cases have been found in the Denver metro area and on the Western Slope, state health officials say.

Dr. Eric France, the chief medical officer of Colorado’s health department, says the variants don’t appear to be spreading rapidly in the state.

— Jesse Paul, Staff writer

If Colorado stays the course with COVID-19, hundreds more will still die in coming months

A screenshot from Monday’s presentation with Dr. Rachel Herlihy and Gov. Jared Polis. (Screenshot)

At least 500 more Coloradans who catch COVID-19 will die by June if current transmission levels don’t change in the state, and even as  thousands of people are being vaccinated each day, Colorado’s top epidemiologist said Tuesday. 

Dr. Rachel Herlihy presented data during a news conference with Gov. Jared Polis showing the number of deaths could be much higher with slight variations in the rate of coronavirus’ spread. 

At the current transmission-control rate of 78%, 6,030 deaths among people who contract COVID-19 are expected by June 1. That number jumps to 9,510 if the transmission-control rate drops to 60%.

“We’re in a good place right now,” Herlihy said. The challenge, she explained, is not deviating.

The modeling data presented by Herlihy did not parse out how many of those new deaths will be caused by COVID-19. The estimates she presented are only among people who have contracted the virus, but could have died from any number of reasons.

Through Monday evening, 5,505 Coloradans had died after contracting COVID-19. Of those, 4,801 died directly because of coronavirus.

Colorado’s coronavirus situation has dramatically improved in recent months. Hospitalizations have plummeted and so has the seven-day average rate of new daily cases. But an estimated one out of every 115 Coloradans are still actively contagious with the disease. 

“If we revert back to what led to the huge increases in October and November, we could lose 5,000, 6,000, 7,000 more people,” Polis said. “If we’re not careful, there could even be more loss ahead of us than behind us.”

— Jesse Paul, Staff writer

Teachers, child care workers are next in line for coronavirus vaccine in Colorado

Harrison School District 2 first grade teacher Christina Randle gives an air hug o her daughter, Laila Randle at Centennial Elementary School in Colorado Springs Wednesday, July 15, 2020. (Mark Reis, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Teachers and child care workers are next in line to receive a coronavirus vaccine in Colorado after the state finishes inoculating most people 70 years old and above. 

Brig. Gen. Scott Sherman, who is running the state’s vaccine distribution plan, made the announcement on Monday. Teachers and child care workers are in Phase 1b of Colorado’s vaccine distribution plan, which includes essential workers, people over 70, first responders, government workers and some journalists.

Sherman, who is a Colorado National Guard member, said teachers are being prioritized so that in-person learning can resume as soon as possible.

There are approximately 1.3 million people who fall into Phase 1b.

Colorado hopes to vaccinate the majority of people over 70 by the end of February.

— Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun

Colorado launches vaccine information hotline

Nurse Joe Pumo, left, administers the coronavirus vaccine to physician assistant John Maxfield as the critical staff at the Kaiser Permanente Lone Tree Medical Offices receive their first doses of the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19 on December 23, 2020 in Lone Tree. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Colorado has launched new call center where the public to ask questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and how to access it.

Through January, the call center’s hours will be 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays. Those hours switch to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.

Beginning on Feb. 1, the call center will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The number for the call center is 1-877-268-2926 (1-877-CO VAX CO).

“Vaccine call center staff are trained to answer COVID-19 vaccine-related questions, provide information about vaccine providers across the state and give general information about COVID-19,” the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said in a news release. “Fifty operators are available to answer calls and can provide information in multiple languages. Staffing will expand as call volume requires.”

People can also learn more about Colorado’s vaccine plans at covid19.colorado.gov.

— Jesse Paul, Staff writer

Colorado abandons coronavirus test it was using on 70,000 people a week because of FDA warning about false results

Colorado residential care facilities, prisons and jails, homeless shelters and other congregate living settings will no longer use coronavirus tests from the company Curative, the state Department of Public Health and Environment announced Thursday.

The announcement comes after federal regulators raised concerns about the tests’ accuracy.

Curative tests will still for now be used at community testing sites, though a news release from CDPHE notes that those sites will phase out the Curative tests in the coming weeks. In the meantime, the tests are only advised for people who have COVID-19 symptoms. 

“It’s clear that with the FDA’s most recent guidance, we need to move away from using Curative testing at congregate facilities,” Sarah Tuneberg, testing and containment manager for the state’s COVID-19 response, said in a news release.

Those who were tested using a Curative oral swab test on or after Jan. 13 and whose result came back negative are advised to get tested again with a nasal swab test.

On Jan. 4 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration published a warning that the Curative tests produced a significant number of false negatives, potentially leading to a delay in isolating or caring for contagious individuals. 

Nearly 1,000 Colorado facilities, running about 70,000 Curative tests a week until now, are affected by the state’s decision.

CDPHE said in a news release last week that while it was monitoring the FDA announcement, it still believed Curative tests were “a reliable option” when administered correctly.

Lucy Haggard, Staff writer

Coronavirus overflow hospital site at Colorado Convention Center slated to close March 25

The Colorado Convention Center in Denver has for months been lined with hospital beds for overflow coronavirus patients who never came. 

State officials originally planned to shut down the overflow site this month, but told The Colorado Sun in December that they were working on plans to extend its use through March. The state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management announced Tuesday that the site will be turned back over to Denver County by March 25. 

“The state’s hospital capacity is expected to meet the health care needs of COVID-19 as shown by modeling data and information from hospital partners,” the division said on Twitter. 

The state is using state and federal emergency coronavirus funds to lease the site for $60,000 per day. The original five overflow sites — two of which were dismantled in October — have already cost about $100 million in leases and construction, according to a Sun review of state contracts.

The Convention Center is considered the last resort for overflow patients, since the location has never been a medical site. The two other remaining sites are at St. Anthony North hospital on 84th Avenue in Westminster and two floors in a medical tower at St. Mary Corwin in Pueblo. 

The state has not needed to use any of the beds, but officials call them a health care insurance policy for the pandemic.

Jen Brown, Staff writer

One in five Coloradans 70 and over could receive a coronavirus vaccination this week

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Tuesday that the state is poised to vaccinate as many as 120,000 Coloradans age 70 and older this week, in what he said will be a “banner week” for the state’s vaccination campaign.

The surge comes as the state redirects some doses that had been earmarked to be used as second doses to instead be given as first doses. Polis said second doses will still be given on schedule. But the push means that second doses in the coming weeks may eat into supply marked for new vaccination recipients unless the state starts receiving more vaccine.

As concern grows over a hyper-transmissible variant of the coronavirus, Polis said the state’s priority is to vaccinate as many of the state’s most vulnerable residents as quickly as possible.

“We’re in a race against the virus, a race against time,” Polis said.

There are roughly 560,000 people in Colorado age 70 or older, meaning this week could see more than 20% receive a first dose of the vaccine. But Polis said the push to more quickly get first doses to Colorado seniors won’t speed up the timeline for inoculating other priority groups. His office is still expecting it will take until the end of February to have most of the 70-and-older population vaccinated.

The reason, he said, is that the amount of vaccine coming to the state each week from the federal government is still significantly lower than what the state has the capacity to administer in a week.

“We need more vaccine. We need more vaccine. We need more vaccine,” Polis said. “It is frustrating how slow we are receiving vaccine for any group.”

“A lot of the problems and frustrations that we hear,” Polis said, “would be gone if the state received three or four times the amount of vaccine.”

Polis said he has participated in two phone calls with members of President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team, as well as a videoconference with the transition team and Western governors. He said he stressed to Biden’s team that the state needs more vaccine doses and better notice about how much vaccine the state will be receiving, so it can plan how best to use it. Currently, he said, Colorado gets about three or four days notice of vaccine shipments.

“We have lost 400,000 Americans to this virus,” Polis said. “This cannot end soon enough.”

John Ingold, Staff writer