Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency Tuesday as the Colorado ramps up its efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The declaration came with the announcement of two more presumptive positive cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new virus, bringing the total cases in Colorado to 15. The three new cases are in Arapahoe, Eagle and Gunnison counties.
Polis said the emergency declaration will allow the state to get more resources faster. On Monday, Polis said he spoke with Vice President Mike Pence and requested more coronavirus test kits. The state is expecting 700 more test kits from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. It currently has 900.
The state is also opening a drive-through testing lab at 8100 E Lowry Blvd. in Denver. People need a doctor’s order to receive the test, Polis said. LabCorp, a North Carolina-based company, is now testing for coronavirus, too, Polis said.
“This test is a crucial tool in our effort to slow the spread of the virus and to ensure that those individuals who have tested positive and need to isolate have the support they need during this challenging time,” Polis told reporters during a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday. “The more people we test and the sooner we do it, the better chance we have at a successful containment.”
With the emergency authority, Polis announced two administrative orders aimed at containing the spread of the virus and instilling confidence in Colorado’s economy.
Polis said he directed the Department of Labor and Employment to begin an emergency rulemaking to ensure workers in food handling, hospitality, childcare, healthcare and education get paid sick leave to miss work if they exhibit flu-like symptoms and have to miss work awaiting coronavirus test results. The paid leave would only cover the duration of the test, which can take one to four days, Polis said.
For workers who test positive and who do not have paid leave, Polis said he’s asking the department to identify additional measures, such as access to employment insurance and wage replacement. He said he’s also requesting private businesses in Colorado offer paid sick leave for workers who test positive.
Polis said he is also temporarily waiving the requirement that people 65 years old or older show up to the Division of Motor Vehicles in person to renew their driver’s licenses. They can now renew their license online, he said.
The coronavirus fatality rate is higher for seniors. And Polis said he is considering additional executive actions for facilities like nursing homes, assisted living centers, and health care providers that serve older Coloradans.
The emergency order will last for 30 days, he said.
“We hope that these actions provide assurance that we are aware of the risk and taking every reasonable step that we can to contain the spread of the virus and protect our most vulnerable,” Polis said. He added, “We should all feel more comfortable eating out knowing that our chefs and waiters don’t have to come to work sick.”
As of Tuesday, there have been 794 confirmed cases in the U.S. and 27 fatalities linked to the virus, according to The New York Times. At least 4,000 people have died across the globe since it was first reported in China. On Monday, Italy, hard-hit by the virus, announced it was restricting movement all across the country.