Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday issued his most explicit order yet calling on everyone in Colorado to stay at home whenever possible in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the potentially deadly disease caused by the new coronavirus.
“We’re issuing the stay-at-home order to save lives,” Polis told reporters at the Emergency Operations Center in Centennial Wednesday afternoon. “We’re talking about thousands of Coloradans’ lives … that will be saved by these actions that we are taking today.”
The stay-at-home order, which prohibits non-essential trips from home, will take effect at 6 a.m. on Thursday and last until April 11. Walks and trips to the grocery store are still allowed.
The order comes after the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Wednesday afternoon reported 1,086 diagnosed cases on COVID-19, though there are likely thousands of undiagnosed cases, Polis said. Health officials also reported that 147 people have been hospitalized and 19 people have died from the disease, which attacks the lungs.
Over the last nine days, Polis has been tightening social distancing measures to slow the spread of coronavirus and keep from overwhelming the health care system. Last Monday, his health department ordered bars, restaurants and just about everything else closed to dine-in eating and other services. On Thursday, he ordered a ban of gatherings of 10 or more people and closed the state’s schools. And on Sunday, he called on most businesses to cut their in-person workforce by 50%.
But that wasn’t enough to give him comfort, he said. When making the decision to issue a stay-at-home order, Polis said he examined metadata on how much people were moving around, including real-time traffic data from the Colorado Department of Transportation. There was also some confusion, he said, over the stay-at-home orders issued by counties across the state this week.
“The bottom line is I don’t have the comfort level that the existing extreme measures that we have taken to date are enough to buy us the time that we need to save lives here in Colorado,” Polis said.
The state’s hospitals are already preparing for a surge as seen in Italy and Spain, where doctors are deciding who to let live and let die. The state on Wednesday received its second shipment of supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile. It included 49,920 N95 masks, 117,500 surgical masks, 21,312 face shields, 20,820 surgical gowns, and 108,000 gloves — enough supplies, health officials said, for one day of operations. The shipment included no ventilators.
Polis has said the state is short by about 7,000 ventilators, which are used to keep some people with the disease alive. The number is derived by considering certain infection rate scenarios at the peak of a potential surge — a model the state has not released to the press.
Plus, Polis said, “At the peak of the crisis, we expect to need thousands more hospital beds.”