April Updates: COVID-19 in Colorado

Regular updates from the month Coloradans were ordered to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. Jaren Polis answers questions from reporters at the Colorado Convention Center as it is converted into a care site for COVID-19 patients on April 10, 2020. He is aiming to gradually reopen Colorado by April 26. (Photo by Forest Wilson)
Gov. Jared Polis answers questions from reporters at the Colorado Convention Center as it is converted into a care site for COVID-19 patients on April 10, 2020. (Photo by Forest Wilson)

These updates continue our coverage of a story that was originally published on March 5, when Colorado health officials announced the first two diagnosed cased of COVID-19 in Colorado. The story was updated regularly throughout the month. Our coverage from March can be found here. For more recent updates, visit this page

April 30, 5:10 p.m. update:

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet held a virtual town hall on Thursday to answer questions from constituents about the coronavirus and the federal government’s response.

Here are some of the questions and Bennet’s responses:

  • Is the federal government going to offer any assistance to state and local governments whose tax revenue will be cut by the pandemic? 

Bennet said the coming budget shortfall will be a major issue moving forward, with Colorado’s state-level revenue possibly dropping 20-30% and local revenues dropping by as much as 70%. He said he championed the $150 billion for state and local government in the first coronavirus stimulus bill, and expects more relief will be included in the next package. 

  • Can lending limits for creditors be increased to give people more money to pay their bills?

The senator said he hadn’t thought of that, but would look into it as an option. He said increasing lending limits would need to be closely monitored, so creditors wouldn’t take advantage of desperate borrowers. Implementing more flexibility for debt payment is an option he’s working on right now, he said. 

  • When are the stimulus payments arriving and why didn’t payments go further?

Bennet said taxpayers who filed in 2019 and have direct deposit set up with the IRS should have received their payments. If not, he said, they should contact his office or the IRS through its website. Taxpayers without direct deposit may have to wait because the checks are being sent out by the IRS in different batches, Bennet said. Those on social security should expect their stimulus money with their next social security payment, he said. Bennet said he pushed for stimulus payments to go further in the senate, with provisions that they would be paid every 3 months, including for students in college, disabled and elderly family members of taxpayers. Those provisions unfortunately didn’t make it into the final bill, Bennet said. 

  • Can the federal government implement financial protections for nurses, doctors, hospital workers and food workers who are “putting their lives at risk” fighting the coronavirus?

“The price they are paying and their families are paying is something we need to be alert to, cognizant of, and address,” Bennet said. He said he has been pushing for hazard pay for frontline healthcare and other workers, as well as more personal protective equipment. “Whether we’ll be successful with that, I don’t know,” Bennet said. 

  • How will treatment and testing be made widely available?

Bennet said the federal government needs to form a national plan for allocating personal protective equipment and testing, instead of making hospitals and governments compete over equipment. The Affordable Care Act protects the affordability of vaccines, he said, but he’s also working on legislation to make vaccines and treatment affordable and accessible to all, including undocumented immigrants.

April 30, 4:45 p.m. update:

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through April 29 and does not reflect cases since then.

  • 15,284 cases*
  • 2,697 hospitalized
  • 56 counties
  • 72,390 people tested**
  • 159 confirmed outbreaks***
  • 777 deaths

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

***The total amount of outbreaks reported is less than the number from the previous day. CDPHE’s website doesn’t provide a reason for the drop.

April 30, 10:35 a.m. update:

Last week, Colorado had close to 80,000 more unemployment claims, up more than 13,000 from last week, due in large part to claims from independent contractors.

Normal unemployment fell from 67,000 in the previous week, to more than 38,000 last week, but claims from independent contractors, who could start filing on April 20, added more than 40,000 to the state’s total. 

Over the past five weeks more than 358,489 Coloradans have filed for unemployment, more than 10% of the state’s workforce from February.  

Nationally, unemployment claims dropped last week from 4.4 million to 3.8 million, continuing a downward trend. In total, over the past five weeks 30.2 million American workers workers have filed claims.

 

April 29, 4:30 p.m. update: 

At least 254 inmates and employees at the Sterling prison have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, making it the site of the largest known COVID-19 outbreak in Colorado confirmed by the state. 

The most deaths of COVID-19, however, are ocurring at at nursing homes, assisted living centers, and skilled nursing centers. The 432 deaths at these facilities account for about 57% of all the state’s 766 confirmed or presumed deaths of the respiratory disease. 

At a halfway house in Weld County, Intervention Community Corrections Services (ICCS), 63 residents have tested positive or are presumed positive for COVID-19. According to the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ), every resident in the facility was tested. In addition to ICCS, DCJ says another 22 residents and staff at halfway houses have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Separately, Gov. Jared Polis said he plans to issue a new order on evictions after his current one is set to expire tomorrow, the day before May’s rent is due. 

“I don’t think there have been any evictions in the month of April. That executive order is due to expire in the next few days. I will be renewing it and strengthening it. So there will also not be any evictions during the month of May. The only caveat on that is there are emergency eviction processes for dangerous situations and health and safety. If there is somebody brewing meth in a house, they will get an eviction notice. But there will be no evictions for lack of payment for May, just as there have not been for April.” 

Sheriffs in Weld County and Jefferson County have served more than a dozen eviction notices this month, in part because court-ordered evictions by law have to be served within 49 days, they say. Polis’s current order does not change that. Some sheriffs, however, have refused to serve court-ordered eviction notices. 

Polis spent much of his media availability Wednesday laying out the state’s plan to ramp up testing for COVID-19. He said by mid-May, he hopes the state can do 5,000 tests per day, about half of what the state’s goal was for the start of May nearly a month ago. By May 15, the state hopes to be able to test anyone who is symptomatic while still doing broader outbreak testing, according to Polis. 

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through April 28 and does not reflect cases since then.

  • 14,758 cases*
  • 2,621 hospitalized
  • 56 counties
  • 69,449 people tested**
  • 167 confirmed outbreaks
  • 766 deaths

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

April 29, 9:10 a.m. update: 

The Department of Corrections says 238 inmates in the Sterling prison on the Eastern Plains have tested positive for COVID-19, according to The Denver Post. DOC tested 472 inmates last week in an effort to better understand the spread. 

April 28, 4:05 p.m. update:

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through April 27 and does not reflect cases since then.

  • 14,316 cases*
  • 2,571 hospitalized
  • 56 counties
  • 67,094 people tested**
  • 149 outbreaks
  • 736 deaths

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

April 28, 12:15 p.m. update: 

It’s unclear how the state plans to enforce the governor’s public health orders as businesses begin to reopen with “strict” social distancing and other public health guidelines during the “safer at home” phase of the COVID-19 response. 

“We want to stress the need for voluntary compliance here,” said Scott Bookman, the state’s incident commander for COVID-19, during a call with reporters on Tuesday. “We need to work together as a community to achieve success.” 

“We encourage people to make reports to their local public health agencies and the attorney general’s office if they have concerns about people violating orders,” Bookman said. 

Patty Salazar, the executive director for the Department of Regulatory Agencies, said the agency cannot say how many complaints it has received of businesses not following the governor’s orders. “Complaints are considered confidential in nature,” Salazar said. 

The state does not have adequate testing to know whether COVID-19 cases are beginning to rise again until weeks after people started contracting the disease. The state will be looking at hospitalizations, which could have a two-week lag, when making dicisions about whether to ratchet back down restrictions. 

“There are a lot of hard decisions that might have to be made,” said Mike Willis, the director for the Office of Emergency Management.

April 27, 4:40 p.m. update:

Gov. Jared Polis on Monday said if Coloradans do not wear masks and practice social distancing as statewide restrictions begin to ease, it’s likely that more stringent preventative measures will need to be reinstated to keep COVID-19 cases from resurging. 

“We’re far from back to normal, we need to continue to be vigilant,” Polis said.

The state has bought enough time to obtain supplies, Polis said, and managed to drive the daily growth rate of new COVID-19 cases to under 5%. In March, cases were doubling every day and a half. 

“Our modeling shows we can handle the caseload, and we need to be sustainable in the coming weeks and months,” Polis said. 

During the stay-at-home order, enforcement of the restrictions was lax, Polis said. But, as the state begins to reopen, enforcement on businesses will be “critical” to ensure infections don’t spike, he said. Local public health officials can’t monitor every business, Polis said, so Coloradans need to report businesses not following the state’s guidelines to their local health departments or the attorney general’s office. 

The governor said businesses found to be violating the law will be issued cease-and-desist letters and may lose their licenses. 

Modeling by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows that the state needs to maintain 55-65% distancing moving forward, along with other measures, such as mask wearing, to ensure hospital ICUs aren’t overloaded. But, the effectiveness of social distancing measures can take weeks to show up in official data.

The Colorado Independent asked Polis how the state can act to prevent a second spike if social distancing breaks down, given the lag in data on distancing effectiveness. The governor said the state’s COVID-19 symptom tracking system, which local health departments are required to report and individuals can provide data to through surveys, gives officials more immediate data on cases and infection rates. Polis said the state will use the system to target responses if outbreaks happen at specific sites and communities, which would prevent the need for statewide measures.

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through April 26 and does not reflect cases since then.

  • 13,879 cases*
  • 2,485 hospitalized
  • 56 counties
  • 66,341 people tested**
  • 144 outbreaks
  • 706 deaths

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

April 27, 11:40 a.m. update: 

Colorado’s statewide stay-at-home order lifts today in gradual phases. 

On Sunday, Gov. Jared Polis issued multiple regulations outlining when and how businesses can reopen under what he calls “safer-at-home” orders. 

Under those orders, beginning today, vulnerable populations to COVID-19, like the immunocompromised, seniors and asthmatics, are required to remain at home, unless it’s to perform essential functions. The vulnerable also can’t be forced to work, even for a critical business or government function. The governor also directed, but didn’t order, employers to allow workers who live in a household with a vulnerable person to work remotely or be allowed a flexible schedule. 

Retail businesses who aren’t under more strict local orders can now offer delivery and curbside pickup of goods. Elective surgeries and veterinary and dental procedures can also resume. 

On May 1, retail can allow customers observing social distancing requirements into stores and personal services like massage therapists, salons and barbers can open with social distancing and precautions. 

On May 4, commercial businesses can begin operating with 50% of their normal workforce and proper social distancing. Dine-in service at restaurants will still be prohibited. The governor has previously said he will monitor the infection data and hopes restaurants can open by mid-May. 

While Polis is relaxing state restrictions, parts of the metro area are not. Arapahoe, Adams, Boulder, Denver, Jefferson counties all extended their stay-at-home orders until at least May 8. Douglas County, which is a part of the Tri-County along with Arapahoe and Adams and has fewer COVID-19 cases, did not extend its order. 

In the meantime, a Weld County commissioner said on Thursday that the county will allow businesses to open if they want to, in defiance of Polis’ orders. The governor has said Weld County does not have the power to loosen restrictions without an approval from the state and any business who opens before his orders allow could lose their operating license. Polis also said Weld County could lose emergency funding if businesses open ahead of state requirements.

The governor’s orders allow local jurisdictions to apply for looser requirements with the state, only if the locality has shown 14 consecutive days of decline in COVID-19 infections in the county. It must also submit an application to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment that includes a written COVID-19 suppression plan approved by the appropriate local public health authority, all hospitals within the jurisdiction and elected officials.

In other Colorado news, Polis joined the state in a pact with California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington today, to work together in modifying their stay-at-home orders.

The Western States Pact, according to Polis’ office, is an agreement between the governors of the five states to protect their own residents’ health and use health outcomes and data to collaborate on the best practices to gradually open. 

Here are the pact’s goals: 

  • Protect vulnerable populations. This includes a concerted effort to prevent and fight outbreaks in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
  • Ensure an ability to care for those who may become sick with COVID-19. This will require adequate hospital surge capacity and supplies of personal protective equipment.
  • Mitigate the non-direct COVID-19 health impacts, particularly on disadvantaged communities.
  • Protect the general public by ensuring any successful lifting of interventions includes the development of a system for testing, tracking and isolating. The states will work together to share best practices.

April 26, 4:40 p.m. update:

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through April 25 and does not reflect cases since then.

  • 13,441 cases*
  • 2,438 hospitalized
  • 57 counties
  • 63,274 tested**
  • 143 outbreaks
  • 680 deaths***

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

***You may notice that the cumulative number of deaths went from 674 on April 24th, to 672 on April 25th. This is due to the fact that a portion of “probable deaths” gathered from death certificate data were entered as duplicates. There were about 29 duplicates and they have been removed today.

April 25, 4:30 p.m. update: 

If you’re thinking about getting a haircut Monday, remember more than half the state’s population will be under local stay-at-home orders despite Gov. Jared Polis’s plan to lift his. 

So far, Denver, Boulder, Jefferson, Arapahoe and Adams counties have decided to lift stay-at-home orders on May 8. And then there’s Weld County, where county commissions plan to defy the governor’s orders next week and try to open up businesses more swiftly. State health officials are doing targeted testing in Weld County through Tuesday. More on that below. 

Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement Saturday: “Colorado has a proud tradition of responsible local control and what works for Denver that has had over 2,300 cases, with the number of positive cases increasing from the day before, may not be the same solution for Bent County that has zero detected cases so far. I applaud the leadership of areas of our state that have extended their stay at home orders to thoughtfully take the time needed to implement and enforce safer at home safety regulations. I also applaud the thoughtful work in several counties that are fortunate enough to be able to reduce restrictions thanks to their work in addressing the public health situation. All Coloradans are united in our shared effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.” 

Eagle County this week received permission from the state to lift its stay-at-home order, open recreation facilities and allow gatherings of 10 or fewer people. Mesa, Cuter and Fremont counties have also requested exemptions to the statewide orders. 

The Emergency Operations Center and Department of Public Health and Environment, with help from the Colorado National Guard and the Colorado State Patrol, say they are testing residents in Weld County through Tuesday at Island Grove Park starting at 10 a.m. each day and ending when 300 samples have been collected. State health officials say testing is open to any Weld County resident with symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, coughing, shortness of breath). Asymptomatic individuals will not be tested, health officials said.

April 25, 4:06 p.m. update:

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through April 24 and does not reflect cases since then.

  • 12,968 cases*
  • 2,410 hospitalized
  • 57 counties
  • 59,791 tested**
  • 141 outbreaks
  • 672 deaths

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

April 24, 4:15 p.m. update:

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through April 23 and does not reflect cases since then.

  • 12,256 cases*
  • 2,366 hospitalized
  • 56 counties
  • 56,789 tested**
  • 134 outbreaks
  • 674 deaths

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

April 24, 2:40 p.m. update: 

On Friday afternoon, DOC said it tested 473 inmates at Sterling on Wednesday for COVID-19. As of Friday afternoon, 255 results have been returned: 138 inmates tested positive and 104 tested negative.

The prison has been on lockdown since April 14, meaning inmates are confined to their cells except to use the restroom or shower. Inmates in Sterling are also not allowed to make phone calls to family during the lockdown in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Colorado Independent spoke to a woman whose husband is locked up there and she doesn’t know if he’s among those who have tested positive.

In other news, progressive groups, including the Colorado Latino Forum and 9to5 Colorado, are calling on Chief Justice Coats to order a suspension in evictions and foreclosures during the pandemic. Many courts have stopped issuing eviction orders, but those orders could begin again in the coming days or weeks. 

“During this global pandemic, remaining housed has become vital in fighting the spread of this disease,” the letter states. 

For those who own a home, Attorney General Phil Weiser is calling on the Federal Housing Finance Administration and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide some financial relief for people having trouble making payments on their federally-backed mortgages.

Weiser also signed onto a letter urging the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to more strictly enforce credit reporting to prevent fraud. The attorney general also asked the U.S. Department of the Treasury to take steps to protect stimulus payments from being garnished by collection agencies or creditors. 

“There is a risk that stimulus payments may be garnished by creditors or debt collectors, which would undermine the purpose of the CARES Act. These stimulus checks are intended to help hard-working Americans afloat and they should not be subject to garnishment,” Weiser said in a statement.

Lastly, Gov. Jared Polis, who is preparing to lift his stay-at-home order Monday, gave a warning to Weld County, where a county commissioner has said he wants to open businesses faster than allowed under the governor’s public health orders: 

“They do not have any kind of unilateral ability to jeopardize the health of residents,” Polis told reporters during a virtual news conference on Friday.

April 24, 11:15 a.m. update:

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Friday confirmed the city’s plan to extend its stay-at-home order until May 8. 

“While we are flattening the epicurve, Denver-specific metrics of new infections, hospitalization rates and mortality suggest that we are not completely out of the woods,” Hancock said

Extending the order to May 8 will give the city more time to scale up testing, infection tracing and offer guidance to residents and businesses for reopening, he said. Bob McDonald, executive director of Denver’s public health department, said in the next couple of weeks Denver will be training 100 more workers to handle testing. 

When asked if he’s concerned about public confusion from differing expiration dates for the statewide order and the city’s, Hancock said he’s working with the city attorney’s office to set up a system to handle residents’ questions.

Hancock was also asked by a reporter if he is using different modeling than Gov. Jared Polis, who said on Wednesday that extending the statewide order won’t prevent an infection spike and instead will inflict more economic pain. Hancock said the city isn’t using different modeling and is extending the order to ensure Denver has enough time to meet its goals of more testing, tracing and providing concrete plans to open for residents. Polis has said the state is working to scale up testing, but has been adamant that it’s one part of a multi-pronged approach that also includes contact tracing, wearing masks, social distancing and protecting at-risk people like seniors. 

Hancock said he is considering a mandate for all residents to wear masks when outdoors, but for now, he said he’s asking all Denverites to wear masks whenever they go out. 

As Polis plans to lift his stay-at-home order on Monday, counties across the state are keeping theirs in place. In addition to Denver, the Tri-County Health Department, which has public health jurisdiction over Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties, is considering an extension. Jefferson County also extended its stay-at-home order to May 8 on Friday. 

Meanwhile, in Weld County, which has the third highest number of deaths in the state, a county commissioner said the county plans to open business across the board on Monday, defying the governor’s public health orders for a gradual reopening. The Greeley beef packing plant, where 102 people have tested positive and four people have died of COVID-19, is set to reopen today even after promised testing for employees was all but abandoned. 

A statement from Weld County commissioners issued Friday morning read:

Weld County Government is not opening any businesses, just as Weld County Government did not close any businesses. That said, each commissioner has received comments from constituents struggling to make ends meet, pay their bills, and take care of their families who have said they are going to open their businesses. So, Weld County Government took the proactive response of preparing best practices and guidance that could be used as business owners look to reopen – whenever they feel comfortable to do so. An informed public is a strong public.

The same preventative measures need to be heeded – we’ve said that. Expectations need to be managed – we’re doing that. What we aren’t going to do is pick winners and losers as to who gets to restart their livelihoods.

And at the end of the day, everyone has freedoms: freedom to stay home, freedom to go out, and freedom to support whatever business they want to support.

April 23, 5:10 p.m. update:

As Colorado continues to scramble to secure personal protective equipment for medical workers on the front line of the coronavirus battle, the state on Thursday received a machine that can sanitize up to 80,000 N95 masks per day.

The machine, manufactured by Ohio-based Battelle, uses hydrogen peroxide vapor that kills the coronavirus. N95 masks can be reused safely up to 20 times after disinfection, according to Battelle. Similar machines have already been deployed in Ohio, New York, Washington State, Illinois and Boston. 

The machine is currently being installed at the Adams County Fairgrounds and the state is working to secure another location for a second decontamination machine. 

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, all healthcare personnel are eligible for the free N95 decontamination, including emergency personnel, nurses, doctors, technicians, dentists and staff not directly involved in patient care, but who could be exposed to the coronavirus in a healthcare setting. Additionally, non-medical personnel participating in emergency response due to COVID-19 also qualify as a healthcare professional under the Battelle Emergency Use Authorization.

How to sign up:

  • To get N95 respirators cleaned, health care providers must first fill out an enrollment form at battelle.org/decon
  • Battelle will return an email with links to the enrollment contract, instructions and the Battelle point of contact.
  • The enrollee will be given a three-digit code, which must be written on the respirators with a permanent marker.
  • The respirators need to be unsoiled, free of blood, mucus, makeup, lip balm, etc. Place all masks into a single plastic bag and tie off the bag when it is full. Any soiled masks will be thrown out. The bag must be placed into a second plastic bag that should be wiped down with disinfectant. 
  • The respirators must be placed into a shipping box and labeled with the three-digit code and a biohazard sticker.
  • The enrollee contacts a shipper to coordinate pickup and delivery. 

Battelle’s guide for the entire process can be found here.

April 23, 4:05 p.m. update: 

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through April 22 and does not reflect cases since then.

  • 11,262 cases*
  • 2,237 hospitalized
  • 56 counties
  • 52,324 tested**
  • 130 outbreaks
  • 552 deaths

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

April 23, 1:15 p.m. update: 

Last week, Colorado saw more than 67,000 additional unemployment claims, down by about 33% from the previous week’s record 100,000 claims. 

That puts the state’s total since mid-March at nearly 300,000. That’s about 10% of Colorado’s February workforce who have filed for benefits with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE). 

Ryan Gedney, senior economist with CDLE, said the drop can be attributed to claims leveling off after the 100,000 spike two weeks ago. That spike, he said, was probably due to CDLE catching up on its backlog. Claims have averaged about 60,000 per week for the last month. 

National numbers also dropped slightly, with about 4.4 million claims last week compared to 5.25 million the week before. A total of 26.4 million workers have filed for unemployment in a little over a month, about 15% of the national workforce.

This week’s unemployment claims are not available yet, but will include applications from gig workers and independent contractors who, from when they could start filing on Monday through Wednesday, filed more than 50,000 applications. 

Independent contractors file through a separate system, and only if they did not receive more than $2,500 in paychecks from a regular employer in the past 18 months. If that is the case, they must go through the regular system for unemployment claims. 

Workers who are approved and can request payments are typically paid within three days, according to Cher Haavind, deputy director of CDLE. But, because the department received 95,000 benefit requests on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, the most amount of requests in its history, payments have been delayed, Haavind said. That combined with the department beginning to process an additional $600 per week in federal stimulus payments, means payments should be arriving on Thursday and Friday for those claimants, she said. 

Haavind also offered some additional steps filers can take to be paid more quickly. If possible, switch payments to direct deposit instead of a bank-issued debit card, she said. Gig workers and independent contractors’ claims automatically default to debit card payments, so changing that preference will ensure quicker payments. Applications also ask for an Experian check, which is used for verification not checking credit. If people don’t opt-in to the Experian check, their payments will be delayed, Haavind said. 

She also said applicants should provide CDLE their email for smoother communication.

The benefits independent contractors and gig workers receive, as well as the extra $600 per week in stimulus payments, come from the federal government, which CDLE expects will pay out $200 million this week to claimants. 

Regular unemployment claims are paid out of the state’s unemployment trust fund, which, before the coronavirus outbreak, had $1.1 billion. As of Wednesday, Gedney said, the fund had a little over $900 million in funds. He said the department hasn’t yet projected when the fund will run dry. If it does, officials have said previously that the state can borrow from the federal government to continue making benefit payments. 

April 23, 12:19 p.m. update: 

Colorado Democrats are condemning racist and hateful language during the COVID-19 pandemic, including a comment by House Minority Leader Patrick Neville comparing Gov. Jared Polis’s public health orders to that of the Nazi secret police. 

During a news conference on Thursday, state House and Senate Democrats said they have also heard of a rise in hateful language from their constituents, including comments made against Asian Americans to “go back to their county.” 

All but a handful of Democrats have already signed onto a letter condemning the language. They hope that Republicans will sign the letter, too. 

“We recognize the difficult position it puts them in because we are calling out a statement by their minority leader,” said Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, a Democrat from Commerce City. 

They should be upstanders, she said. 

“Today we know that just watching it happen and not taking responsibility to stand up is what leads to the proliferation of hatred and violent acts of murder,” Michaelson Jenet said. 

The Democrats are not calling on Neville to resign. Instead, they want a sincere apology.

House and Senate Democrats condemned hateful language during the COVID-19 pandemic on April 23, 2020. (Screenshot during Zoom call)

April 22, 4:15 p.m. update:

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through April 21 and does not reflect cases since then.

  • 10,878 cases*
  • 2,123 hospitalized
  • 56 counties
  • 50,645 tested**
  • 123 outbreaks
  • 508 deaths

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

April 22, 4:50 p.m. update: 

About 64% of COVID-19-related deaths in Colorado have occurred among residents of nursing homes or assisted living facilities, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

There are 323 people who were living in these facilities and who have died with probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19, the data shows.

The outbreak in the state’s prison system is growing, too. There are now 8 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Sterling prison, which is now on lockdown. There are also 33 confirmed cases among residents and staff in Colorado’s halfway houses, according to the Division of Criminal Justice.

April 22, 3:40 p.m. update: 

Here are some highlights from today’s press conference with Gov. Jared Polis: 

  • Polis read a tweet calling on him to keep salons closed as he has for bars and restaurants. In response, he said, salons are different. They allow for “one-on-one” contact between clients and patients, as opposed to larger groups of people mixing together like at restaurants or bars, he said. “It’s a mathematical thing,” he said.  
  • “You’re still obsessed with testing,” Polis told a reporter. He said he has not abandoned testing. In fact, he said, an order of about 150,000 testing kits is on its way to Colorado. Testing, he said, is one part of a multi-pronged approach to dealing with the pandemic after he lifts his stay-at-home order that includes testing, containment, social distancing and mask-wearing. The state’s models show a 5% increase in testing each week after the state lifts the stay-at-home order, he said. And, he reiterated, “No amount of testing is enough to reopen the state if that’s all you’re doing.” 
  • He said the keeping the stay-at-home order in place for two to four weeks would be negligible in the severity of the peak, citing state models. “The peak is essentially the same, it’s just a little bit later. That means if we were to maintain stay-at-home two weeks, four weeks, six weeks longer, it doesn’t matter. It inflicts very severe economic pain on people and also hurts the will and physiological ability of the people of Colorado to be in this for the long haul in exchange for really no reductions in the number of ICU beds that we need at the peak of the crisis,” he said.

April 21, 4:05 p.m. update: 

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through April 20 and does not reflect cases since then.

  • 10,447 cases*
  • 2,003 hospitalized
  • 56 counties
  • 48,704 tested**
  • 119 outbreaks
  • 486 deaths

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

April 21, 10:05 a.m. update: 

Sunday’s protest of the governor’s stay-at-home order was safe, according to all 24 of Colorado’s House Republicans.

“Protesters found cleaver ways to socially distance and protest the closing on nonessential businesses. If Coloradans can protest safely, please rest assured they can return to work safely,” an April 20 letter to the governor states.

Hundreds of protesters gathered at the state Capitol on Sunday. Some drove around in cars and trucks. Among those on foot, most did not wear masks. Many shook hands. And few were more than six feet apart, which is the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Libertarian Party of Colorado helped organize the event on Facebook.

April 20, 6:00 p.m. update:

Gov. Jared Polis on Monday all but committed to lifting the stay-at-home order on April 27, earlier than many other states headed by Democratic and Republican governors alike. 

Eagle County, where local health officials say the situation is improving, has already submitted a request to the governor to lift its stay-at-home order. Polis said he plans to approve the request as soon as Thursday. 

“It’s kind of showing where we are heading as the rest of the state,” Polis said. But, he added, the hard part is just beginning. Coloradans, he said, will have to learn to live with the coronavirus for a while. “We need to think about how we run the marathon rather than the sprint.” 

Polis, who has a libertatian bent, is placing a bet on Coloradans and businesses to comply with the more nuanced guidance in the coming weeks. “Now it enters into the time of personal responsibility and choices,” he said.

After the stay-at-home order is lifted, social distancing requirements will still be enforced, health officials say, including limits of gathering of no more than 10 people. Some retail businesses will be able to reopen with the proper precautions once the order ends, Polis said. Polis personally hopes to begin reopening restaurants on May 15. 

For older Coloradans in their 70s and 80s, Polis said they will need to behave in May much like they did in April. 

Testing needs to be higher than it is, the governor said, but that alone won’t eradicate the virus. The state still needs to maintain social distancing and implement tracking of infections.

“There’s another shortcoming of testing… at least 25% to 50%, and possibly many more, of people who contract COVID are asymptomatic,” Polis said.

It would be impossible to test every asymptomatic person, he said, so instead the state is focused on testing symptomatic and at-risk groups in places like nursing homes.

The announcement comes after Colorado health officials said on Monday they estimate between 65,000 and 75,000 Coloradans have been infected by the coronavirus. The official count is about 10,000 but reflects a lack of adequate testing and does not include asymptomatic people with the disease. 

Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said in a press call on Monday officials take into account hospitalizations, infection rates and other data to determine the actual number of infected.

Health experts say adequate testing is needed to be able to control the disease when restrictions are lifted. And it appears there is not as much testing as the state had hoped for earlier this month. 

Scott Bookman, CDPHE incident commander for COVID-19, said on April 4 that the state hoped to  have 3,500 tests per day by mid-April and 5,000 tests per day by May. The state is currently testing between 1,000 and 2,000 people per week, due to shortages of supplies, Herlihy said. 

Officials say tracking cases and interactions is just as important as testing in containing infection rates. Jill Hansaker Ryan, executive director of CDPHE, said the state is working to improve tracking technology and use volunteers and workers to help trace infections. 

Social distancing alone is not sufficient moving forward, CDPHE officials said. Additional strategies need to be implemented, with each addition lowering the rate of infections and increasing hospitals’ chances of maintaining capacity. The strategies include greater distancing for Coloradans older than 65, widespread use of masks and case detection and isolation.

If Coloradans maintain 55% to 65% social distancing moving forward, plus the additional precautions, hospitals will be able to meet the demand, health officials said. The state has about 2,000 ICU beds. Currently, Coloradans are practicing between 70 to 80% social distancing. 

In other state news, U.S. Rep. Jason Crow on Monday wrote a letter to ICE requesting that the agency report COVID-19 tests for contract staffers and personnel who work at detention facilities like the one in Aurora. ICE has reported two positive COVID-19 cases among staff at the Aurora facility.

But that number does not include the three GEO Group employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 and who work at the facility, Crow said.

“We believe that this oversight amounts to underreporting. All employees, regardless of whether employees in question receive their paycheck from ICE or a private contractor, should be reported. Family members of those in custody and the general populations in neighboring communities should be aware of all potential COVID-19 exposure in detention facilities,” Crow wrote.

April 20, 5:20 p.m. update: 

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through April 19 and does not reflect cases since then.

  • 10,106 cases*
  • 1,880 hospitalized
  • 56 counties
  • 47,466 people tested**
  • 449 deaths
  • 113 outbreaks

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

 

April 20, 1:50 p.m. update:

Dever Mayor Michael Hancock on Monday said the city is making progress combatting the coronavirus, but still needs to look at the data and increase testing before restrictions can be lifted. 

He said about 80% of all hospital beds are available, a third of ICU beds are open and nearly two thirds of ventilators are available for use in the city. And new hospital admissions seem to be slowing, he said. 

As the potential end-dates of Colorado’s and Denver’s stay-at-home orders approach, he said, the city is in contact with Gov. Jared Polis, health officials and other metropolitan area leaders to determine if the stay-at-home order can be lifted. 

“We still have a lot of work to do over the next 7-10 days,” Hancock said.

Before Denver can begin relaxing restrictions, testing needs to be increased and staff needs to be retrained or hired to trace infections, he said. 

Bob McDonald, executive director of the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, said the testing rate needs to be at 1,500 to 2,000 per week in the city. Testing last week was in the hundreds, McDonald said, which goes up and down based on the availability of testing equipment. 

The city could loosen restrictions before that ideal testing level is reached, Hancock said, but officials will make that determination closer to the end date of the order. 

The mayor said Denver’s restrictions on dine-in service at bars and restaurants will be extended past May 11. “You can bet on that,” he said. How the restrictions look moving forward is subject to change, Hancock said, as the city determines how to ease into opening those businesses. 

Hancock said Denver residents should expect the ban on large public gatherings to remain in place for the “foreseeable future.” 

Also, Hancock announced that the women’s shelter at the Denver Coliseum will begin accepting entrants on Monday afternoon, with the ability to house up to 400 residents. 

As of Wednesday, all city operated golf courses will reopen to the public, but with strict distancing requirements, Hancock said. 

The first $2 million of the business relief fund will be issued on Monday, Hancock announced. The city estimates that the funding will support between 200 and 250 small businesses, he said.

April 19, 4:15 p.m. update: 

About 300 people rallied outside the state Capitol on Sunday to protest Gov. Jared Polis’s stay-at-home and social distancing orders, which are designed to slow the spread of COVID-19, a contagious disease that has already killed at least 422 people in Colorado since March 13. 

The crowd of mostly middle-aged white men and women carried flags and signs, shaking hands and giving hugs. Most were not wearing masks or gloves. People circled the state Capitol in their trucks and SUVs for hours, blasting their horns and waving American flags. At one point, people began chanting “U.S.A.” People were also campaigning for President Donald Trump, who has goaded such rallies across the country. 

The rally brought together a range of people who defy scientific consensus, from anti-vaxxers to supporters of the QAnon, a conspiracy theory that Washington elites are working against Trump. 

“I stand with all these people and their positions. I see anti-vaxxers. I know there’s a lot of truthers out here. I stand with all of them,” said Micheal Mullens, who was promoting QAnon. 

About 300 people rallied outside the state Capitol on April 19, 2020 to protest Gov. Jared Polis’s stay-at-home and social distancing orders. (Photo by John Herrick)

About 300 people rallied outside the state Capitol on April 19, 2020 to protest Gov. Jared Polis’s stay-at-home and social distancing orders. (Photo by John Herrick)

There were some individual counter-protesters at the rally. “Fuck all you socialist fuckers,” one person said to protesters who drove by with their middle finger out their window. One protester said the group is killing people. They were laughed at and shrugged off. One person who lived in the area and who could hear the horns and, shouting from afar, said, “it’s just sad.”

About 300 people rallied outside the state Capitol on April 19, 2020 to protest Gov. Jared Polis’s stay-at-home and social distancing orders. (Photo by John Herrick)

The Colorado Libertarian Party and others organized the so-called Operation Gridlock protest. Tom Campbell, a 50-year-old from Denver, said he heard about the event on Facebook.  

“This has gone on too long,” Campbell said while smoking a cigarette at the edge of the rally. 

A few hundred people gather at State Capitol to protest COVID-19 stay-at-home order Sunday April 19, 2020. photos by Evan Semón Photography

A few hundred people gather at State Capitol to protest the COVID-19 stay-at-home order Sunday, April 19, 2020. (Photo by Evan Semón)

Campbell said he doesn’t believe the public health models showing how many people could die from COVID-19. In Colorado, state models created with the University of Colorado predict that tens of thousands of people would have died had the state did nothing to restrict travel and social gatherings. According to state health officials, there are 9,433 diagnosed cases in Colorado and 1,797 people hospitalized due to COVID-19. 

“It doesn’t make sense. The numbers are overblown,” Campbell said. “I just don’t buy it. It’s probably out here but it’s just like the flu. They talk about mandatory vaccines. That ain’t happening. We’ll lose our rights.”   

While data is limited, COVID-19 may be more than 10 times deadlier than the flu. Some chanted “fuck that doctor,” in reference to Anthony Fauci, the director for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci has attended coronavirus White House briefings. 

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, a Republican from Castle Rock who has compared Polis’s stay-at-home order to that of the Nazi secret police, was at the rally shaking hands and hugging people. He said he was handing out masks that his wife made. 

Neville said he doesn’t think people will get sick. And he said he’s had no role in helping organize the event.

“I didn’t decide (to come) until after my church service this morning,” Neville said. “I’m immunocompromised myself. That’s part of the reason why I’m wearing a mask. I’ll be wise. I won’t touch my face. I’ll make sure I’m using hand sanitizer. The main concern here is for the person who cuts my hair. It’s a minor inconvenience for me not to have a hair cut. But for the person who cuts my hair, it’s a major inconvenience to not have a paycheck. We’re at a breaking point now.”

A few hundred people gather at State Capitol to protest COVID-19 stay-at-home order Sunday April 19, 2020. (Photo by Evan Semón)

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through April 17 and does not reflect cases since then.

  • 9,730 cases*
  • 1,813 hospitalized
  • 56 counties
  • 46,195 people tested**
  • 422 deaths
  • 111 outbreaks

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

April 18, 4:05 p.m. update:

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through April 17 and does not reflect cases since then.

9,433 cases*
1,797 hospitalized
56 counties
44,606 people tested**
411 deaths
107 outbreaks

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

April 17, 6:40 p.m. update:

Gov. Jared Polis on Friday announced that he will be issuing an executive order requiring all essential workers to wear masks on the job.

The masks can be medical or made of cloth, Polis said. They just need to cover the nose and mouth.

Polis also said he is updating a public health order requiring residential facilities like nursing homes to create a long-term isolation plan by May 1 to prepare for coronavirus infections of residents or staff. They must also implement health screenings of staff and residents, he said.

The state is also deploying National Guard members to three of the largest nursing homes in Colorado to assist with testing for the coronavirus, Polis said. 

The reason for implementing the nursing home orders was that, as the governor put it, “not every facility had an isolation plan” and some were not conducting health screens properly. 

In response to recent data that shows a disproportionate effect of the virus on communities of color, Polis announced the formation of a health equity response task force to ensure equitable access to care and testing for all Coloradans. The team will be headed up by Web Brown, director of the Office of Health Equity at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. 

Polis noted that the Colorado COVID Relief Fund so far has raised $12.2 million in donations. That money, provided by donations, will go to families impacted by school closures and workers out of jobs because of business closures, he said. The first $5 million in grants is being sent out this week, the governor added. Grant applications were submitted by 206 organizations in 62 counties. 

In related news, new mapping shows the areas in Colorado where social distancing is the most difficult for residents. 

Because Colorado doesn’t have the resources for mass testing for the coronavirus, social distancing is the expert-recommended and executively-mandated course of action to slow the rate of infection. A map released by the Colorado Health Institute on Friday shows areas where distancing may be harder than others based on population density, crowded housing and job type — mainly in-person work. 

Neighborhoods in Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo and in the northeastern corner of Colorado had the highest scores for difficulty to socially distance. These neighborhoods are lower income and have more people of color than other areas of the state, according to CHI.

Denver’s city center may be more densely populated, but housing is not as crowded as outlying neighborhoods and some mountain communities. Rural areas have a higher percentage of essential jobs, usually in agricultural or education. 

“The index also demonstrates how social inequities in many neighborhoods can hinder public health efforts,” the report concludes. 

April 17, 11:40 a.m. update:

Colorado’s gig workers and independent contractors can start applying for unemployment benefits on April 20, the same day other unemployment portions of the federal coronavirus stimulus bill kick in.

On April 20, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) will also begin paying the extra $600 per week in federal funds to all claimants, which will be backdated to March 27. So, workers who lost their job or lost work hours on or before March 27 will receive an extra three weeks of $600 payments. The extra federal funds can be collected for up to four months and applicants don’t need to reapply or contact CDLE to receive the federal dollars. 

Workers who have exhausted their payments will also be eligible for an extra 13 weeks of benefits guaranteed by the stimulus bill. 

Because of the volume of unemployment calls CDLE is receiving, officials say, the department is opening a specific call center with 80 more agents to handle calls for newly approved workers on April 20. CDLE will be holding a virtual town hall that same day for people who haven’t been able to reach the call center. One will be held at 9:15 a.m. for English speakers and one will be held at 11:30 a.m. in Spanish. Registration can be found on the state’s unemployment website.

Workers can file for unemployment benefits if their hours have been affected by the pandemic or they can’t work because they are caring for children out of school or a COVID-19 patient.

April 17, 10:10 a.m. update: 

ProgressNow Colorado, a liberal advocacy group, has gathered 1,800 petition signatures to make the case that House Minority Leader Partick Neville should be booted from his leadership role after comparing the orders of Gov. Jared Polis, a Jewish-American, to those of the Nazi secret police. Neville has not apologized.

Meanwhile, the group that attempted to recall Polis, the Resist Polis PAC, has rebranded as the Colorado Freedom Force and is organizing to oppose the public health orders Polis has implemented to mitigate and manage the spread of the coronavirus in Colorado.

“We’re saying that the governor needs to take the mandates off, so the people of Colorado can do what they think is best for their individual lives, for their families, for their businesses,” said GOP State Sen. Kevin Lundberg in an interview with 9News reporter Kyle Clark on Thursday. “I’ve talked to dozens of people in the last few days who give me the problems that this is creating, and of course the big one is that it has literally shut the state down and that is not sustainable.”

Health experts say the orders are required so that fewer people die of COVID-19. Despite the public health warnings, some people, including President Donald Trump, are calling for the nation to reopen. Health officials in Colorado say that while the number of new coronavirus cases is beginning to level off, it has not peaked.

April 16, 4:10 p.m. update:

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through April 15 and does not reflect cases since then.

  • 8,675 cases*
  • 1,693 hospitalized
  • 56 counties
  • 41,830 people tested**
  • 374 deaths
  • 93 outbreaks

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

April 16, 12:30 p.m. update:

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment reported more than 104,000 unemployment claims last week, the most claims filed in one week over at least the past 20 years. The previous record was 61,000 in the last week of March 2020. 

More than 231,000 Coloradans filed for unemployment in the past four weeks, higher than any yearly total since 2012. The highest recorded month before the COVID-19 pandemic was January 2009, with more than 28,000 claims. In just the first two weeks of April, there were more than 150,000 claims. 

That means more than 7% of Colorado’s labor force filed for unemployment over the past month. 

The national numbers are even more grim. About 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the last month, about 13.5% of the entire U.S. labor force, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

CDLE provided a breakdown of the industries hit hardest by the pandemic, which is reported on a delay. So, the data breaks down claims for the week ending on March 28. 

Top 5 industries with highest claims from the week of March 28:

  • Accommodation and Food Services: 21,124
  • Healthcare and Social Service: 9,717
  • Retail Trade: 7,400
  • Other Services:* 5,914
  • Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation: 4,080

* Other services include personal services like nail and beauty salons, barbers, etc

The majority of claims from the healthcare and social service industries come from the offices of dentists, offices of physicians and daycare services, according to CDLE officials. 

Cher Haavind, deputy director of CDLE, said independent contractors and gig workers, who were approved for unemployment protections under the federal coronavirus stimulus bill, will be able to start filing for unemployment over the next few days. The department needed to upgrade its systems, Haavind said, plus independent contractors have never been eligible for unemployment, so there is no historical precedent and data. She said the department will announce when contractors can start filing. 

Also, Haavind said, at the same time independent contractors can start filing, the department will begin issuing the federal unemployment stimulus payments of $600 per week added to worker’s already approved state payments. Those payments will be backdated to March 27, so workers who lost employment or hours on or after that date will be eligible for the extra money paid from March 28. The extra $600 can be collected for up to four months or until the program ends on July 31. 

The stimulus bill also guarantees an extra 13 weeks of benefits for approved workers, for a total of 39 weeks. 

Many workers had problems receiving their PINs — a unique number that allows claimants to access their benefits — from CLDE in the past few weeks. Haavind said those problems and the backlog they created are now corrected. She said people who submit a claim should expect their PIN within 3 or 4 days. 

Colorado paid about $62 million in claims last week, and more than $90 million over the past two weeks. At the beginning of the outbreak here, the state’s unemployment trust fund, which pays out benefits, had $1.1 billion. If that fund runs dry, officials say the state can borrow from the federal government like it did in 2011 and 2012. 

As more people file for unemployment and anxiously await their payments, Haavind said Coloradans should watch out for fraud. No prominent cases have been recorded in Colorado, but the U.S. Department of Labor is alerting states that the practice is going on. Haavind said CDLE does not ask for a claimant’s personal identifying information, nor will the department’s employees come to a worker’s door, call for bank information or require a payment for a debit card.

April 15, 6:05 p.m. update:

The state released preliminary data on COVID-19 outbreaks at nonresidential facilities on Wednesday linking between 137 and 176 deaths out of 357 total statewide to nursing homes. 

There have been 83 outbreaks at nonresidential facilities as of April 14, including nursing homes, health care facilities and factories, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

There are 137 labratory confirmed COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes, and 39 presumed deaths from the disease. It’s unclear whether the state includes presumed deaths in its total reported deaths, but if so that could mean close to half of all COVID-19 deaths are linked to nursing homes.

Data from the outbreak at the JBS plant in Greeley that has garnered national attention from President Trump and Vice President Pence shows 102 workers have tested positive for the coronavirus and four workers have died from COVID-19. There was also an outbreak at the Cargill Meat Solutions meatpacking plant in Fort Morgan. 

Other significant outbreaks include the Centennial Healthcare Center in Weld County, where 38 residents either tested positive or were presumed to have COVID-19 and at least 17 have died. The Cherry Creek Nursing Center in Arapahoe County has 89 confirmed or presumed cases among residents and staff, with 11-15 deaths. And Juniper Village care facility in Aurora has 72 confirmed or presumed cases among residents and staff with 7-10 deaths. 

The state is actively investigating every outbreak, according to officials, and the full list can be found on the department’s website. Health officials say it will be updated every Wednesday.

April 15, 5:25 p.m. update:

An analysis by eviction defense lawyers projects a wave of more than 450,000 evictions could sweep over Colorado once the temporary protection of local blocks on evictions dissolve. 

Zach Neumann and Sam Gilman with The COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project spearheaded the report with input from economists at the University of Chicago, Low Income Justice Project and Towards Justice. As reported by Michael Booth in The Colorado Sun, the team used past eviction data from periods with high unemployment and assumed Colorado’s unemployment could reach 25% to 30%, as some financial institutions predict.

Local municipalities, including Denver, have instructed police to stop carrying out evictions and Gov. Jared Polis has asked localities to not evict tenants during this time. And, a spokesperson for Attorney General Phil Weiser told Denverite that Weiser has asked the courts to pause all eviction hearings. 

But, these requests are non-binding. Landlords can still initiate eviction proceedings and renters are still piling up debt and late fees. And once those moratoria on evictions expire, hundreds of thousands will face eviction without further action taken by the state, Neumann and Gilman’s report concluded. 

Denver City Council members asked Gov. Polis on Monday to put an immediate moratorium on rent payments for individuals and small businesses and prevent debt and late payment accumulation. Polis said he doesn’t have that authority

According to the attorneys’ report, the number of evictions not only threatens the well-being of thousands of Coloradans, it puts the stability of the housing market in jeopardy. Neumann and Gillman recommend the federal government provide cash assistance to tenants, additional lending for small and medium businesses with a priority on landlords, seal eviction documents from 2020 and provide tax support for state and local governments impacted by falling property taxes. 

The report also recommends five steps for local and state officials:

  • Create a statewide enforceable moratorium on evictions lasting 30-60 day after the end of the state-of-emergency.
  • Ban placement of rent demands and eviction notices on tenants’ doors.
  • Extend the payback period for rent to give tenants time to earn money and negotiate with landlords.
  • Regulate late fees.
  • Increase penalties for landlords who illegally lock out tenants or make premises unlivable during moratoria with oversight and monitoring by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. 

April 15, 5:00 p.m. update:

Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday offered some insight into how the state plans to address the coronavirus leading up to, and after, the stay-at-home order is presumably lifted on April 26. 

“As we reopen our state, things are going to work differently than before,” Polis said. Colorado will need to change its business and social practices to incorporate social distancing, Polis said.

Officials will know in the next five days whether the state has plateaued in infections, or has started driving them down, the governor said, which will influence coming actions.

Colorado is currently in the urgent phase of infections, where the risk is severe, Polis said. The next phase — the stabilization phase —  is where the state can expect to be for a while, Polis said. This, he said, is where the infection rate is about 1, meaning every person who is infected with the virus only spreads it to one more person. In early April, Colorado had an infection rate, or R0 — pronounced “R naught” — of between 3 and 4, according to state health officials.

Polis then laid out the next steps the state will take to address the coronavirus:

  1. Work to suppress the virus: Within the next 5 days the state will see how effective social distancing is and what steps are needed to suppress the coronavirus. 
  2. Increased ability to conduct testing and containment: The state needs to expand testing capacity, expand contact tracing, expand isolation services and support. 
  3. Ongoing monitoring: Examining data in real time to ensure policies are effective.
  4. Additional protections for those who are most vulnerable: Take additional steps for residential facilities and those with chronic illnesses. Create an action plan for outbreaks.
  5. Ability of the healthcare system to meet increased demand: Hospitals have internally increased bed capacity and the state is creating new beds through alternative care sites. 
  6. Social distancing policies that can be sustainable: Enact social distancing policies that allow for more economic growth and activity.. 

The governor said the state will soon be releasing additional data to the public on hospital discharges from COVID-19 and reports on outbreaks in residential facilities and institutions. He said the reports will include healthcare, residential, and assisted living facilities alongside factories, jails and transitional facilities.

Responding to a question about business owners coming back online, Polis said businesses should be thinking about how they can enact physical distancing once they open back up, like erecting glass barriers between work stations. 

Polis was asked to react to those calling his stay-at-home order “tyrannical” and reminiscent of “nazism.” House Minority Leader Patrick Neville has said Polis’s emergency orders have created a “Gestapo-like mentality.” The Gestapo were the secret police in Nazi Germany who carried out torture and executions. 

The governor, visibly emotional and fighting back tears, said that as a Jewish-American with family who died in the holocaust he finds those comments “offensive.” 

“By not staying at home… you’re not sticking it to the government, you’re not sticking it to Jared Polis, you’re sticking it to yourself because you’re putting yourself and your loved ones in jeopardy…,” Polis said.

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through April 14 and does not reflect cases since then.

  • 8,280 cases*
  • 1,636 hospitalized
  • 56 counties
  • 40,533 people tested**
  • 357 deaths
  • 83 outbreaks

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

April 15, 11:30 a.m. update:

A diverse group of advocacy organizations submitted a list of 23 demands to Gov. Jared Polis and other state lawmakers on Tuesday to address the effects of COVID-19 on Coloradans. 

The demands include free testing for COVID-19, a moratorium on utility shutoffs and evictions, paid family and sick leave for all workers, ensuring employers are providing necessary protection to employees, direct cash payments, a halt to ICE activity and releasing ICE detainees and releasing pre-trial and nonviolent inmates from the state’s jails. 

“Our government needs to ensure that the needs of all Coloradans are met during this pandemic,” Wendy Howell, deputy director of the Colorado Working Families Party, said at a virtual press conference on Tuesday. “If we have the resources to bail out big business, we have the resources to make sure everyone in our state can come out of this without going into financial ruin.” 

The organizations include 9to5 Colorado, the American Friends Service Committee, the Colorado Education Association, The Colorado Fiscal Institute, the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, Colorado People’s Alliance, the Colorado Working Families Party, Padres and Jóvenes Unidos, SEIU Colorado, United for a New Economy, the Women’s Lobby of Colorado and dozens of others, according to a press release from the Colorado Working Families Party. 

Rev. Timothy Tyler of Shorter Community AME Church said at the group’s press conference on Tuesday that this is the perfect time to bring these demands to the governor, to the nation and to the world. The pandemic highlights the historical inequalities that have always been present and offers an opportunity to correct them, he said.

Tyler brought up Gov. Jared Polis’ response to a question about the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on communities of color at a press conference on Monday. Polis acknowledged the disparity and said the cause may be due to socio-economic and historical discrimination, saying “scientists will comment on what the meaning is.” The governor said on Monday, people “live in integrated communities. You can’t say, ‘We’re stopping it for Hispanics, but not for white people.’ Or for blacks and not Hispanics.” Staying home drives down infection rates for all, Polis said.

Tyler responded to the governor on Tuesday, saying “it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out.” The world can no longer afford to treat people “immorally,” the effects of which we see now, Tyler said. 

“We’ve got to look backwards to see what mistakes we’ve made and what immoral behavior, racist systemic behavior, we have exercised,” Tyler said. “And then we’ve got to look forward to make a decision and to make an affirmation that whatever we’ve done wrong we now look forward to correcting it.”

Here’s the full list of demands.

  1. Working to make sure that tests for COVID-19 are free and widely available to all who need them, regardless of status;
  2. Prohibiting denials of necessary healthcare services due to inability to pay;
  3. Ensuring that all essential non-pandemic-related healthcare services remain open to serve patients;
  4. Expanding affordable, quality health insurance options through the individual and small group market to all who need it;
  5. Implementing an immediate moratorium on evictions, foreclosures, and utility shutoffs, including internet and phone services, and protecting those unable to pay for these basic needs during this crisis from drowning in unpayable debt and fees once the crisis ends;
  6. Ensuring that all workers not covered by the federal bill have access to job-protected short-term paid sick leave and longer-term paid medical leave for COVID-19 testing, quarantine, and illness, so they can care for themselves and their loved ones without fear of losing their income or their job; 
  7. Making sure that employers are providing their employees who are still at work the necessary protections (sanitizer, gloves, masks, social distancing, etc);
  8. Urging, and in the case of public employers requiring, that employers who have the means to do so continue to pay their employees through the crisis (including hourly and part-time employees) in order to not further the economic downfall;
  9. Providing robust unemployment benefits for those who are impacted by closures, furloughs, hours reductions, or layoffs, including expanded support for gig economy, seasonal, and tipped workers;
  10. Prioritizing direct cash relief funds for regular people, rather than big corporations, and getting them into people’s hands as soon as possible;
  11. Working to suspend student loan payments & interest for all borrowers at both the federal and private levels, both by publicly urging the adoption of this suspension and by taking direct action with any private lenders regulated by Colorado; 
  12. Prohibiting price gouging and loan sharking during the state of emergency;
  13. Increasing food assistance for those who need it, both in terms of benefits and direct access to food;
  14. Taking steps so that students without access to technology or internet service do not fall behind or face any punitive consequences (like not graduating or advancing to the next grade) because of that lack of access during school closures;
  15. Publicly demanding that ICE immediately halt all enforcement activity in Colorado, and limiting and securing personal identifying information held by state and local government entities in Colorado for all Colorado residents;
  16. Urging ICE to immediately grant humanitarian parole to all vulnerable persons in detention, evaluate all detainees for humanitarian parole, and inform detainees of their rights to be released;
  17. Pushing GEO to refuse to accept additional detainees as others are paroled, staff professional janitorial services who are equipped to clean for a health crisis of this magnitude, provide detainees with access to soap and high grade cleaning products free of charge, reassign remaining detainees one to a cell, and ensure consistent virtual and phone access to both family members and legal counsel;
  18. Releasing all people being confined pre-trial on nonviolent offenses, and ensuring that those arrested during the crisis who meet these criteria are not added to jail populations, to prevent the spread of the virus among a vulnerable population confined to close quarters;
  19. Fighting to protect the Constitutional rights of anyone arrested or accused of a crime during the crisis; 
  20. Ensuring that jails, prisons, and detention centers test anyone high-risk who is on staff or detained or incarcerated, provide them with results, and provide them any needed medical care; 
  21. Improving sanitation, medical, and safe housing and shelter services for our unhoused neighbors, as well as suspending sweeps and confiscation of their personal property; 
  22. Providing significant, immediate cash flow assistance to small businesses that are taking care of their workers, as well as ensuring responsible access to new and continued lines of credit for small businesses and disaster grants to small business owners that may not meet lending eligibility criteria; and 
  23. Adjusting petitioning or ballot access requirements for campaigns to reduce required face-to-face contact and protect the health of our political system and its workers and voters.

April 14, 5:25 p.m. update:

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through April 13 and does not reflect cases since then.

  • 7,941 cases*
  • 1,556 hospitalized
  • 56 counties
  • 39,580 people tested**
  • 329 deaths
  • 78 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

Colorado has secured three more alternative care sites for patients recovering from COVID-19, which officials project will complete construction on May 8. 

The sites are located at St. Anthony North in Westminster, St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo and Western Slope Memory Care in Grand Junction. The facilities’ bed capacities will range from 50-120, according to a press release from the State Emergency Operations Center. 

The state previously secured the Colorado Convention Center in Denver with a projected 2,000 bed capacity and The Ranch, Larimer County Fairgrounds and Events Complex, in Loveland with a projected 1,060 bed capacity. Those sites are set to finish construction by April 27 and April 29, respectively. But, the convention center will have 250 beds available by April 18, according to officials with the Army Corps of Engineers. 

The three newly secured facilities will be able to offer a higher level of care than the Denver Convention Center and The Ranch because the facilities are set up for medical care. But, the level of care will still be below intensive care, with the sites serving more as shelters for recovering patients. 

April 14, 3:05 p.m. update:

The Denver Coliseum is being converted into a shelter to house up to 400 women, as the number of positive COVID-19 cases among people experiencing homelessness more than tripled over the weekend. 

Denver city spokesperson Heather Burke told The Denver Post that 53 people experiencing homelessness have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Monday, compared to 16 on Friday.

Some Denver shelters have halved their capacity since the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic to ensure proper social distancing, Brad Meuli, CEO of Denver Rescue Mission, said during an April 6 press call. And the city has been scrambling to adequately shelter its residents experiencing homelessness, a population particularly at risk of COVID-19 complications due to preexisting conditions. 

The city opened up the National Western Complex as a shelter site for up to 600 men last week with the help of staff from the Denver Rescue Mission. Mayor Michael Hancock said at a Monday press conference that the site is already past capacity, with 700 men sheltering there over last weekend. 

Gov. Jared Polis directed 250 National Guard members to replace staff at the city’s shelters at the request of Mayor Michael Hancock last week. 

Securing hotel and motel rooms has been difficult for the City of Denver. Colorado lawmakers and Denver City Council members asked Polis for the state’s assistance in securing more rooms. So far, the city has 227 rooms and Denver City Council signed a contract for 151 more on Monday. 

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless secured an additional 274 rooms for the vulnerable and those referred by shelters and hospitals, Cathy Alderman, spokesperson for the coalition, said in a press release. If those rooms fill, the coalition can access an additional 138 rooms. 

The number of rooms the city and coalition secured fall short of the 3,300 rooms Hancock requested in an open letter to hotel owners on April 6. 

City officials hope to open the women’s shelter at the Denver Coliseum later this week.

April 14, 12:05 p.m. update:

The effects of the state’s stay-at-home order could be seen in the next couple of days, according to officials with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. 

Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist for Colorado, said at this point Colorado seems to be experiencing a slowing and possibly a plateau of cases as the state is just starting to see the effects of the stay-at-home order. 

In related news, Colorado could soon have a machine that can sanitize tens of thousands of personal protective masks for medical workers per day. 

Boston, New York, Ohio and Washington State have already received machines that can sanitize N95 masks and N95 equivalents using a concentrated hydrogen peroxide vapor. 

The machine used in Boston can sanitize up to 80,000 masks per day, according to the machine’s owner Battelle, a nonprofit based in Columbus, Ohio. 

Battelle says masks can be safely sanitized up to 20 times. 

Scott Bookman, incident commander for COVID-19 with CDPHE, said Colorado submitted a request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the machines. 

“We hope to have it up and running in the very near future…,” Bookman said. 

April 13, 5:50 p.m. update:

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released race and ethnicity data on reported COVID-19 cases in Colorado on Monday showing a disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Colorado’s minority communities. 

The data only accounts for 75% of reported COVID-19 cases, according to CDPHE, which Gov. Jared Polis said at a press conference on Monday was due to incomplete reporting. CDPHE left cases with an unknown race or ethnicity out of the data. 

The data compares cases and deaths to population totals from 2018. Black, Hispanic and Hawaiian or Pacific Islander communities have a statistically higher amount of cases than their population. 

Chart by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Chart by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Or, put another way:

Chart by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Chart by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Colorado has racial disparities in chronic diseases due to unequal access to health care and economic opportunities, a CDPHE press release said. And because studies show the novel coronavirus kills people with underlying health conditions at a higher rate, CDPHE has prioritized tracking racial and ethnic data, according to the release.

“We know that social and health care inequities affect outcomes, and that becomes even more apparent in times of disaster,” Jill Hunsaker-Ryan, executive director of CDPHE, said. “There have been generations of institutionalized barriers to things like preventive medical care, healthy food, safe and stable housing, quality education, reliable transportation, and clean air.

CDPHE will begin updating racial data on its website every day, according to the press release. 

April 13, 4:00 p.m. update: 

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through April 12 and does not reflect cases since then.

  • 7,691 cases*
  • 1,493 hospitalized
  • 56 counties
  • 38,742 people tested**
  • 308 deaths
  • 72 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

April 13, 3:20 p.m. update: 

The JBS meatpacking plant in Greeley, where at least two workers have died from a COVID-19 outbreak, will be shut down “for a period time,” Gov. Jared Polis said Monday during a regular press briefing. 

The plant will remain closed until JBS cleans and properly tests for the coronavirus, Polis said. According to an April 10 order from state and local health officials, the plant is scheduled to be closed until April 24. The beef facility will wind down operations over the next two days, the company said in a news release. 

National Guard members will be helping coordinate testing with the company, Polis said. And, he said, the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment is helping to test and plan for the plant to come back online with proper worker procedures.

But the company on Sunday sent a text message to employees saying testing has been canceled. In a news release on Monday, the company said: “Importantly, the company will also purchase and provide up to 1,000 COVID-19 test kits for low-income and uninsured local Weld County residents who require testing. This does not include the previously announced $1 million in test kits purchased by JBS USA. Rather than test its team members, the company has decided to take more aggressive action and self-quarantine Greeley beef employees until plant reopening.”

The closure came after the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 7, which represents roughly 3,000 workers at the JBS plant, sent a letter on April 10 to Polis asking that the plant be shut down. By that time, there were 43 workers diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus that has killed more than 300 people in Colorado, according to state and local health officials. Among those 43 cases, 14 had been hospitalized and eight were intubated. Two workers, Conchas de la Cruz, 60, and Saul Sanchez, 78, have died of the disease.

On April 6, state and local health officials called on the company to implement social distancing, screening and hygiene practices the owner had said were already in place. Last week, the JBS CEO told the Greeley Tribune he was “100% confident” in the safety of employees. 

“While the Greeley beef facility is critical to the U.S. food supply and local producers, the continued spread of coronavirus in Weld County requires decisive action,” said Andre Nogueira, the CEO of JBS USA, in a news release on Monday announcing the closure. 

Health officials enforced the voluntary shutdown with a public order due to a concern the outbreak could overwhelm local health care facilities, which may see a peak in patients in May. According to an April 10 letter, signed by both Weld Department of Public Health and Environment director Mark Wallace and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan, from March 1 to April 2, JBS employees made 277 unduplicated visits to three clinics in Weld County.

Sylvia Martinez, a community activist in Greeley with Latinos Unidos of Greeley and Hispanic Women of Weld County, said she has been speaking with workers at the beef plant. She said even though the company has said workers will get paid time off, some haven’t. 

According to health officials, as of April 10, at least 32 people reported working while symptomatic.

The closure comes as COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting communities of color across the nation and in Colorado. Preliminary data from the Colorado Department of Public Health, released on Monday, shows that black, Latino and Native American people have disproportionately high rates of COVID-19 infections or deaths.

“It doesn’t surprise me one bit,” Martinez said. “It’s an economic issue. Who works at these low paying jobs? Recent immigrants and people of color.” 

Polis said he’s not worried about disruption to the meat supply chain from JBS’ shutdown because the closure is short term. If the plant were to close for a longer period of time — multiple weeks — ranchers and the economy would feel the fallout, Polis said. 

The governor said he had multiple calls with Vice President Pence and federal officials over the weekend about the situation at the JBS plant.

Polis also presented a glimpse of the data breaking down COVID-19 by race, which shows black, Latino and Native American communities appear to have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in Colorado. But, the picture is incomplete because race and ethnicity have not been uniformly collected and reported by local jurisdictions. Racial data will be reported by Colorado moving forward, Polis said. 

Racial data of COVID-19 in Colorado that Gov. Polis said on Monday will soon be released. (Photo by Andrew Kenney, CPR News)
Racial data of COVID-19 in Colorado that Gov. Polis said on Monday will soon be released. (Photo by Andrew Kenney, CPR News)

National reporting by the Associated Press shows that COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting black communities in New York, Detroit, New Orleans, Chicago and Milwaukee. And preliminary data released from Denver Public Health showed that black Denver residents had the same number of hospitalizations as white residents, despite making up 8% of the city’s population compared to 54% for whites. 

The Denver Post’s Alex Burness asked Polis at the press conference about the racial disparity, saying “The data you showed us today shows a disproportionate impact on the black community, both in terms of total cases and deaths from the coronavirus. To what do you attribute this disproportionality and what are you going to do about it?” 

Polis responded, saying “Well, that we would have to leave to scientists and those who study this data. I would indicate that it is similar to what has been seen in other states, not as great an extent of a disparity, Alex, but we have seen even greater disparities, for instance, in Louisiana. Again, scientists will comment on what the meaning is. You’ve probably heard things similar to me that it could be a proxy for economic disparities, it could be a proxy for health. There’s a number of things it could be a proxy for, with regard to why it’s disproportionately impacting communities of color.” 

Burness then asked, “What’s your administration doing about this?” 

Polis said that people “live in integrated communities. You can’t say, ‘We’re stopping it for Hispanics, but not for white people.’ Or for blacks and not Hispanics.” Staying home drives down infection rates for all, he said.

He repeated that racial and ethnic disparity may be a proxy for socio-economic issues, “which obviously there is not short-term solution for that. It’s part of a broader problem that our country has with regard to extreme income disparities.”

In lighter news, the state is opening a contest for Colorado’s kids to create their own designs for face masks. Polis said the contest will address some of children’s fears around masks and the state will showcase some of the best designs on the governor’s Facebook page and the website. Colorado Creative Industries, the state’s art agency, will oversee the contest and the submission guidelines can be found on its website.

April 13, 12:10 p.m. update:

Rep. Joe Neguse, a Democrat representing the 2nd Congressional District in northern Colorado, unveiled a bill on Monday that would provide $11.5 billion in grants for people experiencing homelessness nationwide. 

According to a press release from Neguse’s office, the grant money could be used to purchase hotel or motel rooms for people experiencing homelessness and COVID-19 symptoms, provide handwashing stations and hygiene products and create federal medical stations to care for the displaced. 

 “We must ensure we provide the necessary resources and safe havens for these individuals so they can stay healthy and get the care and shelter they need if they contract the virus,” Neguse said in a press release 

Colorado is already set to receive $22 million in emergency grant funding for its homeless population from the coronavirus stimulus bill signed into law on March 27, according to Neguse’s office. The more than $2 trillion stimulus bill provided $4 billion nationally for emergency grants for the homeless and Neguse’s new bill would add another $11.5 billion. The release did not say how much Colorado would receive from the new grants. 

Cathy Alderman, vice president of communications and public policy for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, said the coalition supports Neguse’s bill providing “desperately needed” funding for the nation’s homeless community. 

“For far too many individuals and families in Colorado, not having a safe place to call home during the COVID-19 outbreak means no place to wash hands regularly, no place to isolate away from the virus and no place to recover from the illness if contracted,” Alderman said in the release. 

April 13, 11:30 a.m. update: 

The Minneapolis-based development giant Mortenson Company agreed to pay $650,000 to the Colorado Attorney General’s office and help build a COVID-19 related project as part of a settlement over a bid-rigging scheme for upgrades to the Colorado Convention Center, according to a news release from the Colorado attorney general’s office.

The settlement came after a planned $233 million upgrade to the Colorado Convention Center, which was halted in 2018 when city officials suspected wrongdoing.

“The investigation uncovered strong evidence that employees from Mortenson and Trammell Crow, the City’s program manager, exchanged non-public and confidential information about the project and procurement process that was not shared with other prospective bidders,” said the news release from the AG’s office.

The Convention Center is being converted to an alternative care facility to be used if the health care system is overwhelmed with COVID-19 infected patients.

“Today’s announcement shows we will hold accountable those companies and individuals that undermine the competitive bidding process when they bid for public construction projects and put millions of taxpayer dollars at risk. The silver lining is Coloradans will benefit from additional resources to respond to needs we have from the COVID-19 pandemic in our state,” Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a statement.

April 12, 4:52 p.m. update: 

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through April 11 and does not reflect cases since then.

  • 7,303 cases*
  • 1,417 hospitalized
  • 56 counties
  • 37,153 people tested**
  • 290 deaths
  • 68 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

April 11, 4:05 p.m. update:

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through April 10 and does not reflect cases since then.

  • 6,893 cases*
  • 1,376 hospitalized
  • 56 counties
  • 34,873 people tested**
  • 274 deaths
  • 67 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

April 11, 12:40 p.m update:

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is investigating an outbreak of COVID-19 at the Juniper Village nursing home in Aurora, after confirming on Saturday that 33 out of 46 residents tested positive for the coronavirus. 

Additionally, 16 out of 25 staff members tested positive for the virus and the facility reported eight deaths —five confirmed to be caused by COVID-19 and three assumed by the coroner to be caused by the disease. 

According to a CDPHE press release, “the investigation at Juniper Village began on March 27 when epidemiologists from Tri-County Health Department notified CDPHE that their local investigations of positive COVID-19 cases included several health care workers from the facility.”

CDPHE and the Tri-County Health Department have virtually assessed the facility’s infection prevention, use of personal protective equipment and staffing practices and made recommendations to the staff, the release said.

 CDPHE officials visited Juniper Village on April 2 after receiving a complaint regarding the facility’s infection prevention practices, according to CDPHE. CDPHE is investigating the outbreak, the release said, which could take several months to complete. 

“We are distressed by the outbreak of COVID-19 at the Juniper Village and the tragic loss of life and extend our deepest sympathy to the families who lost loved ones,” John Douglas, Jr., executive director of Tri-County Health Department, said. “COVID-19 can cause particularly severe illness in older adults, and we appreciate the support of CDPHE in strengthening steps to prevent further illness at this facility.”

Officials with CDPHE said the department will begin releasing more details on the confirmed outbreaks at residential care facilities on April 15. The information will be updated every Wednesday on the state’s COVID-19 website and will be included in this update. 

April 10, 5 p.m. update: 

More than 60 journalism organizations (including The Colorado Independent) signed a letter to Gov. Jared Polis calling on him to improve access to COVID-19 information and transparency. Request from the letter: 

  • State and local health officials should regularly provide, without the requirement of open records requests, detailed datasets on COVID-19 cases, deaths and testing. 
  • Public officials in Colorado should retain emails, text messages, messages from platforms such as Slack and Zoom recordings related to the crisis. 
  • A pool reporter should be able to attend, either in person or virtually, meetings with state and local health department officials and the governor.

In other news, a second worker at a Greeley meatpacking plant has died from COVID-19, a union representative confirmed on Friday, and both President Trump and Vice President Pence acknowledged the outbreak.

Kim Cordova, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, told Denver7 that 42 union members who work at the JBS plant and eight non-union employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and are currently hospitalized. 

JBS is the largest employer in Weld County, with more than 6,000 workers. The plant’s first death from COVID-19 came on Tuesday. 

Gov. Polis spoke with Vice President Pence about the outbreak on Friday. Pence said he is working with Polis to coordinate testing resources for the plant at a White House press conference. 

Pence said 14 people from the plant have been hospitalized and 200-300 people have been “impacted.”

President Trump, in the same press conference, was asked by a reporter if there is a governmental priority to direct testing to food processing plants. Trump referenced the outbreak at the JBS plant, but referred to it as the situation in Denver. The president said “we’ll be looking at that and we don’t want cases like that happening.”

“You’re asking that because of… what happened in Denver. Because in Denver, I’ve never seen it. I said, ‘What’s going on?’ We’re looking at this graph where everything is looking beautiful and it’s coming down, and then you’ve got this one spike. I said, ‘What happened to Denver?’ And many people, very quickly. And, by the way, they were on it, like, so fast, you wouldn’t believe it,” Trump said.

April 10, 2:30 p.m. update:

A coalition of community organizations and elected officials are calling on Gov. Jared Polis to suspend construction on I-70 near Globeville, Elyria and Swansea. These Latino neighborhoods have high rates of asthma.

The construction on I-70, and the dust it creates, has exacerbated the health issues for residents who live in the industrialized area. The letter comes after a Harvard study published this week found a “small increase in long-term exposure to PM2.5 leads to a large increase in COVID-19 death rate.” The state does not have COVID-19 data on race and ethnicity.

April 10, 1:30 p.m. update: 

“I know it’s a little surreal,” Gov. Jared Polis told reporters on Friday outside the Colorado Convention Center, which is being converted into an alternative care site to help free up beds in Colorado’s hospitals if there is a surge on the health care system. 

He expects to have several hundred beds open in the facility by April 18, and up to 2,000 beds by April 26. He doesn’t expect it to be full, but, he said, “I also don’t expect it will be completely empty.”

The state and the Army Corps of Engineers began construction on the convention center on Wednesday. The facility is divided into six care sections, with 10×10 drywall rooms, each with their own power and oxygen supply.

Gov. Polis answers questions from reporters at the Colorado Convention Center as it is converted into a care site for COVID-19 patients on April 10. (Photo by Forest Wilson)
Gov. Polis answers questions from reporters at the Colorado Convention Center as it is converted into a care site for COVID-19 patients on April 10. A diagram of the site (right) and members of the Army Corps of Engineers stand behind the governor. (Photo by Forest Wilson)

Peter Sturdivant, chief of construction for the Army Corps of Engineers’ Omaha District, said the hardest part about constructing the facility so far has been constructing oxygen lines for the rooms. The U.S. is low on oxygen tanks, he said, so the Army Corps of Engineers decided to run lines through the facility.

According to Sturdivant, the facility was financed 25% by Colorado and the rest by the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

Separately, The Colorado Independent received a response from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to a Colorado Open Records Act request seeking COVID-19 data broken down by race and ethnicity. There were no responsive records, officials said. 

“If we get, you’ll get it,” Polis told reporters. “We have already requested additional information from the hospitals.”

He said he’s considering ordering hospitals to provide the information.

April 9, 8:55 p.m. update:

At the ICE detention center in Aurora, family members of detainees and activists called for the release of the facility’s detainees on Thursday.

Protesters formed a caravan of cars, honking and waving signs that read “free them all” and “COVID-19 is deadly: release them now.” 

The caravan also looped around the Denver County Jail and Sen. Cory Gardner’s office because, activists said, Gardner continues to support ICE. 

Ivan Martinez has been detained at the GEO facility for seven months. His wife, Hilda Martinez, said her children are scared that he will contract COVID-19 and die inside the facility. Her children want their father to return home, Martinez said. 

“But really we’re all here together to liberate everyone who’s inside,” Martinez said. “Even if my husband is liberated, I will continue to fight for the release of everyone else.” 

She said her husband tries to stay as far away from others as possible, but he suspects people inside the facility have the virus. 

As of April 8, five employees of the GEO group who work at the facility have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, including one who had contact with detainees. No positive cases of the coronavirus among detainees have been reported by ICE or the GEO Group. 

Democratic congressional representatives from Colorado — Jason Crow, Diana DeGette, Joe Neguse and Ed Perlmutter — sent a letter to ICE on March 27 asking the agency to release vulnerable detainees. Gov. Jared Polis called upon ICE to release detainees at the Aurora facility held on civil violations at a town hall on Tuesday.

April 9, 4:05 p.m. update:

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

6,202 cases
1,221 hospitalized
56 counties
31,180 people tested
226 deaths
54 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities

The spike in cases and deaths is due to delays in reporting, health officials said.

April 9, 2:05 p.m. update:

Colorado continues to see thousands of unemployment claims filed per week, but last week saw a drop of about 14,000 claims from the previous week. 

The reason for the decline in unemployment filings last week could be due to workers waiting on benefits from the coronavirus stimulus package to kick in, Ryan Gedney, senior economist with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, said. 

“It’s also possible that there remains a significant number of persons who are still being paid in some fashion for a short period, who have still not yet filed,” he said.

The claims from last week are still very high compared to the state’s average, Gedney said, and it’s important to look at the cumulative number of filings over time.

CDLE filed more than 46,000 initial unemployment claims with the federal government for the week of March 29 through April 4. The previous week saw about 60,000 initial claims filed to the U.S. Department of Labor from the state. In total, over the past three weeks, more than 127,000 initial claims were filed.

Here are Colorado’s unemployment filings for the past 20 years, including data from March. 

About 10% of the national workforce, or 17 million workers, filed for unemployment over the past three weeks, according to the Department of Labor. In 18 months between 2007 and 2009, the Great Recession took out 15 million jobs, according to Politico. 

Independent contractors and gig workers who now qualify for unemployment benefits under the coronavirus stimulus bill, will need to wait until CDLE updates its systems, Cher Haavind, deputy executive director of CDLE, said. The department hopes to be able to file claims for independent contractors by next week, she said. 

Once independent contractors can file for unemployment, they will be eligible to receive payments from the first week of February, if that was when they were impacted by the novel coronavirus.

Other provisions of the $2 trillion stimulus bill allow workers to collect $600 extra in benefits per week from the federal government and an extra 13 weeks of benefits  — 39 weeks total. Those benefits may not be reaching people yet, said Jeff Fitzgerald, director of the division of unemployment insurance. But, payments will be paid retroactively from March 29 once the federal money rolls in, he said. 

In normal circumstances, a person collecting unemployment benefits must be actively seeking employment. That requirement has been relaxed. Fitzgerald said the state recognizes the unique situation with stay-at-home orders and massive job loss. Applicants for unemployment still will need to register on the state’s job search site, connectingcolorado.com

CDLE released data showing the industries hit hardest by the pandemic and from which the most unemployment claims are coming. The industry data is delayed, so CDLE provided numbers from the week ending in March 21, the week Gov. Polis’s restaurant and bar shutdown took effect.

Here’s a breakdown of unemployment filings with CDLE by industry:

  • Accommodation and Food Services: 12,411
  • Healthcare and Social Service: 2,560
  • Other Services:*** 1,672
  • Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation: 1,415
  • Retail Trade: 1,014

*** Other services include personal services like nail and beauty salons, barbers, etc

The primary driver of healthcare worker and social service claims is from the offices of dentists, chiropractors and daycare services, officials said. 

In related news, Conor Cahill, a spokesperson for Gov. Jared Polis, responded to the Colorado Latino Forum’s request for greater transparency in the state’s economic recovery efforts in an email to The Colorado Independent. CLF’s demands for transparency include a full list of the members of the Governor’s Council on Economic Stabilization and Growth and recordings of the council’s meetings. 

“The newly formed council is only two weeks in operation and is being assembled in the midst of a national pandemic. Over a hundred citizens have volunteered to serve. An initial public webpage has been built to support the public announcement of the Council’s formation and it allows for any citizen to submit recommendations for the Council. The Governor believes the Latino community will play a big part in Colorado’s economic bounce back which is one of the reasons he appointed Federico Pena as Chairman. Chairman Pena is actively working to fully equip the council with representation from community and civic leaders, nonprofits, unions, private sector leaders and bipartisan legislative representatives. Given the emergency nature of the Council’s formation, this process is ongoing. As the Council’s formation and operations become established, its official communications and findings will be published on its website,” Cahill wrote. 

The full list of CLF’s demands can be found in this update under April 8.

April 9, 11:45 a.m. update: 

State health officials said they expect to receive a shipment of 100 ventilators from the national stockpile in the next day or so.

President Donald Trump said in a tweet Wednesday he would be sending the ventilators to Colorado “immediately” at the request of Sen. Cory Gardner, who is up for re-election this fall. The announcement came after Gov. Jared Polis has pleaded for a week or more for as shipment of ventilators. The state wants up to 10,000 more than it currently has.

Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette said in a statement on Wednesday: “President Trump says we will get 100 as a courtesy to Senator Gardner. That means, because the president is playing politics with public health, we’re still 400 ventilators short from what we should have received. His mismanagement of this crisis is costing lives and livelihoods.”

April 8, 4:30 p.m. update: 

The Department of Corrections (DOC) on Wednesday said an inmate at the Buena Vista Correctional Complex has tested positive for COVID-19, the first diagnosed case of the disease in the state’s prison system to be announced.  

The inmate was transferred to the prison from the Denver City Jail on March 26, 2020 after having a community corrections sentence revoked, according to DOC. 

Just one day prior, as part of an executive order from Gov. Jared Polis, DOC halted new intakes of inmates from county jails except in limited circumstances, which DOC says included community corrections regressions. 

The new plan also called for quarantining new inmates for 14 days, some of whom will be quarantined in Cañon City’s Centennial South Correctional Facility, formerly known as CSP II, a mostly vacant high-security prison shuttered in 2012 and reopened in March. 

This inmate was quarantined in the Buena Vista prison and did not enter the general population or go out into the facility, according to DOC. The inmate was quarantined with one cellmate, who will continue to be monitored by CDOC medical staff, DOC said. 

“This situation is exactly why we implemented thorough medical evaluations and quarantine systems for any incoming inmates,” said Dean Williams, the director for DOC. “In this case, the quarantine process prevented this inmate from engaging with the general inmate population and has substantially reduced the risk of this virus being spread in the facility. The inmate is receiving the appropriate medical care and we will continue to take every possible precaution to protect our staff and inmate population.”

DOC said it’s not planning to release any additional information about the inmate because of HIPAA requirements.

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

5,655 cases*
1,162 hospitalized
54 counties
29,199 people tested**
193 deaths
44 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

April 8, 3:40 p.m update:

Colorado health officials said the state has secured two alternative care sites for people with COVID-19 and plans to secure three more sites by the end of the week.

Leases for The Colorado Convention Center in Denver, with a planned 2,000-bed capacity, and The Ranch, Larimer County Fairgrounds and Events Complex, in Loveland, with a planned 1,060-bed capacity, were finalized this week. The state is working with the Army Corps of Engineers on constructing the sites, which began on Tuesday in Denver, and is scheduled to begin on Thursday in Loveland, according to officials.  

The sites will serve as “tier 3” alternative care shelters, not field hospitals, meaning patients who were admitted to hospitals for critical care and are in less-critical recovery will be transported to the sites. 

Colorado has signed letters of intent with St. Anthony North in Westminster, St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo, and Western Slope Memory Care in Grand Junction, for use as alternative care sites. Officials say they are working to secure more sites. 

According to a press release from the State Emergency Operations Center, The Colorado Convention Center will finish construction on April 27 and The Ranch will finish on April 29.

April 8, 3:00 p.m. update: 

It’s unclear whether the state will have enough testing and monitoring capabilities needed to control the COVID-19 outbreak by April 26, the day Gov. Jared Polis has tentatively set as the end of his stay-at-home order. When asked by reporters during a news conference on Wednesday whether the state would have sufficient testing capacity to lift the order, Polis said more information will be coming. 

“There’s a lot to what April 26 looks like,” he said. “We will have a presentation on that before April 26.” 

He said this will include information on what size gathering will be permitted, how restaurants can begin to reopened, and the state’s mass testing capacity. 

Medical professionals say adequate testing capacity is needed as governments ease social distancing restrictions in order to maintain control over the highly infectious disease. 

Asked what benchmark he’s looking for before deciding whether to lift the stay-at-home order, Polis said the “biggest one is going to be how successful Coloradans are at staying at home.” 

He said the state should start to see the effects of the state-at-home order later this week. 

Polis is Jewish and observes Passover. He brought up last year’s Passover at the governor’s mansion, which had more than 150 people in attendance, he said. This year the governor will be observing the holiday virtually with family, he said. 

Polis asked churches to maintain social distancing and cut down on the numbers of people who gather for video or in-person services during the Easter and Passover holidays this week. Religious institutions are still allowed to meet for services. 

Amanda Henderson, executive director of the Colorado Interfaith Alliance, encouraged members of all faiths to practice distancing during their holiday observances. 

“The way that we can love our neighbors is to stay home and stop the spread of COVID-19,” Henderson said.

Speaking to the state’s efforts to obtain more medical equipment, Polis said he is in touch with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Vice President Mike Pence to secure more personal protective equipment and ventilators. The state continues to work to obtain medical supplies on the private market, from China and others, Polis said, and Colorado State University is testing the supplies that come in. 

Colorado has about 500 more ventilators than when the pandemic started, Polis said. A number still far short of the 9,000 to 10,000 additional ventilators Polis previously said the state needs to handle a surge in infections.

April 8, 10:50 a.m update:

The Colorado Latino Forum is urging Gov. Jared Polis to make Colorado’s economic response to the novel coronavirus pandemic more transparent. 

In a letter submitted to Polis on Tuesday, CLF members made a list of 11 demands and questions for the Governor’s Council on Economic Stabilization and Growth, including greater community input and a public record of meetings and actions. According to the letter, CLF members reached out to the council without response. 

“The community plays a vital role in vetting any policy recommendations early in the process,” Xochi Gaytan, co-chair of CLF, said in a press release. “The people must be at the table.” 

The Governor’s Council on Economic Stabilization was created on March 20 to address the economic impact of the novel coronavirus. It is composed of eight committees. Former Denver Mayor and U.S. Transportation Secretary Federico Peña chairs the council, with representatives from the public and private sectors. Westword created a partial list of the council members, but a full list is currently not available through the council’s section on the Office of Economic Development and International Trade’s website. One of CLF’s demands is for the state to release a full list of the members of the eight committees. 

Here’s the list of CLF’s demands and questions:

  • A full list of all membership of the the full slate of committees – Financial Services Committee, Entrepreneurs, Local, Rural, Women & Minority Led Businesses and Nonprofits Committee, Infrastructure Committee, Workforce/Education Committee, Arts and Culture Committee Energy Committee, Tourism Committee, Outdoor Recreation Committee, and any Executive Committee that has been formed.
  • During this time of a national pandemic, is it safe to assume that the meetings are taking place via videoconferencing? Have these meetings been recorded?
  • If so, post them to the webpage, youtube, and other platforms for transparency and accountability.
  • If not, begin the recordings immediately. Additionally, they should be livestreamed for the public.
  • Post any and all agendas and minutes of meetings that have taken place to date.
  • Post a public record of policy ideas that have been submitted to date.
  • Housing is clearly the most pressing issue for the people of our state. Why is there not a housing committee?
  • Where does housing fall under the current committee structure?
  • Where do the needs of undocumented workers fall under the current committee structure?
  • The Climate Emergency must not be forgotten in this process. How is HB19-1261 being centered across all council committees?
  • How will proposed policy and state legislation be vetted to the public? The community plays a vital role in vetting any policy recommendations early in the process.

The Colorado Independent is seeking a response from the governor’s office.

April 7, 8:25 p.m. update: 

Gov. Jared Polis, alongside state health and economic officials, answered Coloradans questions about the state’s response to the novel coronavirus during a town hall on Tuesday. 

Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state’s epidemiologist, and Betsy Markey, executive director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development, answered health and economic questions respectively, while the governor spoke for the state government. Topics ranged from whether people should go out to get tested for the novel coronavirus to what gig workers should do. Kyle Clark of 9News moderated the discussion. 

Here’s the full town hall. We’ve pulled out some highlights below. 

Polis recommended that most people stay home if they feel COVID-19 symptoms. Nine out of ten people won’t need medical attention, he said, and people shouldn’t be rushing out to get tested, unknowingly spreading the disease. 

Asked whether the state will have enough ventilators to treat patients during the infection surge, Polis said as long as Coloradans stay at home and are wearing masks when they go out, the state should have enough ventilators.

Modeling by public health officials has shown that 70-80% effective social distancing will drastically reduce deaths and ICU bed overload. When asked how effective Colorado’s social distancing measures have been, Herlihy said the state achieved about a 45% effective social distancing rate before the stay-at-home order. Officials will soon know the effects of the stay-at-home order on the effectiveness of social distancing, she said, and the state could be anywhere between 60-80% effective social distancing, currently.

Fielding a question about gig workers and independent contractors, Markey said gig workers can start applying for forgivable loans to cover their expenses on April 10. She said those workers should contact their bank or other lenders to start the process. 

Polis, addressing a rent moratorium or freeze, said the state is not focused on evictions at this time and highlighted money that will be coming to Coloradans from the coronavirus stimulus package. He did not say whether he is considering a rent freeze or whether the state will step in once the eviction ban is lifted to prevent people from being forced out of their residences. 

Answering a question about what the state is doing for the undocumented community, Polis said doctors will not ask for people’s proof of residency. He also said he asked the Department of Homeland Security to extend protections for those under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act. 

Polis also called on ICE to release detainees from the Aurora detention center who are being held for civil arrests.

When asked what challenges will TABOR will present to the  state budget as we work to recover from this crisis?”

Polis: TABOR will not be consequential in this matter because of the devastating impact on the economy. The state is going to have budgetary cutbacks. They aren’t even going to be close to that limit level where there is a limitation on state spending. It could be a year or years before that becomes a relevant discussion. It’s not a relevant discussion when the state is well under that level, as we were during the Great Recession. The economic impact of the pandemic has been devastating.

April 7, 4:10 p.m update: 

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

  • 5,429 cases*
  • 1,079 hospitalized
  • 54 counties
  • 28,094 people tested**
  • 179 deaths
  • 44 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

April 7, 1:15 p.m. update:

Dever Mayor Michael Hancock on Tuesday announced the city’s plan to open a new shelter site and further steps to help people experiencing homelessness during the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

Hancock said the city secured the National Western Complex to use as an auxiliary shelter, which he hopes will open in the coming days. The complex can house 600 males, he said, and the city is working to secure another shelter site for women. 

Denver also finalized a contract for 151 more hotel rooms to house people experiencing homelessness, Hancock said, and he will more than likely be filing the contract with city council next week. 

On Monday, the mayor sent an open letter to hotels requesting 3,300 rooms because of the city’s ongoing difficulty negotiating for rooms with hotels. 

Hancock announced that Gov. Polis approved Denver’s request to deploy 250 guard members to bolster staffing in the city’s existing shelters, but, he said, the new shelter site will not be staffed by guardsmen. Instead, members and volunteers from the Denver Rescue Mission will be in charge of setting up and running the shelter, he said. 

“The governor had to make his determination based on the statewide objectives with regards to the National Guard — they are going to be pulled in a lot of different directions and we recognize that… so we’re going to plan B in order to staff the auxiliary shelter,” Hancock said.

Brad Meuli, CEO of Denver Rescue Mission, told the press on Monday that the mission had to cut about half of its capacity to meet social distancing requirements. Other homeless advocates said volunteering is down and they have had to cut programs.

At the new shelter site, guests will have showers, three meals a day and screening for the novel coronavirus, Hancock said. The site will also have the ability to transport people to respite rooms offsite, if they test positive for the virus or are in need of isolation, for rest and recovery, he said. 

Britta Fisher, chief housing officer with Denver’s Department of Housing Stability, said the size of the complex — 100,000 square feet — will provide enough space for social distancing and the staff of the Denver Rescue Mission will be helping to maintain that distance. 

Hancock also said he will not overturn the city’s camping ban, which was ruled unconstitutional by a Denver county judge in December, but continues to be enforced by the city as it appeals the decision. 

“Our focus is really working to shelter those who are experiencing homelessness in our city safely and in decent facilities that are well staffed and connected with resources and services,” Hancock said. 

In other Denver news, Matthew Mueller, executive director of Denver’s Office of Emergency Management, gave an update at Hancock’s press conference on Tuesday of the city’s efforts to convert the Colorado Convention Center to handle COVID-19 patients. The convention center will offload some of the burden on hospitals, he said, and the city anticipates it will open for care in a couple of weeks. City officials previously said the convention center will house more than 2,000 hospital beds. 

April 6, 7 p.m. update: 

DENVER, CO - APRIL 6: Colorado Governor Jared Polis delivers an address from the governor's mansion on Monday, April 6, 2020. Polis said that the state of Colorado will extend a statewide stay-at-home order from April 11 to April 26 due to coronavirus. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)
DENVER, CO – APRIL 6: Colorado Governor Jared Polis delivers an address from the governor’s mansion on Monday, April 6, 2020. Polis said that the state of Colorado will extend a statewide stay-at-home order from April 11 to April 26 due to coronavirus. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

Gov. Jared Polis on Monday extended his state-at-home order from April 11 to April 26.

“If there is any way to safely end it sooner, I will,” he said during a live address from the Governor’s Mansion in Denver. He added, “The data and science tell us this is our best chance, or only realistic chance, to avoid catastrophic loss of life.”

Much of his address was aimed at boosting morale as he urged Coloradans to stay home a little while longer.

“The spread of the virus is beginning to slow. This is a remarkable achievement by you. … You’re truly helping to turn the tide against this deadly virus.” 

“The better job we do at staying in, the sooner we can get back out.”

April 6, 5:40 p.m. update:

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Monday extended the city’s stay-at-home order until April 30, while also extending the ban on public gatherings through the end of April.

Denver County has the highest number of confirmed positive cases of the novel coronavirus — 847 as of April 5 —in the state. As Denverite’s Esteban Hernandez reports, the city has issued 14 citations for violating the order, issued 1,796 warnings and made 6,090 contacts with businesses and residents about compliance.

April 6, 5:10 p.m. update: 

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

  • 5,172 cases*
  • 994 hospitalized
  • 54 counties
  • 26,875 people tested**
  • 150 deaths
  • 41 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

April 6, 3 p.m. update: 

The state has been working with the Colorado School of Public Health to model the COVID-19 outbreak. Here are some interesting numbers state health officials shared on Monday:

  • 17,000 to 18,000 Coloradans have COVID-19, based on the assumption that testing capacity is only capturing about 28% of cases, which reached 5,172 on Monday.
  • With 976 people hospitalized and 148 people dead from the disease, this amount is already putting stress on the health care system.
  • Colorado has achieved 60% to 80% social distancing, meaning demand on the health care system might not exceed supplies. It’s still too soon to know the effect of the governor’s stay at home order.
  • Cases of COVID-19 were doubling every two days in recent weeks. Now cases are doubling every 5-6 days.
  • 30-40% of people in Colorado will be infected with COVID-19. Of those, 5% will be hospitalized. Of those, 40% will be in the ICU. Of those, 50% will need a ventilator. Of those who don’t get a ventilator and who need it, 100% will die.

Addressing a growing concern for people experiencing homelessness and COVID-19, a group of Democratic state lawmakers, Denver city council members and owners of homeless shelters are calling on Gov. Jared Polis to create a shelter site for people experiencing homelessness in Denver. 

In a letter sent on Saturday, the lawmakers urged Polis to create a shelter site, staffed with National Guard members, and to secure hotel and motel rooms for people experiencing homelessness. Other requests included prioritizing shelter staff when distributing personal protective equipment and providing greater testing capacity for the population experiencing homelessness. 

“We are reaching the limit of what we as a city can do on our own” Denver City Councilwoman Robin Kniech, who signed onto the letter, said in a call with the press on Monday.  

The challenge Denver faces right now, Kniech said, is that there are 1,000 people who pass through the same restroom in some of the shelters. Denver is the only place in the state where 200-300 people are sleeping in the same room, Kniech said. 

Denver has secured about 110 hotel rooms on its own through contracts, far fewer than the city needs, according to advocates. The letter says hotel and motel managers have been unwilling to work with the city and urges the state to make more rooms available. The letter does not specify how the state should make those rooms available.

Some shelters have been forced to reduce the population they serve by about half to meet distancing guidelines, according to Brad Meuli, CEO of Denver Rescue Mission. As a result, The Homeless Leadership Council, which is composed of some of the largest homeless service providers in the metro Denver area, released a statement on March 31 calling for a separate shelter space to meet the need. 

At least two people experiencing homelessness in Denver have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to state health officials. Advocates say the homeless population is at a unique risk for infection given people’s proximity to one another while in shelters and preexisting health conditions among the population. 

Rep. Leslie Herod, a Democrat from Denver, a former board member of Urban Peak Youth Shelter, said on Monday that she has been speaking with hotel and motel owners who have been willing to negotiate for rooms. When asked if the state will need to commandeer rooms, she said she doesn’t believe that will be necessary. Councilwoman Kniech said the state might need to commandeer rooms if the situation becomes worse. 

As for transportation to hotels and a possible new shelter, Kniech said the city already has the infrastructure to transport people from day to night shelters. And a new 24-hour shelter would take some of the burden off that system.

In other news, Democratic lawmakers and criminal justice groups are calling on Polis to suspend criminal and juvenile fees, fines, and costs.

According to the letter, the groups and people are calling on the governor to:

  • Stop the assessment and collection of all criminal and juvenile fees, fines, and costs.
  • Suspend all payroll deductions, earnings attachments, bank and inmate account garnishments, rental payment garnishments, and property liens for unpaid criminal and juvenile fees, fines, and costs.
  • Suspend all interest accrual, financial penalties including late payment assessments, and other consequences (including revoking or extending probation sentences) for nonpayment or late payment of criminal and juvenile fees, fines, and costs.
  • Recall all referrals made on or after Wednesday, March 1, 2020, of unpaid criminal and juvenile fees, fines, and costs from the Colorado Department of Revenue tax offset program and private collection agencies, and stop new referrals.
  • And notify the public of these decisions so that families may plan their finances accordingly.

The letter includes over 20 organizations and individuals, including reps. Herod and Mike Weissman and sens. Pete Lee and Julie Gonzales, the Colorado Juvenile Defender Center, the Office of the State Public Defender, the Office of the Alternate Defense Counsel, ACLU of Colorado, and the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.

In other criminal justice news, the Colorado Supreme Court denied a petition from defense attorneys seeking to free more inmates from jail in order to help manage the COVID-19 outbreak in jails. The attorneys were calling for a more streamlined response to the pandemic. The court denied the petition on April 3 without an explanation.

Maureen Cain, a public policy liaison for the Colorado State Public Defender’s Office, which helped file the petition, said public defenders will continue to file individual motions in each of the state’s 22 judicial districts. She said there will likely be more litigation due to the lack of coordination.

18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler celebrated the court’s denial of the petition.

“Those housed in county jails are not hotel guests or patrons of a cruise at sea. They are incarcerated because they have either committed a crime worthy of taking away their liberty, or they are accused of a serious crime and pose a significant risk to the community,” Brauchler said in a statement. “Neither of those facts is diminished by the existence of COVID 19. The community is not safer or healthier when we force those who pose the greatest risk to our safety back into our neighborhoods, while we are shut in at home.”

April 5, 5:45 p.m. update: 

If you’re old and sick, you may not get a ventilator when supplies run short. If you’re a health care worker, your chances are much better.

Those are among the takeaways from the state’s new crisis standard of care guidelines adopted on Sunday in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The guidelines are designed to make the distribution of scarce medical supplies more ethical, generally based on the idea of saving the most lives possible. The state currently does not have enough ventilators or ICU beds to serve as many patients it expects to be hospitalized due to the virus.

The decision framework is broken down into four separate tiers. The first tier is generally the likelihood of survival and how long the person is expected to live. The second tier aims to prioritize care for pediatric patients, health care workers and first responders. The third tier is considered a tie-breaker. If there are two patients, a firefighter and a nurse, for example, the person who is a sole caregiver or pregnant would be prioritized. The last tier is a “random allocation” of resources in the event there is still a tie between patients.

Health officials say the better people follow social distancing guidelines and the governor’s stay-at-home order, the fewer times these types of decisions will have to be made.

State health officials recommend everyone create a living will and share it with their loved ones. The will should outline the kind of care people want and don’t want.

April 5, 4:45 p.m. update:

Hang in there.

The coronavirus could peak in Colorado as late as November, state models show. And that might be a good thing. The longer it takes for the virus to peak in Colorado, the fewer people who will die from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Some of the bleaker predictions with no social distancing and an infection reproductive rate of 4 (meaning one person infects 4 people, who each then infect a total of 16 people, etc.) place the peak of COVID-19 infections on May 7, with more than 33,000 deaths by June 1. Better and more likely predictions — with 60% effective social distancing and an infection reproductive rate of 3 — place the peak of infections at about 39,000 on Nov. 19, with 379 deaths by June 1 and more than 6,600 deaths by Jan. 1, 2021.  

The estimates are based on models the state developed with the University of Colorado showing when the state might see the peak number of infections, ICU hospitalizations and cumulative deaths. The models take into account differing levels of social distancing (SD) and infection reproductive rates, or R0, pronounced “R naught.” 

The goal of social distancing is to lower the R0, or the number of new people an infected person passes the virus on to. The models predict an R0 in Colorado of between 3 and 4, meaning one infected person will pass along the virus to three or four others. 

Gov. Jared Polis first previewed the modeling data in a press conference on March 27, which can be found under that date in this update.

When the team created the models, based on data collected through March 24, Colorado’s R0 was above 3, according to CDPHE. It’s uncertain what the R0 value is currently, given new social distancing measures. 

Here are both the tables. The first measures R0s of 3.5 and 4, from 0-80% social distancing. The second measures R0 of 3 and 4 with 0-60% social distancing.

Graphic by the COVID-19 modeling group: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado School of Medicine. Data collected by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Graphic by the COVID-19 modeling group: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado School of Medicine. Data collected by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Graphic by the COVID-19 modeling group: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado School of Medicine. Data collected by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Graphic by the COVID-19 modeling group: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado School of Medicine. Data collected by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Compare the models to some of the latest numbers from Sunday on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

  • 4,950 cases*
  • 924 hospitalized
  • 54 counties
  • 25,773 people tested
  • 140 deaths
  • 37 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

On Saturday, a member of the Colorado Unified Command Group working at the State Emergency Operations Center tested positive for COVID-19, state health officials say. The unnamed staff member then went through daily medical screenings and was asymptomatic until April 4, when symptoms started, health officials said. The staff member then contacted executive leadership and self-isolated pending testing arrangements, they said.

April 4, 7:00 p.m update: 

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

4,565 cases*
875 hospitalized
54 counties
23,900 people tested
126 deaths
30 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

April 4, 2:30 p.m. update: 

State health officials say they’re staying the course on regulating planet-warming greenhouse gas and toxic emissions during the pandemic.

Officials with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sent a letter to companies on Friday stating their plans to continue enforcement of air quality laws after the Trump EPA on March 26 said it was largely halting its enforcement of those laws. 

“This unprecedented global pandemic poses challenges for everyone, but it cannot excuse exceedances of permitted limits or unreported violations of state laws,” said John Putnam, director of environmental programs at CDPHE, in a statement on Friday. “At a time when everyone in Colorado is rallying to fight the spread of a serious respiratory illness, it would be unacceptable for us to allow companies to emit more pollutants into our air and water.”

The announcement comes as Russia and Saudi Arabia compete for market share during the pandemic by flooding the market with oil, driving down prices at a time when demand has diminished. The price war is crimping some businesses trying to backfill debts in Colorado. On Tuesday, Houston-based Noble, the second-largest oil and gas producer in Colorado, reduced to half-time or furloughed 30% of its workforce here. Denver-based Whiting Petroleum filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday. This came after Broomfield-based DMC Global Inc. cut about a third of its workforce. 

Due to the inability to conduct face-to-face meetings during the pandemic, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which oversees the industry in Colorado, has postponed drafting new rules aimed at protecting public health, safety, welfare, the environment and wildlife. Those rules include changing the agency’s mission and setting new wellbore integrity standards. The agency is required to create new rules after lawmakers in 2018 passed Senate Bill 181, which put in place a process to make the state’s oil and gas rules more stringent.

April 3, 5:00 p.m. update: 

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

  • 4,173 cases*
  • 823 hospitalized
  • 53 counties
  • 22,071 people tested
  • 111 deaths
  • 27 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

April 3, 3:40 p.m. update:

RTD has temporarily suspended bus and train fares, the company announced Friday afternoon. The changes take effect Sunday. Find more information here.

The company is required by law to get at least 30% of its revenue from fares. Democrats hope to change that law this session.

 

April 3, 3:10 p.m. update:

Gov. Jared Polis on Friday urged all Coloradans to wear cloth face masks whenever they leave their homes. 

The countries that have done the best with the coronavirus — like South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore — wear masks, Polis said. You can make them at home out of an old t-shirt or piece of fabric, he said. If you are a member of an essential industry, he said you should bring and wear a mask if your employer doesn’t already provide them. 

“Show folks what you are doing to be clever and cool with facemasks,” Polis said. 

The White House is expected to issue its own guidance for Americans to wear cloth masks based on Centers for Disease Control recommendations soon, according to NBC News. Dr. Deborah Birx, The White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, told NBC News that masks don’t substitute for social distancing practices and people shouldn’t “get a false sense of security.” 

Polis also addressed Colorado’s testing capacity for COVID-19, saying the state has the capacity to run 10,000 tests per day. But, right now, it’s performing 2,000 per day because there are not enough testing supplies, he said. The state is working to boost those supplies and expects to grow that capacity to 3,500 per day over the next two weeks, he said, and to 5,000 per day by May 1. 

Colorado started distributing a third shipment of personal protective equipment (PPE), including N95 masks, from the National Strategic Stockpile on Friday. The first two shipments provided about two days worth of PPE for statewide medical operations, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The third shipment more than doubled the amount of PPE from the first two. The state is still well short of the more than 1.5 million masks, millions of gloves and other equipment the governor said earlier this week that Colorado needs. 

For additional help to businesses, Polis said the state is offering a one-time 30-day extension for sales tax, including local sales tax for businesses. Taxes owed April 20 don’t have to be paid until May 20, he said. 

For homeowners, Polis announced that the state will be directing counties to extend property tax deadlines. So, property tax payments can be split in half between April and June, he said.

On a lighter note, Polis also urged people to channel their energy towards their pets and said the state has relaxed regulation around fostering and adopting animals. People should look into fostering pets, so they don’t sit in our shelters right now, he said. 

“This will make a difference in their lives as well as yours,” Polis said. 

Separately, Chalkbeat Colorado reports the federal economic stimulus package includes about $300 million for Colorado’s school districts and higher education institutions. Also, Denver-area districts have canceled in-person classes for the rest of the school year, Chalkbeat reports.

April 2, 4 p.m. update: 

“You can tell I’m a little hoarse, just from talking so much. Listening, talking, listening, talking. Every day is a series of calls and virtual meetings, all day and night, as we try to do everything from acquire masks to increase hospital beds to increase compliance with the stay-home (order) and figure out the nuances of it, to address different legal questions, to the normal business of the governor.”

That’s what Gov. Jared Polis told Alex Burness of The Denver Post when asked how he’s feeling.

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

  • 3,728 cases*
  • 710 hospitalized
  • 51 counties
  • 19,788 people tested
  • 97 deaths
  • 21 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

You may have noticed the chart with the number of cases is missing. We’ll get something back up as soon as we figure out a way to report accurate, timely data that best depicts the trend in cases. We have been reporting the cumulative number of cases reported each day. We have asked the state for more accurate data reflecting when the diagnosed cases, hospitalizations and deaths were reported to the state.

In the meantime, check out this chart on unemployment claims.

April 2, 2 p.m. update: 

The state’s actual number of COVID-19 cases could be four to 10 times the number who have tested positive, said Scott Bookman, Colorado’s incident commander for COVID-19, during a conference call with reporters on Thursday.

As of Wednesday, state health officials report there are 3,342 people diagnosed with COVID-19. That means about 13,300 to 33,400 people in Colorado could have COVID-19, according to state estimates. We have been reporting that the number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases is largely a function of testing capacity, and Gov. Polis repeatedly has said that thousands more Coloradans are likely infected than the numbers indicate. But today is the first time, state officials have gotten specific about how many potential thousands more, and underscore Polis’s reasoning in imposing a stay-at-home order.

Bookman also said the governor’s statement in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence on March 28 that “Colorado’s COVID-19 death rate is rising faster than any other state” is no longer accurate.

April 2, 9:40 a.m. update: 

Gov. Jared Polis released a letter he wrote to Vice President Mike Pence requesting additional personal protective equipment and ventilators.

“We are facing a crisis-level shortage of these essential supplies to protect our health care workers and first responders. Colorado’s COVID-19 death rate is rising faster than any other state right now; the pandemic is spreading so fast that lags in testing are masking the true conditions experienced by Coloradans across the state,” Polis wrote on March 28.

According to state health officials, Colorado needs 10,000 ventilators, and associated equipment and pharmaceuticals, 2,000,000 N95 masks, 4,460,000 surgical masks, 720,000 gowns, 880,000 face shields, and 4,300,000 pairs of gloves.

Since last Saturday, Coloradans have filed 61,583 initial unemployment claims, according to the Department of Labor and Employment. During the Great Recession in 2010, the week with the highest number of claims reached 7,749, state labor officials said. For more perspective, a little over a half a million people filed for unemployment in 2009 and 2010, while more than 80,000 people filed initial claims in the past two weeks alone, according to officials.

From April 2 to April 27, the Public Utilities Commission has ordered towing companies to collect the base tow rate for a non-consensual tows from private properties of about $180. The commission prohibited companies from collecting mileage, fuel surcharge and storage fees. The order is meant to provide relief for those who are ordered to stay at home.

April 1, 5:45 p.m. update: 

In a split decision, the Colorado Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled lawmakers can continue to meet past May 6 for the 2020 legislative session.

Lawmakers recessed on March 14. That same day, they voted to send an interrogatory to the court asking whether the time off would count toward the 120-day session. Some GOP lawmakers wanted the days to continue counting down despite the break, arguing in a brief to the court last week that the 120 days are “consecutive.”

The ruling means there will be less pressure for lawmakers to return to the Capitol during the COVID-19 outbreak. When they do return, they will likely pass a state budget and other legislation related to the COVID-19 response.

“We will continue looking at the data and talking to public health experts to determine when it is safe to come back to the Capitol. Once we do return, we’ll need everyone at the table to solve our most difficult challenges,” said House Speaker KC Becker, a Democrat from Boulder, in a statement.

In other news, the new coronavirus appears to be spreading across Colorado’s jails. The Greeley Tribune reports an inmate and four employees in the Weld County jail have tested positive for COVID-19. The Denver Post reports that while jail populations across the state have been dropping by about a third in recent weeks, the Weld County jail population has dropped by about 15%. Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams has been critical of the COVID-19 response in Colorado, saying on Facebook on March 20: “I understand that nobody wants to catch Coronavirus but statistically, even if you catch it you’re likely to be just fine. What I’m concerned with is our Country catching a huge case of socialism.”

We reported Monday that an inmate in Denver’s downtown jail tested positive for COVID-19.

April 1, 5:10 p.m. update:

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

  • 3,342 cases*
  • 620 hospitalized
  • 50 counties
  • 18,645 people tested
  • 80 deaths
  • 17 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

April 1, 4 p.m. update:

Infection models from state officials and the University of Colorado show there may be a surge in hospitalizations from COVID-19 that will overwhelm Colorado’s health care system between April and July.

Research from the Seattle-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluations is predicting a peak on April 16. 

Gov. Jared Polis said Thursday the state’s medical surge team is working to build the capacity to meet those projections by mid-April. The state has ordered millions of additional units of personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical staff, Polis said. 

It’s unclear how much PPE is needed to meet a surge. But it’s expected there isn’t enough.

“Right now, we simply don’t have the medical capacity,” Polis said. He added, “We are also facing a supply chain crisis.”  

The goal is to increase ICU bed capacity to 5,000 by April 18, said Scott Bookman, the COVID-19 incident commander with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Colorado’s current capacity sits at about 1,800. Bookman said the state needs at least an additional 15,000 beds at all levels of care by mid-April. 

People who require hospitalization for COVID-19 may require ventilation and intensive care for 11-20 days, then may need lower levels of care after that, Bookman said.

Other than intensive care, the state has designated three other lower levels of care required as a patient’s symptoms become less severe, Bookman said. The Army Corps of Engineers is currently working to create beds at the lower levels of care. 

Patients in the second level of care will use non-emergency medical facilities, those in the third will use arenas and warehouse spaces and patients in the fourth level will use hotels and motels, Bookman said. 

“It will look similar to what you’re seeing right now in Central Park,” Bookman said, referring to the field hospitals being set up in New York City. 

April 1, 1 p.m. update:

It’s the first of the month and rent is due for many Coloradans, tens of thousands of whom are now out of work. 

Officials with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said they hope to mail unemployment checks to people within two weeks. This may be too late for the more than 60,000 Coloradans who filed for unemployment last week to use for rent. 

As for the cash payments in the $2 trillion stimulus bill, signed by President Trump last week, they may take anywhere from weeks to months to reach taxpayers, according to reporting by CBS News. 

Even if that money did get to renters before they had to pay their landlords, it still may not be enough given the cost of other bills. Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Colorado currently is about $1,050, according to Apartment List. 

As The Denver Post’s Alex Burness reported, some Coloradans are calling for a rent freeze and even a rent strike, if they don’t get relief. A new Facebook group called the Colorado Rent Strike and Eviction Defense has thousands of members and posts letters and actions from landlords and renters. A few posted letters from landlords wanting to work with people and some cited examples of new scheduled rent increases in the coming months. 

The Colorado Apartment Association has urged its members, which it says represent about 282,000 apartments, to avoid late fees and create payment plans for renters who can’t pay their bills. 

Michelle Lyng, a spokeswoman for the apartment association, said the association is asking those who can to pay rent to do so in order for landlords to offer help to tenants who cannot.

Gov. Jared Polis has urged, but not ordered, landlords to halt evictions and said he has instructed law enforcement to refrain from evicting tenants. 

For updates on COVID-19 during the month of March, visit this page.

Forest is a freelance journalist originally from Washington. He settled in Denver five years ago. In the past, he was a reporter and news editor for MSU’s student paper — The Metropolitan — and studied Arabic and journalism in Egypt. You can email him at forest@coloradoindependent.com, or follow him @foresttwilson on Twitter.
John is a contributing writer for The Colorado Independent, covering energy, environment and criminal justice. Email him at Herrick.johnny(at)gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @herrickjohnny.

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