It’s been hard to keep up with the rapid outbreak of COVID-19 in Colorado. The past week has brought with it sobering headlines about the severity of coronavirus and the many, many ways Coloradans are being impacted—at school, in business, at home, and beyond. As new information is released daily and the pandemic touches all of our lives, there’s a lot to keep straight.
Here, we rounded up the most significant coronavirus developments from the last few days:
Colorado’s first coronavirus death
Over the weekend, Colorado reached 131 positive cases of coronavirus, and on Friday, the state saw its first fatality. An El Paso County woman in her 80s died in a Colorado Springs hospital. Her identity has not been released, though it appears she had underlying health issues in addition to coronavirus. Previously, positive test results found by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) were considered “presumptive” until confirmed by the CDC, but that requirement is no longer in place, meaning that if a person tests positive locally, they’re confirmed as having COVID-19.
The ski season might be over
One of the more dramatic coronavirus-related announcements came on Saturday when Colorado ski areas shut down until further notice. First, Vail Resorts announced they would close all North American resorts until March 22. Shortly after, resorts across the state (including those owned by Alterra Mountain Co.) followed suit. Then, on Saturday night, Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order closing all ski areas across the state for one week, though some smaller ski areas are not happy with the news. It’s unclear now if the resorts will open before the end of the ski season.
Additionally, on Sunday, the CDPHE issued an advisement that anyone who resides in Summit, Eagle, Gunnison, or Pitkin counties or visited those areas in the last week minimize their contact with other people in order to prevent the spread of the virus, even if they are not experiencing symptoms. Community spread has been occurring in Colorado’s mountain communities for almost a week, according to Gov. Polis, and these areas of the state are likely to be hit hard due to a lack of resources, the high altitude, and the vast amount of visitors.
No more gatherings over 50 people
Gov. Polis offered his most serious recommendation regarding social distancing during his daily briefing on Friday (you can find those and follow his updates here). He urged all gatherings of more than 250 people be canceled or postponed until further notice. His recommendation came after Post Malone chose not to cancel his concert at the Pepsi Center on Thursday night despite the fact that Mayor Michael Hancock issued an emergency declaration earlier that morning. Then on Sunday night, the CDPHE went a step further by recommending that all gatherings of more than 50 people should be postponed or canceled for the next eight weeks—a decision that follows updated CDC guidelines.
The legislative session is on hold
On Friday morning, Democrats and Republicans in Colorado’s General Assembly came together and voted to suspend the legislative session for at least two weeks. When state leaders do reconvene, they will have plenty of work on their agenda. One of the biggest priorities will be establishing a state budget for the coming fiscal year. Several major bills, including one to establish paid family leave, also hang in the balance.
Grocery stores are trying to keep pace
Supermarkets across the state have been overwhelmed as people prep for an extended period of social distancing. Some provisions like paper towels, hand sanitizer, and—of course—toiler paper, have already disappeared from shelves. In order to provide more opportunity restock, some grocery stores are adjusting their hours. In Colorado, King Soopers announced Saturday that all stores would now be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m., rather than 5 a.m. to midnight, until further notice. And on Sunday, the grocery chain announced that one of its Denver employees had tested positive for the virus, outlining the risk posed to workers as Coloradans continue to flood grocery stores.
Healthcare workers brace for impact
Among those feeling the most impact—with little relief—are Coloradans who work as medical professionals. Nurses, doctors, and others across the state are gearing up for many more cases of coronavirus (in addition to the daily amount of standard care), a shortage of hospital beds, and a workforce being exposed to COVID-19. To shore up the state’s medical systems, Gov. Polis instituted a list of orders on Friday, including expediting state licensure for medical professionals who are licensed in other states and are permanently or temporarily residing in Colorado, calling on medical professionals who are retired or in other industries to help with the crisis, and enlisting the National Guard to assist with testing and community response. On Saturday, the National Guard staffed Denver’s drive-up testing lab, which reopened at the Denver Coliseum after being closed on Friday due to weather. The lab experienced such high demand that officials had to cut off the line after 200 cars. More drive-up testing sites are expected to open in the coming weeks.
Colorado schools are closed
Last week, school districts across the state announced they would close until at least early April, and about two-thirds of all Colorado students are now out of the classroom. For a complete list of all Colorado school closures, Chalkbeat is keeping an updated count here.
National news stories you might’ve missed
On Friday, President Trump declared a national emergency, a move that frees up $50 billion in federal resources to combat the pandemic, which has so far infected more than 3,000 people in the U.S. (that we know of; testing is still delayed) and killed 62. In the early hours of Saturday morning, the Democratic-led House passed an economic relief bill that allocated funds to support a number of measures, including family medical leave and paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, free coronavirus testing, and more. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill early this week, and Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Trump both urged lawmakers to support it.
On Saturday night, airports across the country reported chaos as travelers rushed to return from Europe and other international destinations in light of Trump’s travel bans. In Chicago, Dallas, and New York, the confusion caused large crowds to wait in line for hours to clear customs and undergo newly implemented health screenings.
Meanwhile, over the weekend, citizens seemed to struggle with the idea of social distancing, as large gatherings were reported in cities across the U.S. On Saturday in Chicago, many St. Patrick’s Day celebrations went on as planned. And in New York City, where the pressure has been on Mayor Bill de Blasio to enact more restrictions to keep residents in their homes, people were pictured at bars and restaurants throughout the five boroughs. On Sunday, the mayor ordered all bars and restaurants in NYC to close for dining in.
In case you were still wondering why social distancing is so important, these simulations by the Washington Post explain it better than we ever could. So please, stay home if you can, wash your hands, and take care of yourselves—and one another.