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Colorado coronavirus latest: April 3: Some Denver roads temporarily closing

COVID-19 is in Colorado — we'll continue to post updates and headlines on how Colorado is being affected by the coronavirus.

COLORADO, USA — Cases of COVID-19, a disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus, began popping up in the United States in January. On March 5, the first case was announced in Colorado.

Each day, we will post a new blog that will track the daily changes in Denver and throughout Colorado as we get them.

RELATED: FAQs: Answering your questions on the coronavirus in Colorado

WHAT TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

  • 4,173 cases in Colorado, 823 hospitalized and 111 deaths. Get the latest from the Colorado Dept. of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE).
  • Colorado issued a statewide stay-at-home order that that began Thursday, March 26 and will be in effect until at least April 11. (Some local orders remain in place and might be more restrictive.)
  • Polis said in a Wednesday news conference that schools would be closed through at least April 30.
  • Colorado hopes to add more than 12,000 hospital beds by May as it works to prepare for a surge of COVID-19 patients, which is expected sometime between April and July.
  • Multiple Denver metro area school districts will cancel in-person class for the rest of the school year. Students will now learn remotely. 
  • RTD said it will implement rear-door boarding and suspend fees across its bus, light rail and train routes effective Sunday, April 5. 16th Street Free MallRide shuttle service will also be suspended at that time.

Read updates from April 2 here.

Friday, April 3

Governor Jared Polis appears on CNN, expresses frustration with the federal government 

Polis said states are bidding against each other for ventilators and personal protective equipment because the federal government isn't taking a leading role.

Denver closing select roads to give residents more space to walk 

The city of Denver is closing multiple streets to thru-traffic starting Saturday to give residents more space to participate in outdoor exercise while staying at least six feet apart.

Those streets are:

- East 11th Avenue from Lincoln Street to Humboldt Street in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

- Byron Place from Zenobia Street to Stuart Street, as well as Stuart Street from 24th Avenue to 21st Avenue in the Sloan’s Lake neighborhood.

- East 16th Avenue from Lincoln Street to the City Park Esplanade in the North Capitol Hill/City Park West neighborhoods.

The city is reviewing other options and may close other streets in the coming days. In a news release, Denver said this was based on neighborhoods with the greatest population densities.

It’s also worth mentioning that on the closed streets, local access is allowed – meaning people who live on the street or need to access a business there can still do so.

People in cars are urged to drive carefully.

RTD implements rear-door boarding, suspends fees

The Regional Transportation District (RTD) is implementing rear-door boarding, suspending all bus, light rail and train fares and halting 16th Street Mall shuttle service effective Sunday, April 5.

"Rear-door boarding provides for distance between operators and the public, mitigating known circumstances of infection – namely, close proximity to those who might be infected," RTD said in a news release. 

Beginning at the start of the service day on Sunday and until further notice: 

  • RTD will switch to rear-door boarding and exiting on most buses, which provides another layer of social distancing between operators and riders. Passengers with disabilities should continue to board RTD vehicles at the front, where a wheelchair lift is available, if needed. RTD’s over-the-road coaches used on Regional routes have front doors only. So, those passengers will still board and deboard from the front. 
  • Fare collection will be suspended on all buses and trains across the RTD system. The agency is working through processes for refunds and exchanges on applicable fare products.
  • Service will be suspended on two downtown Denver bus routes, the 16thStreet Free MallRide and Free MetroRide, which have experienced low ridership. 
  • RTD will move as many of the MallRide buses as possible to regular routes, to take advantage of the ability of these buses to offer multiple-door boarding and exiting. In addition, drivers on MallRide buses work in an enclosed compartment that provides separation from passengers. 

“It’s important that we be strategic and practical in our operational changes, not reactionary, so our team will continue to monitor information as it emerges, be nimble and make decisions that we deem to be the most prudent and responsible," said RTD Interim General Manager and CEO Paul Ballard.

RTD has been monitoring passenger loads on its bus and rail services. Bus operators seeing larger crowds forming along their route have been asked to call bus dispatch, so that additional buses can be deployed as they are available.  

RTD also asks that the public use judgment in deciding whether to board vehicles, depending upon the number of passengers already on them. The agency is installing signage on buses and trains asking riders to respect social distancing, which is everyone’s responsibility. 

Polis says Coloradans need to wear a face covering when out in public

Polis has recommended that all Coloradans wear non-medical face coverings when they leave their homes for non-essential activities through the reminder of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This should be part of everybody’s personal hygiene practices and distancing practices,” Polis said during a news conference on Friday afternoon.

The governor emphasized that this encompasses non-medical face masks – not the personal protective equipment used by the professionals who are fighting the virus in hospitals and other facilities.

RELATED: Gov. Polis asks Coloradans to wear face coverings when out in public

Colorado distributes third allotment of PPEs from national stockpile 

Colorado has received its third allotment of personal protective equipment for medical workers from the National Strategic Stockpile.

That’s according to a news release from the Colorado State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

The supplies distributed include:

  • 122,490 N95 masks
  • 287,022 surgical masks
  • 56,160 face shields
  • 57,300 surgical gowns
  • 392,000 gloves
  • 3,636 coveralls

Colorado has received a total of the following materials from all three allotments:

  • 220,010 N95 masks
  • 517,000 surgical masks
  • 100,232 face shields
  • 100,140 surgical gowns
  • 504,000 gloves
  • 3,816 coveralls

These are allocated to Colorado’s counties based on population, the portion of its inhabitants older than 65, the number of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospitals, and if the county or tribe has received supplies previously.

Multiple metro-area districts cancel in-person classes for the rest of the school year 

Multiple Denver-area school districts announced Friday that they will not be returning for in-person classes for the rest of the school year. 

This includes Denver Public Schools, Jeffco Schools and Westminster Public Schools.

A joint announcement also revealed that 27J, Adams 12, Adams 14, Aurora, Cherry Creek, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas County, Englewood, Jeffco, Littleton, Mapleton and Westminster were also switching to remote learning for the semester. 

Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) had previously asked that schools stay closed until April. 

Poudre Schools in northern Colorado announced that it would move to remote learning for the rest of the school year on Thursday evening. 

CSU pursuing COVID-19 vaccine that contains bacteria found in yogurt 

Colorado State University researchers are exploring the efficacy of a COVID-19 vaccine that contains lactobacillus acidophilus – better known as the bacteria found in yogurt and other gut-health touting foods.

Researchers claim this bacteria thrives in the very part of the body that COVID-19 tries to invade: the mucous membrane. The CSU team is hoping that Lactobacillus acidophilus can prevent the new coronavirus from breaking into cells, potentially avoiding the deadly respiratory disease, according to a news release from the university.

The researcher leading this team – Gregg Dean with CSU’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology – pivoted the work he was doing after receiving a $3.5 million grant to focus on battling the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Previously, Dean – a veterinarian – was studying the coronavirus’ impact on cats.

“Coronaviruses are ubiquitous. Many species acquire them, so they’ve been a veterinary concern for decades,” Dean said in a news release. “The feline coronavirus is quite similar to the COVID-19 virus currently affecting humans in how it enters into a population and how you have this range of illness from nothing to very devastating.

“There have been numerous attempts to develop a vaccine against feline coronavirus, and they have not worked. But during the course of that research, we’ve learned a lot, and that has led us to this strategy for a human vaccine.”

Another CSU team is investigating a separate vaccine strategy to battle COVID-19. This one uses ultraviolet light and vitamin B2.

Though plenty of research are being done, according to the news release, it will likely take 18 months before a vaccine enters the market due to the required testing and clinical trials.

“Even when vaccines don’t enter the market, we are generating new knowledge that may be applied to other merging infectious diseases,” Dean said.

The bacteria-based vaccine Dean’s team is working on can be delivered in the form of a capsule. In the release, he said it could have benefits against other emerging coronaviruses.

Furry Scurry goes virtual

The Furry Scurry — the Dumb Friends League's annual fundraising event — will be conducted virtually on May 2.

Animal lovers can participate by doing things like taking a walk around the block or outdoors or jogging on a treadmill. On event-day, Saturday, May 2, participants will be encouraged to take part in interactive contests and engage with the Dumb Friends League through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter by sharing photos and videos of their virtual walks.

Registration is $45 for adults and $25 for children ages 12 and younger. Registered participants will receive a T-shirt, printable bib, access to a virtual marketplace with exclusive offers from sponsors and vendors and access to a post-event party where participants can pick up their T-shirts and fundraising incentives and celebrate Furry Scurry on a future date once people can safely gather.

“Animals need us now more than ever,” said Dr. Apryl Steele, president and CEO of the Dumb Friends League. “We have been a safety net for than a million pets since 1910, and we take this responsibility seriously, especially during these challenging times.”

Visit furryscurry.org to register or to learn more about the event.

Polis issues guidance for local elections

Gov.Jared Polis (D-Colorado) issued guidance for local elections in more than 100 municipal elections being held in Colorado on April 7.

Polis issued the following guidance to local municipalities in conjunction with the Colorado Municipal League(CML):

  • Encourage absentee method of voting where possible.
  • Follow the issued social distancing guidance.
  • Encouraging early voting and voting during off-peak hours, where voter crowds may be smaller throughout the day.
  • Offer drive-up voting or ballot drop off for eligible voters.
  • Consult guidance provided by CML and local health agencies regarding how to safely conduct municipal elections.

“We want to ensure that Coloradans across our state are able to participate in their local elections and that this pandemic does not impact our democratic process,” Polis said. “It’s critical that Coloradans stay home during this time to the extent they can, but it’s also critical that they exercise their right to vote in all elections whether it’s for your fire district, electric coop, or town. Clerks have been working hard preparing for these elections, and we want to support them and hold them accountable for making sure Coloradans can safely exercise our right to vote."

Coronavirus cases in Colorado

In Colorado, 4,173 people have tested positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and 111 people have died. Of those who tested positive for the disease, 823 have been hospitalized.

According to CDPHE, 22,071 people have been tested and 53 counties are reporting cases. There have been 27 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities.

See the latest numbers from the state health department.

  • Denver: 716
  • Arapahoe: 500
  • Jefferson: 440
  • Weld: 379
  • El Paso: 374
  • Eagle: 333
  • Adams: 294
  • Douglas: 194
  • Boulder: 143
  • Larimer: 134
  • Gunnison: 88
  • Garfield: 45
  • Pitkin: 38
  • Broomfield: 36
  • Summit: 35
  • Pueblo: 31
  • Routt: 28
  • Montrose: 26
  • La Plata: 25
  • Mesa: 20
  • Chaffee: 19
  • Teller: 11
  • San Miguel: 9
  • Baca: 9
  • Logan: 7
  • Morgan: 7
  • Clear Creek: 6
  • Elbert: 6
  • Rio Grande: 5
  • Park: 5
  • Grand: 4
  • Kit Carson: 4
  • Alamosa: 4
  • Delta: 4
  • Moffat: 3
  • Otero: 3
  • Montezuma: 3
  • Saguache: 3
  • Costilla: 3
  • Lake: 3
  • Yuma: 2
  • Fremont: 2
  • Mineral: 2
  • Phillips: 2
  • Custer: 2
  • Rio Blanco: 1
  • Archuleta: 1
  • Las Animas: 1
  • Hinsdale: 1
  • Huerfano: 1
  • Crowley: 1
  • Washington: 1
  • Lincoln: 1
  • Unknown or pending: 158

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a virus that first appeared in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and breathing trouble. Most patients develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.

RELATED: What you can and can't do under Colorado's stay-at-home order

RELATED: FAQ: Dr. Kohli answers your questions about the coronavirus

To help prevent the spread, people should:

  • Wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home when they are sick.
  • Cover their cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

If you are feeling ill with symptoms similar to those associated with COVID-19 the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE) recommends the following:

  • Manage your symptoms at home the same way you manage other cold symptoms. To the extent possible, people with flu-like symptoms should remain at home.
  • If you need medical care, contact your primary care provider and schedule a visit. Let them know that you are concerned you might have COVID-19.
  • Only contact 911 for emergencies requiring immediate life-saving care and let them know if you are concerned you might have COVID-19.
  • Restrict visits to the hospital emergency room or urgent care — only individuals needing immediate care should visit these facilities. If you must visit an ER or urgent care facility, call ahead and let them know that you are concerned you might have COVID-19.

RELATED: Data show which communities COVID-19 is impacting most in Colorado

CDC's testing guidance includes three types of people:

  1. Those who have symptoms such as fever OR lower respiratory symptoms (cough or shortness of breath) and have had "close contact" with a confirmed coronavirus patient within 14 days of their first symptoms.
  2. Those who have fever AND/OR lower respiratory symptoms, require hospitalization and have traveled to areas impacted by the epidemic in the last 14 days.
  3. Patients with fever and severe, acute lower respiratory symptoms who require hospitalization, and for whom no other diagnosis has been found — such as the flu. No travel or contact exposure is needed.

DDPHE said it's working with city leadership to ensure that public health and safety measures are ready to be implemented in the event of a local outbreak with community transmission.

Those measures could include limiting large gatherings and encouraging employers to allow employees to work from home whenever possible.  

Members of the public with general questions can call CO HELP at 1-877-462-2911 to be connected with a local public health representative. They can also visit denvergov.org/dphe.

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