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Colorado coronavirus latest May 21: Fremont County receives variance to reopen certain businesses

Restaurants will still be encouraged to do takeout and delivery, but can weigh dine-in service at 30% capacity.

COLORADO, USA — Fremont County is the latest in Colorado to receive a variance from the state to reopen certain businesses, including fitness facilities and restaurants. 

Ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, Colorado swim beaches will remain closed due to social distancing concerns. 

Two detainees at the ICE/GEO facility in Aurora have tested positive for COVID-19.

These are the first positive cases of coronavirus among detainees at the facility, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In additional, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) announced Thursday that there were 17,825 initial regular unemployment claims filed for the week ending May 16, compared to 22,483 the week before.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Gov. Jared Polis announced a new, drive-up COVID-19 testing site that's opening in Denver. The city said testing will be done on a large scale level and will be free of charge.

RELATED: Free, large-scale COVID-19 testing site to open in Denver

And Vail Resorts released plans for beginning a phased reopening of its resorts for summer operations at the end of June or early July.

Those are among the coronavirus updates for the state on Thursday. More details are below, and we'll continue to post information as it comes in throughout the day.

> Watch the video above to see the latest COVID-19 updates for May 21. 


  • 23,191 cases, up from 22,797 the day prior. 
  • 4,037 hospitalized, up from 3,990 the day prior.
  • 1,310 deaths among those who tested positive for COVID-19, up from 1,299 the day prior.
  • 1,062 deaths due to COVID-19, up from 1,001 the day prior.
  • Get the latest data from the Colorado Dept. of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE).
  • On Monday, April 27, Colorado transitioned to a "safer-at-home" order.
  • Vail Resorts announced a phased reopening for summer operations -- slated for late June or early July.
  • Two ICE detainees at the Aurora GEO facility tested positive for COVID-19.

Click/tap here to read updates from May 20.

Gilpin County announces additional road closures

After seeing an increase in visitors, Gilpin County said they will be closing additional roads to non-residents. 

The new travel restrictions are for: 

  • Tolland
  • Apex Valley
  • Columbine Campground
  • Missouri Gulch
  • Bald Mountain Lane

In a release, the Gilpin County Board of Health said it "feels this is necessary as the number of visitors parking and gathering on these roads has risen tremendously since most of the state adopted the Governor’s “Safer at Home” order."

Recreation is allowed in the county for anyone who is traveling no more than 10 miles from their home.

Fremont County receives variance to reopen certain businesses

Fremont County is the latest in Colorado to receive a variance to reopen certain businesses ahead of a statewide order. 

This will allow restaurants to reopen for dine-in service, as well as fitness centers and outfitters to begin operating again, albeit with strict social distancing measures. 

Here's a look at specific guidelines from 9NEWS partner KRDO: 

Swim beaches will be closed over Memorial Day holiday

Following widely-circulated photos showing crowds gathered at Cherry Creek State Park, swim beaches throughout the state will remain closed due to social distancing concerns during the holiday weekend. 

Here's a list of swim beaches that will remain closed until further notice: 

  • Boyd Lake State Park
  • Chatfield State Park
  • Cherry Creek State Park
  • Elkhead Reservoir State Park
  • Highline Lake State Park
  • James M. Robb - Island Acres
  • John Martin Reservoir State Park
  • Lake Pueblo State Park
  • Lathrop State Park
  • North Sterling State Park
  • Ridgway State Park
  • Stagecoach State Park
  • Steamboat Lake State Park

CSU to begin testing asymptomatic health care workers and nursing home residents

Colorado State University (CSU) said it will begin testing health care workers and nursing home residents who aren't showing COVID-19 symptoms by September.

In a partnership with CDPHE, CSU said it will begin conducting COVID-19 surveillance testing of workers and residents in up to 30 skilled nursing facilities.  

The university said the tests will provide an early warning system for public health officials and managers at long-term care facilities. This will help prevent outbreaks, monitor the risk of exposure for residents and help recovered workers return to work, according to a news release from CSU announcing the testing.

CSU said it will receive $4.2 million as part of this agreement. According to the news release, a majority of the funding will go to the testing of asymptomatic workers, with their consent, using nasopharyngeal swabs. CSU said it will work with state officials to identify the facilities with highest priority for surveillance testing.  

Two ICE detainees test positive

Two detainees at the ICE/GEO facility in Aurora have tested positive for COVID-19.

These are the first positive cases of coronavirus among detainees at the facility, according to ICE. An ICE spokesperson said one detainee is 57 years old and from Mexico, and the other is a 35-year-old from El Salvador. 

Two employees at the Aurora facility tested positive for COVID-19 in March.

Vail Resorts to begin phased reopening by late Jane or early July

A letter from CEO Rob Katz says Vail Resorts intends to begin summer operations through a phased reopening all the company's resorts by late June or early July.

That includes its resorts in: 

  • Breckenridge
  • Beaver Creek
  • Vail
  • Keystone  
  • Crested Butte. 

Katz said the resort will also open lodging and retail to guests at that time.

The letter outlines the resort's coming plans:

Spring skiing

"We have decided not to reopen Breckenridge for late spring skiing this season. While it’s possible that certain local restrictions might be lifted for ski resorts in June, the more we looked at it, the more we did not think it was the right timing to reopen. We know there would be tremendous enthusiasm to get back on snow one last time. But we also know that enthusiasm would carry its own impacts, on us and on others – something we think will be more manageable for everybody in July, at which point we want those resorts fully focused on their new approach to summer operations."

Operational details:

"In the coming weeks, each of our resorts will have more details to share around specific operation plans. We anticipate that activities will likely be more limited than in years past.

"We have a very complex company with many different businesses from restaurants to lift operations, hotels to golf courses, retail stores to wedding venues, fly fishing to transportation. To ensure we reopen safely, we cannot open everything all at once. We are reviewing the unique nature of each operation and business and will proceed to open each one on its own timetable."


"All of our communities are beginning the process of setting out timelines and guidelines for gradually reopening. We will strictly follow all applicable local laws and regulations relating to COVID-19. But for Vail Resorts, that’s just where safety begins. Because of the risk inherent in skiing and riding, the safety of our guests and each other has always been critical for us.

"Prioritizing employee safety is the absolute first step to deliver on our mission of Experience of a Lifetime. We also need to earn the trust of our guests. We will need to re-imagine different parts of the guest experience to ensure they are safe, while always protecting what makes them so special.

"We intend to take our time to reopen, and we acknowledge that we may be slower to open than others. Our goal is not to win the race to reopen, it’s to look back one day with great pride in our track record on safety. Before we reopen, we want to make sure we have taken the time to truly understand what changes are needed in our operations, processes, equipment and trainings."

Read the full letter here.

More than 25,000 unemployment claims filed in Colorado last week

25,458 unemployment claims were filed in Colorado during the week ending May 16, compared to 22,483 the week before. 

In addition, the CDLE said there were 7,633 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) initial unemployment claims between May 10 and May 16. 

Over the past nine weeks a total of 405,800 regular unemployment initial claims have been filed and a grand total of 476,613 claims including federal PUA benefits

This is the fifth week in a row of gradual declines in regular unemployment claims, the CDLE said.

Top 5 industries with highest claims:

  1. Accommodation and Food Services: 4,008 
  2. Retail Trade: 2,811 
  3. Healthcare and Social Service: 2,288   
  4. Administrative and Support and
    Waste Management and Remediation Services: 1,666  
  5. Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation: 1,550 

Benefits paid (regular UI)

  • Week ending May 16: 88.8 million 
  • Week ending May 9: $96.0 million 
  • Week ending May 2: $84.8 million
  • Week ending April 25: $86.1 million
  • Week ending April 18: $74.1 million
  • Week ending April 11: $62.0 million
  • Week ending April 4: $29.8 million
  • Average 2020 weekly benefits paid for weeks prior: $8.7 million

Denver announces free, large-scale testing site for COVID-19

Mayor Michael Hancock and Governor Jared Polis, city leaders and regional partners will provided an update Thursday on a new drive-up COVID-19 testing site set to open at the Pepsi Center parking lot on Friday. 

The site will be free and available to anyone with symptoms. The site will initially test 500 people per day, but that number could increase to 1,000. 

To register, visit www.denvergov.org. The testing is not just limited to Denver residents. 

Coronavirus cases in Colorado

CDPHE on May 15 changed the way it was reporting data in two ways:

  • The number of deaths among people with COVID-19. This represents the total number of deaths reported among people who have COVID-19, but COVID-19 may not have been the cause of death listed on the death certificate. This information is required by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is crucial for public health surveillance, as it provides more information about disease transmission and can help identify risk factors among all deaths across populations.
  • The number of deaths among people who died from COVID-19: This represents the total number of people whose death was attributed to COVID-19 as indicated on a death certificate. This number is determined by the CDC and is updated daily for dates through the previous Saturday.

In Colorado, CDPHE reports 22,797 people have tested positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, up from 22,482 the day prior.


CDPHE reports:

  • 1,310 deaths among people with COVID-19
  • 1,062 deaths due to COVID-19

The day prior, 1,299 people had died, 1001 from COVID-19

The majority of deaths — 55% — are among people over age 80; 23% of deaths occurred in people between ages 70-79 and 13% were in people ages 60-69.

The graph below shows the total number of people in Colorado who have died after a COVID-19 diagnosis, since the first death happened on March 13.


Of those who tested positive for the disease, 3,990 hospitalizations have been reported, up from 4,037 the day prior.

As of 5:55 p.m. on May 21, 445 patients were hospitalized with the disease, according to the most recent data from the Colorado Hospital Association. Within the last 24 hours, 54 patients have been transferred or discharged.

Note: 89% of facilities reported data on May 21.

This graph below shows the number of people currently hospitalized with a COVID-19 diagnosis and the number of people who have been discharged within 24 hours. This is a key metric because it can be an indicator of whether or not Colorado’s hospital system is being overwhelmed by the virus.


According to CDPHE, 139,937 people have been tested, up from 135,611 the day prior, and 60 counties are reporting cases, the same number as the day before. 

This graph below shows the number of tests the state processed in a day. This is another key metric because the state’s ability to reopen will depend on the number of tests Colorado can run each day. As testing improves, the number of cases will rise because the more tests that are conducted, the more cases will be found.

Positivity is the number of tests that come back with a COVID-19 result. Above 10% could be an indicator that not enough testing is being done and that only people likely to have COVID are getting tested.

Please note that there may be a lull or spike in reported case data due to how it's reported. CDPHE data changes as labs, hospitals, facilities and local agencies report their own data. For example, a spike in the number of deaths does not necessarily mean that many more people died within 24 hours, but rather is indicative of when the data is entered into the system. New data is released daily at 4 p.m.

> See the latest numbers from the state health department.

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: The specifics of each Colorado county's safer-at-home orders

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