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Colorado coronavirus latest, April 16: Denver Public Schools change grading policy for 9-12 graders

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

> Click here to read updates from April 15.

Wednesday, April 16

Denver Public Schools changes spring grading policy for grades 9-12

Denver Public Schools (DPS) announced changes to its spring grading policy for grades 9-12.  

DPS said students will now start with grades earned as of April 6, the day before remote learning began. A news release from the school district stated, "those grades will be the lowest grades students can get. Students can improve their grades, but grades will not be lowered as long as a student continues to engage in schoolwork following their school’s remote learning plan."

DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova said they want to honor the work that students completed before remote learning began and also give them opportunities to improve their grades.

The district was originally going to move to a credit/no credit model for grades. The decision to change came after the district said they listened to public feedback and recommendations from national assessment experts.

The district said students can work with their school officials to request a change to a credit/no credit grade based on a timeline determined by the school, even after their letter grade is known. 

For this semester, all failing grades will show as “no credit." Students will have the opportunity to improve a “no credit” at a later time.

District officials said guidance for grade levels other than 9-12 will come at a later date.

COVID-19 cases in Colorado

In Colorado, 8,675 people have tested positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and 374 people have died. Of those who tested positive for the disease, 1,693 have been hospitalized.

According to CDPHE, 41,830 people have been tested and 56 counties are reporting cases. There have been 93 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities.

Colorado jury trials suspended until June 1

Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Ben Coats has extended a previous suspension on jury trials. 

Those now won't start until at least June 1, 2020, according to the spokesman for Colorado Courts. 

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office to administer COVID-19 rapid response tests to public safety personnel 

At least 250 employees with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and the local public safety community have received rapid-response COVID-19 tests, a news release from the agency says.

Of those employees, 209 are sheriff’s office employees. Twenty of them tested presumptive positive for the novel coronavirus – including 12 detention deputies.

The sheriff’s office said coworkers and inmates who had contact with these deputies have been placed on a 14-day symptom watch.

In addition, eight inmates are in isolation and eight are in quarantine due to potential COVID-19 exposure while outside of Jeffco’s jail.

The tests are being performed on-site at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office via drive-thru. These provide results in 10 minutes, deputies said, and are 90% accurate.

Great Sand Dunes to close until further notice 

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve will close until further notice beginning at midnight on Friday.

This closure includes all public access points, park roads and the backcountry. The park said this is due to increased visitation and the potential that it could increase the spread of COVID-19.

Rocky Mountain National Park closed last month due to the same problem. Open spaces and parks across the state have reported an influx of visitors despite a stay-at-home order.

The Great Sand Dunes said it will post a reopening date on its website and social media channels.

Funding for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) exhausted

As of Thursday morning, the initial allotment of $349 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has been exhausted, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA).

The SBA said it will be unable to accept new applications until Congress appropriates additional funding. In the past 14 days, SBA has processed more loans than it had previously done the past 14 years.

RELATED: Small business in Longmont struggling to get PPP loan

Colorado Department of Corrections releases updated information about response to COVID-19 ‘

The Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) distributed a news release Thursday detailing how it has adapted to the novel coronavirus pandemic and continued to change its policies.

This includes taking the temperatures of staff before they enter any facilities as well as requiring them to wear masks, and isolating inmates who test positive for COVID-19 from the rest of the population. As of this writing, the agency said three inmates have tested positive for the virus out of the 27 symptomatic prisoners who received tests.

Eight staff members have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. 

As of Thursday, CDOC said it has also increased its social distancing guidelines to limit the number of people in common areas, and stopped communal programs.

Inmates will still be able to participate in recreation programs, but in smaller groups, according to the release.  

Earlier, the CDOC implemented a temporary moratorium on receiving new inmates from county jails. The Centennial Correction Facility South in Canon City has become a temporary inmate facility for new inmates, and they will be quarantined there for up to 14 days to ensure they do not have COVID-19.

Despite the moratorium, the CDOC said it will work with county jails on a case-by-case basis to accept inmates in the event of overcrowding.

In-person visits have also been suspended at Colorado’s jails, and the department is working to roll out video visitation.

The department said it is also providing inmates with two free bars of soap per week and increasing its cleaning and disinfecting efforts.  

In addition to changes at jails, the CDOC said it has suspended arrests of parolees for low-level violations such as not being able to find a job or home.

Adams County creates COVID-19 Short-Term Rental and Mortgage Assistance Relief Fund

Adams County announced Thursday that it partnered with Maiker Housing Partners to create the Adams County COVID-19 Short-Term Rental and Mortgage Assistance Relief Fund. 

The fund will provide emergency, short-term rental and mortgage assistance to households that are most vulnerable to eviction or foreclosure due to the likelihood of having little savings, suffering loss or reduction of employment, or experiencing housing instability or incurring insurmountable debt due to unpaid rent or mortgage.

The funds will be administered by Maiker Housing Partners. Applications for the fund will be accepted through their website.

> Click/tap here to find out more about the program.

The initial $300,000 in grant funding was made possible by the Adams County Foundation. Adams County is working with other community partners to secure additional funding. 

More than 104,000 unemployment claims last week in Colorado

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) announced Thursday that there were 104,217 initial unemployment claims filed the week ending April 11.

That is at least 55,000 more than the week prior (week ending April 4). Over the past four weeks, 231,610 initial claims have been filed, according to CDLE.

The agency also released the following statistics:

  • Online payment requests made since March 16: 150,000+
  • Benefits paid for the week ending April 11: $62.0 Million
  • Benefits paid for the week ending April 4: $29.8 Million
  • Average 2020 weekly benefits paid for weeks prior: $8.7 Million

RTD announces service changes due to decreased ridership

Bus, rail, and special services in the Denver metro area will be reduced beginning on Sunday, April 19, the Regional Transportation District (RTD) announced.

RTD said a 40% reduction to weekend-levels of service on weekdays was approved by the Board of Directors to account for a significant drop in riders due to COVID-19, and may remain in effect through September 20..

RTD said it will continue to monitor ridership and service needs, and will reinstate service across its system based on demand.

Service will be restored to levels outlined in a package of changes approved by the Board of Directors in March when deemed appropriate.

RTD said social distancing continues to be important, and will continue to limit the number of riders to about 15 per bus, 20 on larger buses, and 30 on rail cars. If necessary, RTD said buses will bypass stops if limits are reached and buses will be added to the most popular areas.

You can find a complete list of service changes on RTD's website by clicking here.

RELATED: New RTD service reduction plan keeps more bus routes open

National Jewish Health to expand COVID-19 testing

National Jewish Health is offering expanded drive-through COVID-19 testing starting Thursday, April 16.

Patients who pre-register and have a physician referral will be eligible for drive-through testing at National Jewish Health.

For an appointment at the expanded drive-through testing, patients need to have a referral order from their physician (form available here). Once the order form has been received, the National Jewish Health scheduling team will contact the patient and offer a two-hour time period for drive-through testing at the National Jewish Health Harrison Street parking lot between 13th and 14th Avenues. Results from the test will be available within 24 hours.

Amazon hiring 1,000 more Colorado workers

Amazon has announced 1,000 more job openings in Colorado.

The company says the openings are part of a national hiring initiative to employ an additional 75,000 people on top of the 100,000 new associates that have been hired in the last four weeks.

In Colorado, Amazon has hired more than 3,600 employees over the past few weeks and plans to hire an additional 1,000 people.

Interested candidates can apply at amazon.com/jobsnow.

RTD trains to 'Sound the Horn' Thursday

The Regional Transportation District (RTD) will participate in a national “Sound the Horn” campaign on Thursday, April 16.

During the campaign, which aims to demonstrate gratitude for transit workers across the Denver region and the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic, RTD light rail and commuter rail trains will emit two one-second horn blasts at 1 p.m. Thursday.

RTD says public transit remains a vital lifeline for thousands of riders, including essential workers in health care, public safety, food production and distribution, utilities and government operations.

RELATED: RTD trains to ‘Sound the Horn’ Thursday in honor of transit workers

Coronavirus cases in Colorado

In Colorado, 8,675 people have tested positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and 374 people have died. Of those who tested positive for the disease, 1,693 have been hospitalized.

According to CDPHE, 41,830 people have been tested and 56 counties are reporting cases. There have been 93 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities.

See the latest numbers from the state health department.

  • Denver: 1,549
  • Arapahoe: 1,342
  • Jefferson: 860
  • Weld: 960
  • Adams: 805
  • El Paso: 689
  • Eagle: 479
  • Douglas: 329
  • Boulder: 312
  • Larimer: 217
  • Gunnison: 111
  • Broomfield: 95
  • Summit: 77
  • Morgan: 122
  • Pueblo: 72
  • Montrose: 69
  • Garfield: 64
  • Pitkin: 51
  • La Plata: 47
  • Routt: 43
  • Mesa: 34
  • Chaffee: 35
  • Teller: 17
  • Elbert: 17
  • Logan: 17
  • San Miguel: 12
  • Montezuma: 13
  • Clear Creek: 11
  • Baca: 10
  • Kit Carson: 13
  • Alamosa: 7
  • Fremont: 9
  • Park: 6
  • Archuleta: 6
  • Delta: 13
  • Rio Grande: 7
  • Otero: 5
  • Lake: 8
  • Grand: 4
  • Ouray: 4
  • Phillips: 4
  • Moffat: 3
  • Saguache: 3
  • Costilla: 3
  • Washington: 5
  • Las Animas: 3
  • Yuma: 2
  • Mineral: 2
  • Custer: 2
  • Rio Blanco: 1
  • Hinsdale: 3
  • Huerfano: 1
  • Crowley: 2
  • Lincoln: 2
  • Unknown or pending:111

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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