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Colorado coronavirus latest: March 19-22: Colorado COVID-19 death toll up to 7

COVID-19, a new form of coronavirus, is in Colorado. We'll post updates here as we get them.

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

Every few days, 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

RELATED: Advice from a doctor: Coronavirus do's and don'ts

WHAT TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

  • 591 cases in Colorado, 58 hospitalized and 7 deaths. Get the latest from CDPHE.
  • Gov. Polis ordered all non-critical places of employment to reduce in-person workforce by at least 50%.
  • 6 residents of an El Paso County senior living facility have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park has closed due to the virus.
  • Colorado launched the Help Colorado Now effort where Coloradans can donate or volunteer, as well as the Colorado COVID Relief Fund, which has already raised nearly $3 million to help Coloradans impacted by the coronavirus.
  • CHA said Colorado hospitals have moved from a mitigation response to a surge response. This means that hospitals have seen a marked increase in the number of patients presenting with respiratory illness who need hospitalization and further testing.
  • Health authorities are setting up drive-up testing locations in other parts of Colorado. The latest round of tests was at the Chaffee County Fairgrounds. 
  • 26,000 unemployment claims were filed in the last week.

SUNDAY, March 22

Gov. Polis: New orders for non-critical businesses; new state task force

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced new orders for non-critical businesses in the state as well as a new state task force to combat the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. 

Polis ordered all non-critical places of employment to reduce in-person workforce by 50% at the minimum. He said employers can do this by allowing people to work from home or stagger schedules to limit the number of people in the workplace at a time.

Polis also announced the Innovation Response Team (IRT) Task Force for the state and named four immediate goals: 

  • Statewide system for mass testing and results
  • Mobile technology to track illness
  • Create a suite of service for people under isolation or quarantine (internet access, food delivery, etc.)
  • Secure supplies and personal protective equipment to keep health care workers safe

Weld County reports second COVID-19 death, Colorado's seventh death

A woman in her 70s is the second Weld County resident to die from COVID-19, Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment (WCDPHE) announced.

Investigators are working on identifying anyone who has been in contact with the victim, officials said.

“As of Sunday evening, the current totals of COVID-19 positive cases in Weld County is 48,” said Mark E. Wallace, MD MPH, Executive Director of the Health Department. “We expected an increase as the state lab continues to clear a backlog of test results.”

The woman is Colorado's seventh known victim to die from COVID-19.

Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse closes

The Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse in Denver will be closed March 23-24 while the courthouse is sanitized after an attorney, who appeared in multiple courtrooms last week, tested positive for COVID19. 

Criminal dockets are suspended this week, and the courthouse is working to implement virtual courtrooms moving forward.

Unemployment claims continue to rise

In the last week alone, 26,000 people filed unemployment claims, the Dept. of Labor said on Sunday. 

RELATED: Answering your questions about filing for unemployment during COVID-19 pandemic

Colorado attorney general calls for statewide pause on evictions

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser is calling for all courts in the state to suspend or postpone eviction proceedings and to not accept new eviction applications during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a press release sent out on Sunday, he said the courts in Denver and in Mesa, Weld and Boulder counties have already done this.

"I urge all Colorado courts to join in recognizing the urgent need to pause all eviction orders during this emergency," he says in the release. "Nobody should be without their home as we all grapple with this crisis.”

Logan County reports first COVID-19 cases

Two Logan County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, the first two cases in that county, the Northeast Colorado Health Department announced.

The patients are in isolation, and investigators are notifying anyone who has been in direct contact with them, officials said.

“We understand that people may be anxious and frustrated by limits on gatherings, but we are encouraging people to continue refraining from gathering in large groups — it is up to each of us to protect our most vulnerable populations by not giving this virus a chance to spread,” said Trish McClain, director of NCHD. “The quicker we can flatten the epidemiological curve, the sooner we will be able to return to normal life.”

Fort Carson announces second COVID-19 case

A civilian female health care in her 60s who works at Evans Army Community Hospital has been diagnosed with COVID-19, spokesperson Brandy Gill announced.

The patient is in isolation, and health officials said they are notifying and monitoring the patients and staff who she had contact with.

SATURDAY, March 21

Eagle County announces first COVID-19 death, El Paso County announces third death, Colorado announces 113 new cases

An Eagle County man in his 60s with underlying health conditions has died due to COVID-19, the first in that county, Eagle County Government announced on Saturday.

“It is with a heavy heart that we are confirming the loss of one of our community members from COVID-19. We are extremely saddened by the news and extend our deepest condolences to the family,” said Heath Harmon, Director of Eagle County Public Health and Environment. “The news of this loss in our community serves as a solemn reminder that COVID-19 can pose greater risks to some members of our community, in particular older adults and people with pre-existing health conditions. We must all take steps to protect our families, ourselves, our friends, and our community.”

El Paso County also announced a COVID-19 death on Saturday, the third in that county. The victim was a man in his 70s, and no additional information was immediately available.

“We express our sincere condolences to the family, friends, and loved-ones of the man who passed due to COVID-19,” said Susan Wheelan, El Paso County Public Health Director. “The public health system including community partners such as hospitals, community organizations, non-profits, businesses and governments are working non-stop as part of the local COVID-19 response. We are doing everything we can to slow the spread of this novel virus, while supporting our community. I commend the public for doing their part as well. We appreciate those who are using credible sources of information to take action, practicing physical distancing and working from home and only going out when necessary. These practices are having a positive impact. We are strong and we will get through this together.”

The deaths on Saturday are the fifth and sixth connected to COVID-19 in Colorado. CDPHE also announced that 475 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Colorado through March 20. The state says 4,550 people have been tested.

Colorado National Guard soldier tests positive for COVID-19, being held at Fort Carson

A Colorado National Guard soldier tested positive for COVID-19 and is being held in isolation at the 168th Regional Training Institute on Fort Carson, according to spokesperson Brandy Gill.

"Units across Fort Carson have been prepared in the event a Soldier, family member or civilian employee was diagnosed with COVID-19. We are working with our total Army partners in a unified effort, and will follow risk-based measures consistent with guidance from the Department of Defense and the CDC.," the statement said.

Officials said the soldier does not need hospitalization at this time.

Larimer County inmate tests positive for COVID-19

An inmate in the Larmier County Community Corrections proggram tested positive for COVID-19, a county spokesperson confirmed.

Larmier County employees and other inmates who have been in direct contact with the individual have been contacted by the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment (LCDHAE), officials said.

Larimer County Criminal Justice Service Area employees reporting for work and all inmates will fill out an electronic symptom report daily beginning Sunday, March 23 for better monitoring and quicker response to potential COVID-19 symptoms, officials said.

Personal Protective Equipment Drive for Colorado healthcare providers being held at Mile High Stadium on Sunday

A drive collecting Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Colorado healthcare providers is being held at Empower Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver on Sunday, March 22 from noon to 4 p.m.

Donations can be dropped off in Lot J on the north side of the stadium. Supplies that are in critical shortage and are being requested are listed below:

· Sterile and non-sterile gloves - unopened boxes, latex free preferred
· Hand sanitizer - unopened containers
· Bleach bottles or sprays - unopened containers
· Bleach wipes - unopened containers
· Isopropyl alcohol - unopened bottles
· Eye protection and goggles - unused in box or wrapper
· Clear face shields - These look like welders mask but are translucent, unused only
· Masks - tie, ear loop - unopened boxes only (no cloth masks)
· Respirator masks - N95, N99, P100 - all sizes in unopened boxes. Extra filters are also needed for these devices.
· PAPR respirators - 3M or MaxAir - unused. Hoods, filters, batteries, chargers, tubes to go with these units are also needed.
· Disposable gowns - unused isolation gowns
· Shoe covers - unopened boxes
· Biohazard bags - unused

The PPE drive is being hosted by the Colorado Legislature, Project C.U.R.E., Colorado Concern and the Denver Broncos.

ToGoDenver.com launches for Denver and Boulder area restaurants

Visit Denver, Boulder Convention & Visitor's Bureau, Eat Denver, and the Colorado Restaurant Association announced they have come together to create ToGoDenver.com for Denver and Boulder area restaurants that are open for take out and/or delivery.

Restaurants can register for free and list current home or curbside delivery and takeout services that are available. Anyone looking for restaurants that are operating can search the listings by restaurant name, neighborhood or cuisine.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife limiting access to all public facilities

Access to public Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) facilities including visitor centers will be closed until further notice to fight the spread of COVID-19.

State parks will remain open, and restrooms and public areas will continue to be maintained, officials said.

CPW also said that most offices will remain staffed and can assist customers via phone and email, along with limited personal interactions when necessary.

Estes Park closing short-term accommodations

Larimer County and the Town of Estes Park issued an order closing short-term accommodations within the Estes Valley, effective at noon on Monday, March 23.

Officials said Estes Park is limiting visitor services in the town and is discouraging visitation. Exceptions are in place for local workers, long-term residents of short-term facilities and those who are sick or quarantined.

“This is an incredibly difficult decision made with the health of the people in our community in mind - our number one priority. We hope that the sooner we take these measures, the sooner we can celebrate the reopening of our businesses,” Town Administrator Travis Machalek said.

King Soopers giving employees bonus, expanding COVID-19 sick leave guidelines.

King Soopers announced it will be giving a one-time bonus to all hourly frontline grocery, supply chain, manufacturing and customer service associates.

All full-time associates will get a $300 bonus, and part-time associates will get a $150 bonus. It will be paid to associates hired on or before March 1, and covers the payroll period from March 8 to March 28, the chain said.

King Soopers also expanded COVID-19 emergency leave guidelines to include paid time off for self-isolation and symptoms verified by a health care professional. The chain said all associates who qualify will be eligible for up to two weeks' pay.

FRIDAY, March 20

Rocky Mountain National Park closed because of COVID-19

As of Friday, it's the second national park to close nationwide for the same reason. Yosemite shut down earlier in the day.

The National Park Service announced the closure after the mayor of Estes Park, which neighbors RMNP, and Larimer County's public health director sent letters to the Department of the Interior making the request.

Colorado's other national parks continue to operate, as do state parks.

No visitors at UCHealth hospitals

UCHealth announced that they will not be allowing visitors in any of their hospitals or clinics. Patients in the maternity, NICU, pediatric and end-of-life care departments are exempt from this new rule.

Outpatient clinic patients will also be allowed one person to accompany them if needed for support.

UCHealth is also encouraging patients to call ahead if they are on their way to an appointment, emergency room or urgent care and have a fever, cold, or flu symptoms, or if they may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus.

Air Force Academy to limit base access starting Monday

The Air Force Academy announced Friday that they will start limiting access to those conducting official business only, starting Monday, March 23rd. According to the press release, base access will be limited to those who work or live on the installation or those accessing medical services. 

"We have instituted numerous measures to minimize the risk of exposure due to activities here on base, but there remains significant risk to the staff and cadets from our ongoing exposure to the off-base community," said Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, the Academy's Superintendent. "While I know this is disappointing we all have to continue to work together and make sacrifices to protect the health of our personnel and the continued mission of the U.S. Air Force Academy."

In addition to limiting access to the base, the north gate will now be open from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. daily.

Wastewater agency asks customers to watch what they flush

As toilet paper becomes more and more scarce and people start to use alternatives, the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District (MWRD) is reminding Denver area residents not to flush anything but toilet paper. In a post on its website, MWRD said that includes all types of wipes (even those that are labeled as flushable), paper towels, napkins and all other paper products, toilet bowl scrub pads and diapers. The post said those items should be placed in the trash instead.  

MWRD said while products other than toilet paper can cause operational challenges for wastewater treatment facilities, they can also create blockages in residential pipes. 

Colorado passengers from Grand Princess cruise ship come home

There were 43 Coloradans aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship and 39 of them are returning home Friday afternoon.

RELATED: State Department warns U.S. citizens to avoid cruise ship travel, cites increased risk of COVID-19

More than 3,000 people were kept on-board the ship, which was not permitted to dock in California after 21 people tested positive for coronavirus.

RELATED: Cruise ship held off California coast for virus testing

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said the passengers who are returning home do not have symptoms. They will be returning to the state on a private charter plane that will allow them not to enter the concourse or terminal at Denver International Airport.

The passengers have been in federal quarantine since March 9, when the ship docked in Oakland, California.

When they arrive at their homes, HHS said they will be required to finish their full 14-day self-quarantine. 

Two of the other Colorado passengers will be returning home on a different flight and two will remain in California in quarantine since they have symptoms of COVID-19, HHS said. 

Arapahoe Basin lays off all seasonal employees

Arapahoe Basin is laying off all 430 of its seasonal full-time and part-time employees effective April 1, according to a blog post on the ski area's website. The post said affected employees will receive two weeks of pay, a $0.50 bonus for every hour they worked this season, and all of their accrued PTO. A-Basin will be paying the monthly premiums for all full-time seasonal employees who have health insurance through the company for May and June, according to the post.  

The post said beginning April 1, the ski area's 70 full-time employees will be going to 3/4 time, with the ability to augment their pay through PTO. 

An executive order by Governor Jared Polis requires all ski areas in Colorado to remain closed through April 6, which was an extension of his original order. A-Basin typically has one of the longest seasons of any ski area in the state, often extending into June. In 2019, it stayed open until July 4.  

Polis announces additional executive orders 

Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) announced a series of executive orders Friday that he said are aimed at combating the economic impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic.  

Here are some of the items he introduced: 

  • An executive order aimed at allowing the state's unemployment office to expedite the payment of claims amid record filings. 
  • The governor said he will ask for companies to allow for up to 90 days in the determent for payment for mortgages. Landlords are asked not to charge late fees for rent until April 30. 
  • Polis has ordered law enforcement to not use resources to respond to foreclosures or evictions. 
  • Utility companies have been asked not to shut off service for people who cannot pay. 
  • Polis has extended the state tax filing deadline to July 15, and said he is working with local municipalities to extend deadlines for their taxes. 
  • Polis has assembled a team of economic advisers chaired by former Denver Mayor Federico Pena.

RELATED: Polis announces measures aimed at combating economic impact of coronavirus

CDPHE bringing drive-up testing to the Chaffee County fairgrounds

As part of an effort to bring COVID-19 testing to communities that hasn't seen it, health officials will set up a drive-up site at the Chaffee County fairgrounds in Salida on Saturday.  

The Colorado National Guard and Chaffee County Public Health are helping for the testing, which is aimed at Chaffee County residents who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. 

The tests are from noon to 4 p.m. They are free, and no proof of insurance is required. People are asked to bring a written or electronic copy of a doctor's order. 

The first 100 people in the queue will have access to drive-up testing -- everyone else in line is asked to seek testing from a private provide. 

People are told to be ready for long wait lines, and no restrooms will be available. 

Other areas are expected to receive testing sites next week. 

King Soopers announces special hours for senior citizens

Starting Friday, King Soopers is dedicating the first shopping hour on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., exclusively to the shopping needs of senior citizens. It's a temporary moved aimed at providing at-risk customers the ability to purchase items they need while avoiding heavy crowds.

"We request that customers respect these hours for the health of our community," King Soopers said in a statement. "We appreciate all customers for their kind consideration, whose concern contributed to our decision to provide designated shopping hours for seniors."

RELATED: Senior hours: Colorado grocery stores make adjustments amid coronavirus outbreak

THURSDAY, March 19

El Paso County senior living facility cases

Six positive cases of the novel coronavirus have been identified at an El Paso County senior living center, according to a news release distributed Thursday evening.

The cases of COVID-19 have been reported at the Laurel Manor Care Center at 920 Chelton Road in Colorado Springs. According to its website, it is operated by the volunteers of America. 

In the release, El Paso County Public Health Director Susan Wheelan said her team became aware of the cases late Thursday afternoon and “took immediate action to coordinate efforts with Laurel Manor Care Center and state partners.”

Efforts are now underway to help sick patients as well as isolate them from other seniors and staff at the facility.

“Proactive efforts are focused on identifying, isolating and testing all of those who may be at risk because of these new cases,” the release reads.

RELATED: 6 cases of coronavirus identified at El Paso County senior living facility

Denver mayor announces relief funds, discusses possible shelter-in-place order

Hancock emphasized that he has not placed the city under a shelter-in-place order yet, but he couldn't guarantee it wouldn't happen within 48 hours during a news conference that was held Thursday afternoon. 

He said he'd rather see a lockdown like the one occurring in California's San Francisco Bay area occur on a regional level rather than simply within city boundaries. 

Hancock also announced the creation of a $4 million relief fund for small businesses and artists, who have essentially lost their livelihood.

DETAILS: Denver mayor says shelter-in-place should be on regional rather than city level if it happens

Two more deaths

On Thursday, two of the four deaths from COVID-19 were announced. 

One was an El Paso County man in his 60s who had direct contact with the woman in her 80s who died in El Paso County last week. 

The second was a resident of Crowley County in southeast Colorado. The person was described as "elderly" and health officials said that person had other underlying health conditions.

Jefferson County Public Health issues order to close bars and restaurants

Jefferson County Public Health issued a public health order to close all dine-in service at bars and restaurants, as well as all theaters, gyms and county buildings in Jefferson County, Colorado. The purpose of this order is to protect the health of the public and slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“The JCPH Environmental Health team has been working tirelessly to conduct outreach to retail food establishments in our county to make sure they’re taken care of and supported during this time,” said Dr. Mark B. Johnson, executive director at JCPH.

In addition, this order closes all county buildings, with some exceptions such as essential services, which is vital to ensuring the health of the Jefferson County workforce.

Businesses and organizations, including retail food establishments, can find guidance to support them through this order at www.jeffco.us/coronavirus. The website also includes answers to FAQs, up-to-date Jefferson County case information and community resources.

Colorado Springs emphasizes online services, public facilities closures

The City of Colorado Springs continues to provide essential government services while also implementing select modified operations to comply with orders and public health recommendations related to COVID-19. These new closures and modifications are in addition to those previously announced. 

The full list of impacts can be found here: www.coloradosprings.gov/covid19.

Jefferson County jail releasing some inmates early

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO) announced it would be releasing some inmates early to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19. In a tweet, JCSO said until the risk of the disease is mitigated, eligible inmates who have served at least 50 percent of their sentences and meet all other early release program requirements will be released early starting today. JCSO said no inmates or employees have tested positive.  

National Park Service temporarily waives park entrance fees

The National Park Service (NPS) has announced it will temporarily suspend the collection of all park entrance fees until further notice.

“Our vast public lands that are overseen by the Department offer special outdoor experiences to recreate, embrace nature and implement some social distancing," Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said. 

Other states and municipalities have implemented similar policies of waiving fees to parks in an effort to support social distancing.

At a majority of park locations where it is currently possible to adhere to public health guidance, outdoor spaces remain open to the public, while many facilities will be closed, according to the NPS. 

The NPS urges visitors to do their part when visiting a park and to follow CDC guidance by maintaining a safe distance between yourself and other groups.

Colorado State Representative test positive for COVID-19

Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet said she had bronchitis and was feeling better but her fever spiked on Sunday.

She said she was tested Tuesday and got her results back Thursday.  She will remain at her home in quarantine for 14 days. She said her husband and two children have not shown symptoms.

(Editor's note: On Monday, March 23, Jenet issued a statement reporting her results were not, in fact, positive for COVID-19, but rather had been misinterpreted by a physician. Jenet tested positive for a different coronavirus, NL63, which does not require that immediate contacts be quarantined, according to the statement.)

Most 18th Judicial District court appearances vacated through the end of the month 

A judge has ordered that defendants in Colorado's largest judicial district not come to court unless it's for "essential reasons." 

In addition, all jury calls between March 18 and April 3 have been canceled. 

While most court cases until April 3 have been continued, the following matters will still be heard, according to the order: 

  • Petitions for civil protection orders. 
  • Petitions for temporary risk protection orders (otherwise known as Colorado's red flag law). 
  • Advisements for people in custody, and bail hearings. 
  • Proceedings necessarily to protect the Constitutional rights of inmates. 
  • Detention hearings for juvenile cases, as well as other types of proceedings for suspects under 18. 
  • Petitions for appointment of an emergency guardian or special conservator. Emergency mental health proceedings 
  • Other proceedings deemed necessary by the chief judge.

Pikes Peak downhill climb postponed 

Organizers of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb have decided postpone the 98th running of the race. The race will not be conducted on June 28, 2020, but instead will be slated to take place on Sunday, August 30

“Our Pikes Peak International Hill Climb family is important to us, and we believe this is the best option today," said Executive Director Megan Leatham. "We feel confident that race teams, competitors and their crews, along with our loyal fans will support this change. We know this race is iconic and tremendously important to the auto racing world and our community, but the safety and health of everyone involved is our top priority." 

Fan Fest in downtown Colorado Springs, which draws thousands of race fans, has been rescheduled for Friday, August 28. A revised race week schedule will be released and updates will be posted at this link.   

Castle Rock Outlets announces closure 

Outlets at Castle Rock is closed, reopening Monday, March 30th. Qdoba & Starbucks remain open per Colorado State mandates. The outlets join a number of other malls across the state announcing closures. Simon Property Group announced Wednesday that it will close all of its retail properties nationwide, including three malls in Colorado, until at least March 29. 

Kaiser Permanente consolidating medical offices

Kaiser Permanente will consolidate medical offices beginning Monday, March 23 for in-person care. 

Ten medical offices will remain open for certain specialty care, OB-GYN, lab, medical imaging, behavioral health, and pharmacy services. The medical offices include: 

  • Acero
  • Arapahoe
  • Aurora Centrepoint
  • Franklin
  • Lakewood
  • Lone Tree
  • Loveland
  • Parkside
  • Rock Creek
  • Skyline

They're also postponing elective and non-urgent procedures when it's safely possible to do so. That will help ensure they have the capacity and equipment to deal with a potential influx of critically ill patients.

Kaiser Permanente Urgent Care at Aurora Centrepoint, Lakewood, and Lone Tree Medical Offices will remain open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.–9 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m.–4 p.m.

RELATED: Colorado coronavirus blog: March 16-18

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