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Colorado coronavirus latest March 23-25: Statewide stay-at-home order issued

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

Wednesday, March 25

Mesa Verde becomes Colorado's second national park to close 

Mesa Verde National Park will be closed effective Wednesday evening due to COVID-19. 

That closure is in effect until "further notice," according to a Facebook post from the park. This means the main park road and all loop roads will be closed. A notification about reopening will be available on Mesa Verde's website. 

RELATED: Rocky Mountain National Park now closed because of COVID-19

Rocky Mountain National Park is also closed due to concerns about crowd amid increased government messaging to practice social distancing. 

Updates about NPS operations will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus. Refunds for Cliff Palace tours will take place automatically, but those who had reservations should confirm this by checking recreation.gov

#FindYourPark #COVID19

Statewide stay-at-home order

Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) issued a statewide stay-at-home order that will begin Thursday morning as the state's latest response efforts against COVID-19, a new strain of the coronavirus.   

The stay-at-home order will go into effect at 6 a.m. Thursday and last until at least April 11.

RELATED: Gov. Polis issues statewide stay-at-home order

This executive order means Coloradans should not be leaving their homes except for critical activities including:

  • Obtaining food and other household necessities including medicine (cannabis and liquor stores will remain open)
  • Going to and from work if you are a critical employee
  • Seeking medical care
  • Caring for dependents or pets
  • Caring for a vulnerable person in another location
  • Participating in outdoor recreation at a legally-mandated safe distance of six feet or more from other people.

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

Read the full order here

South Metro firefighters 

Two South Metro Fire Rescue (SMFR) firefighters have tested presumptive positive for COVID-19, according to a news release from South Metro Fire.

The department said the firefighters are self-isolating and recovering at home.

Members of the crew who worked directly with the two firefighters have been notified and have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days before returning to work.

SMFR said there are 12 SMFR firefighters who are self-isolating to monitor for symptoms as a result of possible exposures throughout South Metro Fire's District. 

More Colorado counties announce stay-at-home orders

Larimer, Jefferson, Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties joined Boulder County in issuing stay-at-home orders on Wednesday morning. 

The order means residents may leave their home only for essential activities or to operate essential businesses. The orders are effective Thursday at 8 a.m. and running through April 17 at midnight, or longer if officials determine that to be necessary.

“There is widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the metro Denver area, and we must take bold actions to stop the spread of this virus,” said John Douglas, executive director of Tri-County Health Department. 

The City and County of Broomfield also issued a public health order requiring social distancing and encouraging all Broomfield residents to stay home.

RELATED: Here are the counties that have issued stay-at-home orders

DPS hands out thousands of laptops 

Denver Public Schools (DPS) started distributing laptops to students on Wednesday as the district prepares to transition to remote learning.

Staff sanitized each laptop before placing it in each family’s car trunk, according to DPS. 

DPS said the technology is not only important for students to do their school work but it also provides a way to connect during a time of encouraged social distancing. 

DPS will not host in-person classes until at least Monday, April 20 following an order last week by Gov. Jared Polis. 

Denver Zoo launches virtual zoo with daily live streams 

Denver Zoo is closed but that doesn't mean Coloradans can't still enjoy a daily dose of animal cuteness.  

The zoo has started hosting weekday live streams so that the public can still check in on the more than 3,000 animals that call the zoo home.  

Zoo staff hopes the virtual safari and live streams will help stave off cabin fever during this difficult time   

Tuesday, March 24

Tri-County, Boulder health departments weigh stay-at-home orders

The Tri-County Health Department -- which encompasses Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties -- is working on a stay-at-home order. 

A spokesperson released the follow statement: 

Tri-County Health Department is working in close partnership with our regional government partners on a coordinated approach to implementation of Stay at Home public health orders. Our goal is to optimize social distancing over the next few weeks, enabling us to reduce transmission and to increase the capacity of our health care system in the areas of personal protective equipment, testing, and critical care capacity. We anticipate public announcement of these orders this week, potentially as early as Wednesday morning. We want to ensure that these policies are crafted to be effective and are as consistent as possible across our communities.

Tri-County also held a Town Hall Tuesday night, and more than 45,000 people tuned in. Key takeaways from the call:

  • We're in the middle of widespread community transmission in Colorado.
  • Measures to combat COVID-19 will last weeks, this won't be over in a week or two. Plan ahead, expect to adjust your lifestyle for the coming weeks. 
  • Most people will NOT be able to get a test. Tests are critical for people admitted to hospitals and senior living communities; people with mild symptoms need to stay home regardless if they've been tested
  • It's unclear if people can be infected more than once

Boulder County is working on similar measures. This is the statement released by Boulder County Tuesday morning: 

Boulder County Public Health is working in close partnership with our regional government partners on a coordinated approach to implementation of Stay at Home public health orders.

The goal of these orders is to reduce the rate of spread of COVID-19 in the community. We anticipate public announcement of these orders this week, potentially as early as Wednesday morning. We want to ensure that these policies are crafted to be effective and are as consistent as possible across our communities.

Denver suspending homeless sweeps 

The city of Denver is suspending its homeless sweeps or the sidewalk cleanups that push people out of areas where they are living in public.

This came the same day Denver instituted a stay-at-home order. 

Denver said it has a facility for people who are homeless to stay at if they're experiencing symptoms. They can be referred there if they are displaying symptoms and should be in isolation, but don't need to be hospitalized. 

Eagle River Fire Protection District cancels May 5 election 

The Eagle River Fire Protection District said it will cancel its May 5 election. The district had intended on asking voters for a mill levy aimed at raising $2 million to buy and maintain equipment.

In a news release, the district said the COVID-19 pandemic was to blame.

“This was a very difficult decision,” Fire Chief Karl Bauer said in the release. “The District still must find a way to procure essential rescue, breathing and other life-saving equipment and properly maintain those investments. However, until we overcome the economic difficulty created by the Coronavirus pandemic, we should not ask voters for this modest tax increase.”

Eagle County allocates $1.5 million to COVID-19 relief and recovery 

Here’s how the funds are broken down:

Up to $500,00 will support the Emergency Operations Center, which the county said ensures medical system capacity and helps professionals get additional personal protective equipment.

$400,000 will support economic services for residents who have been financially impacted by COVID-19. This includes assistance with rent, food and mortgage payments. Residents can apply via this form: eaglecounty.us/covid19hel

$250,000 for community partners like the Salvation Army.

Teller County reports first COVID-19 death

COVID-19 contributed to the death of a person in Teller County, the first death in that county, Teller County Public Health and Environment announced on Tuesday.

Investigators are working on identifying and contacting anyone who has come in close contact with the victim.

Anyone who came in contact with the victim will be required to self-quarantine or self-isolate, officials said.

CDPHE provides updates on testing capacity, PPE shipments 

Mike Willis, the director of the State Emergency Operations Center, provided updates on a variety of topics during a wide-ranging news conference with the media. 

Here are some topics of note: 

RELATED: Here are the Colorado cities and counties that have issued stay-at-home orders because of COVID-19

  • Willis said personal protective equipment (PPEs) from the national stockpile will be distributed to different counties proportionate to their populations, as well as the number of people over 65.
  • The state can process 400 COVID-19 tests per day. That’s a four to seven-day turnaround, though efforts are underway to bolster these numbers.
  • Willis said whether the governor will issue a statewide stay-at-home order remains to be seen, and is largely contingent on how effective local orders are.
  • Willis said health officials hope to determine a date for when social distancing can be scaled back in the near future. 
  • Mountain hospitals (particularly in Eagle and Gunnison counties) have transferred some patients elsewhere to relieve the pressure on them, but the situation has gotten more stable in recent days.

Polis calls for safety measures for grocery store workers

Today Gov. Polis sent a letter to the presidents of Albertsons Companies, which owns Safeway, and The Kroger Co., which owns King Soopers and City Market, encouraging new safety protocols for customers and employees.

The letter includes proposals for providing the greatest possible protections for workers and customers while minimizing economic disruption. 

Proposals include:

  • Providing appropriate gloves, masks, face screens and other personal protective equipment to grocery store workers to the extent possible.

  • Consider expanding into grocery delivery services, prioritizing service to those at the highest risk.

  • Provide daily designated time periods for higher-risk individuals to shop.

  • Establish entrance/access controls to ensure crowds are in compliance with safe social distancing practices.

  • To the extent possible, assign those employees with higher health-risks to tasks with lowest exposure risks such as backroom work.

Polis also applauded the efforts currently underway.

"I want to thank you, as a business leader in Colorado, for your efforts to date working in partnerships with our state, your employees and your customers to better protect our public health and food security during this extraordinarily challenging period,” he wrote.

Dumb Friends League suspends pet adoptions

Due to Denver's stay-at-home order, the Dumb Friends League (DFL) announced that it's temporarily suspending adoptions beginning at 5 p.m. Tuesday. They will remain suspended until the stay-at-home order is lifted.

This applies to both the Leslie A. Malone Center in Denver and the Buddy Center in Castle Rock. Staff will continue to provide care for animals in those shelters.

They will also continue to provide pet surrender, lost and found and owner requested euthanasia services at the Leslie A. Malone Center and Buddy Center.

Due to other local shelters suspending pet surrender services, DFL said they're managing a high demand and asked that if at all possible people who need to rehome their pets wait until they're back to normal operations.

The agency also said they might need community members to foster animals in the near future and asked for people to check their website for updates.

DIA sees significant traffic decrease

DIA, which usually has about 1,700 flights a day, is "seeing a significant decrease in traffic volume both in flights and passenger levels," according to an airport spokesperson.

The spokesperson said daily flights are down by approximately 500 as airlines have adjusted their operations to the steep decline in demand. 

"It is too early to speculate on total passenger volumes due to the volatility the industry is currently experiencing," the spokesperson said. "The airlines begin reporting March passenger data to [DIA] mid-April and we expect to issue March numbers the last week of April."

Loveland closing uphill access

To lessen crowds, Loveland Ski Area said it is barring uphill access beginning Wednesday.

"While the ski area can limit uphill access through its existing operating plan on a temporary basis for management activities such as end-of-season tear down or emergency management situations, it is submitting this operating plan amendment given the significance and timing of the COVID-19 outbreak and the predicted length of this prohibition," Loveland wrote in a news release. 

Gaylord Rockies closed

Aurora's mayor announced on Twitter Tuesday at the Town Center at Aurora closed at 7 p.m. Monday and will remain closed indefinitely. He also said that the Gaylord had its occupancy down to 1% and would close later Tuesday.

Summer Olympics in Japan postponed

IOC President Thomas Bach has agreed to a proposal of postponing the Tokyo Olympics for about one year because of the coronavirus outbreak, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday.

Abe said he expects the pandemic to be over by next year and the Olympics can be held by the summer of 2021 at the latest.

RELATED: Japanese Prime Minister, IOC Chief agree to postpone Tokyo Olympics until 2021

Monday, March 23

(Updates from March 19-22, are here)

9:00 p.m. - El Paso County reports 4th COVID-19 death

El Paso County said a resident in his 80s died due to complications from COVID-19. 

This is the fourth death in the county and ninth in the state.

RELATED: Colorado COVID-19 cases: March 23-25: 720 cases, 9 deaths

8:30 p.m. - Pitkin County issues stay-at-home order

Pitkin County issued a stay-at-home order that went into effect immediately.

The order asks people to remain at home, directs tourists visiting the area to head home and closes non-essential businesses. Essential businesses are directed to comply with social distancing and other prevention techniques at all times.

Under the order, residents are only able to leave their homes to "engage in activities or perform tasks essential to their health and safety, or to the health and safety of their family or household member."

This includes shopping for food, household goods and spending time outside as long as social distancing is used.

All non-essential businesses are required to close their facilities, with the exception of minimum basic operations. Employees are allowed to continue working from home. 

Restaurants are allowed to continue providing to-go food.

RELATED: 'Stay-at-home' order issued for Denver, Boulder, Pitkin County

7 p.m. - Peterson Air Force Base declares public health emergency

Peterson AFB installation commander declared a public health emergency for the base at 5 p.m. 

The declaration allows the base commander to take certain protective measures, such as restricting base movement and limiting services. The emergency order is in place for 30 days. The order can be terminated or extended as required.

Precautionary measures base officials have enacted:

  • Outdoor Recreation will temporarily be closed.
  • Military Personnel Facility will remain open for appointments only.
  • Promotion testing will be postponed effective March 30.
  • Dental clinic services will be limited to readiness related appointments and dental emergencies.
  • Base medical clinic remains open, but with limited capacity. If possible, consider booking a virtual appointment with your primary care manager rather than a face-to-face visit. All appointments can be made by calling 719-524-2273 option 1.
  • COVID-19 point of testing remains open to those with appointments at the Peterson car wash.
  • More info can be found here

7 p.m. - Eagles cancel remaining tour dates

The Eagles announced they are postponing all remaining “Hotel California" 2020 Tour dates. 

The band was scheduled to perform at the Pepsi Center March 26 and 28.

Dates for the rescheduled concerts have not been announced yet. The band said they would notify ticket holders and fans of the new dates as soon as possible.

RELATED: List of things closed, canceled or postponed in Colorado due to the coronavirus

6:30 p.m. - Boulder issues stay-at-home order

Boulder City Manager Jane Brautigam announced a new public health order for the City of Boulder directing individuals to stay at home. 

The order, like Denver's, goes into effect at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24. The order is in effect through April 10 and may be extended as needed. 

Brautigam urged all city residents and businesses to heed the order amid worsening COVID-19 cases in the Boulder/Denver metro areas.

“People need to take social distancing seriously to stop the spread of this virus,” said Brautigam. “We have asked everyone to maintain at least six feet between individuals and not to gather in groups. Voluntary measures are not enough, and we must enact a stay at home order for everything but the most essential activities if we are to flatten the curve and stop the social spread of COVID-19.”

5 p.m. - Liquor stores, marijuana stores exempt from stay-at-home order

As part of the stay-at-home order announced Monday, liquor stores, recreational marijuana dispensaries and breweries were to close in Denver, but after people flocked to stock up on goods, the city amended the order saying liquor stores and dispensaries are exempt as long as they practice extreme social distancing.

RELATED: Denver wants people to stop flocking to liquor stores, dispensaries; both now exempt from 'stay-at-home' order

4 p.m. - Long lines at Denver liquor stores

Lines grew quickly at Denver liquor stores Monday afternoon after Mayor Michael Hancock announced a stay-at-home order as part of the city's COVID-19 response.

As part of that order, liquor stores, recreational marijuana dispensaries and breweries will close in Denver.

RELATED: Liquor store lines surge ahead of brewery, dispensary closures as part of Denver stay-at-home order

2 p.m. - Denver issues stay-at-home order

Mayor Michael Hancock on Monday announced a stay-at-home order as part of Denver's COVID-19 response.

The order will be in effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday, and will last through at least April 10, Hancock said.

Parks will remain open, but organized activities and sports are prohibited. Hancock said the crowded parks in Denver over the weekend helped him make his decision. 

Under the order:

  • Liquor stores will close.
  • Breweries will close.
  • Recreational marijuana dispensaries will close; medical exempt.
  • No picnics or organized games in parks.

Allowed under the order:

  • Getting groceries
  • Obtaining medical supplies or medication
  • Engaging in outdoor activities like walking, hiking or running, and continuing the strict observance of physical distancing practices, which requires for at least 6 feet between people.

RELATED: 'Stay-at-home' order issued for Denver, Boulder, Pitkin County

Hancock said he's asking for voluntary compliance.

State senator tests positive for coronavirus

State Senator Jim Smallwood (R-Parker) tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, according to a news release from the Colorado GOP. 

Smallwood is in quarantine at his second home in Carlsbad, California. Carlsbad lies on the coast between Los Angeles and San Diego.

Smallwood released this statement, “I want to first let everybody know that I’m currently feeling great. Thankfully, my symptoms were mild and subsided quickly. Unfortunately, this shows just how valuable social distancing is in this difficult time, as despite my best efforts to follow the advice of medical professionals, I still contracted COVID-19 from an unknown source. I am currently quarantined and isolated at my second home in Carlsbad until March 30th. Stay safe, everybody.” 

Smallwood's was tested on St. Patrick's Day and got his results on Sunday. The senator's wife was also tested, but her results came back negative, the release said.

Englewood company gets FDA approval for COVID-19 rapid test

Aytu BioScience, a pharmaceutical company based in Englewood, said Monday it had received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA) for its COVID-19 rapid test. The test gives results in 2 to 10 minutes.

Aytu said in a press release that it will deliver its first shipment of 100,000 tests this week. The company has been talking with government agencies and the health-care industry to get the tests distributed quickly. "We are optimistic that we’re now just days away from placing these COVID-19 test kits into the hands of health-care professionals," said Josh Disbrow, CEO of Aytu BioScience, in the release.

Connect for Health Colorado adds emergency enrollment period

Connect for Health Colorado — the state health insurance marketplace — opened an emergency "special enrollment" period from Friday, March 20 through Friday, April 3 "to help as many people as possible protect their health and safety during the COVID-19 outbreak," according to its website.

The health insurance would be effective April 1. Below are conditions for people who quality:

  • People who don’t have health insurance
  • People who have recently lost their health insurance
  • People who will lose their health insurance soon.

> Learn more and shop the marketplace here.

National Jewish Health launches COVID-19 testing

National Jewish Health said it's developed a diagnostic test and established an Acute Respiratory Clinic for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients.

The hospital began testing over the weekend and focused initially on serving hospitalized patients and frontline health care workers. In the coming days, the hospital expects to be able to expand testing to the broader community. 

Located on the hospital's main campus, the new respiratory clinic is designed to provide an option for patients who are sick with COVID-19 or other acute respiratory illnesses. According the hospital, the clinic will offer alternatives for patients seeking care and will help to decompress emergency facilities. 

“As a tertiary referral hospital with a long history of treating severe lung diseases, we feel it is our responsibility and our mission to share our expertise and contribute however we can in fighting this challenging epidemic,” said Michael Salem, MD, president and CEO of National Jewish Health.  “We commend our staff who have worked tirelessly to be able to provide this critically needed testing and treatment for COVID-19 patients.”

On Sunday, National Jewish Health did 20 tests for COVID-19 and seven of them came back positive, a hospital representative said.

DPS surveying parents on remote learning

As part of its plan for remote learning, Denver Public Schools is asking parents to fill out an online survey to help the district assess students' technology needs. The survey is on the DPS homepage, dpsk12.org, or by clicking this link. Parents are asked to complete the survey by noon Tuesday.

Unemployment claims continue to rise

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

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

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

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