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Colorado coronavirus latest May 23: Multiple counties get state approval to begin reopening

Douglas, Larimer, and Teller counties are among those that got state approval to begin reopening some businesses and restaurants, and resume some activities.

COLORADO, USA — Douglas County got the go-ahead Friday from the state health department to reopen restaurants, gyms, churches and Park Meadows mall with lower occupancy rates. Larimer and Teller counties also had similar safer-at-home order variance requests approved.

El Paso County announced late Saturday night that it received a variance to begin opening restaurants.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), a total of 27 counties have had some form of variance requests approved by the state.

Gov. Jared Polis signed several executive orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

> The video above shows restaurants reopening for in-person dining Saturday evening.

WHAT TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

  • 23,964 cases, up from 23,487 the day prior. 
  • 4,105 hospitalized, up from 4,082 the day prior.
  • 1,327 deaths among those who tested positive for COVID-19, up from 1,324 the day prior.
  • 1,088 deaths due to COVID-19, the same as the day prior.
  • Get the latest data from the Colorado Dept. of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE).
  • Douglas County gets approval to reopen restaurants, gyms
  • Larimer County can reopen restaurants, churches and malls, but not bars
  • Colorado has approved variance requests for 27 counties

Polis signs executive orders on Medicaid, disaster declaration

Gov. Jared Polis signed several executive orders Friday in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The orders are:

  • An increase in the state's Medicaid home health-care workforce and the elimination of copays for COVID-19 testing for those who rely on Medicaid
  • An extension of the state's disaster declaration through June 21.
  • An extension of the suspension of certain statues that will allow the state Department of Corrections to combat the spread of COVID-19 in state prisons.
  • An extension of the suspension of in-person instruction at all elementary and secondary schools through the end of the school year.

El Paso County restaurant variance approved

A restaurant variance request from El Paso County was approved by the state, El Paso County Public Health (EPCPH) announced late Saturday night.

In each confined indoor space, in order to achieve six feet of social distancing, the limit is 50% of the posted occupancy code limit ensuring a minimum 28 square feet per person not to exceed more than 50 people at any given time, according to EPCPH.

EPCPH said groups will be limited to 10 people, and must be from the same household or "consistent social group."

EPCPH said all employees who routinely or consistently come within six feet of other employees or customers must wear a cloth face covering over their noses and mouths, unless there is a health concern.

Doorknobs, counter tops, bathrooms, handles, railings, and other high-use areas shall be cleaned and disinfected every two hours.

If the county were to have more than 715 cases in a two-week period the variance is automatically rescinded, according to EPCPH.

Larimer County can reopen restaurants, churches and malls, but not bars

Larimer County received approval Saturday to slowly reopen some businesses ahead of the expiration of Colorado's safer-at-home order, according to Larimer County Public Health (LCPH).

Restaurants, personal services (such as salons and spas), general recreation facilities, camping, graduations, places of worship, non-contact recreation activities (such as kayaking, golfing and biking), short-term rentals and libraries can reopen, with safety measures, under the variance approved by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

Places that didn't get approval for reopening: bars, tasting rooms, wineries, distilleries and breweries; child care facilities and day camps; and outdoor group activities.

RELATED: Larimer County can reopen restaurants, churches and malls, but not bars

Douglas County gets approval to reopen restaurants, gyms

Douglas County's restaurants, gyms, churches and Park Meadows mall could all reopen soon, after the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment granted a variance request for the county Friday night.

In a two-page letter, the head of the state health department granted the detailed proposals with one amendment: capping occupancy levels at 50 percent of the posted capacity, allowing for a minimum of 28 square feet per person not to exceed 175 people, the letter said.

The Douglas County variance comes after weeks of positive data from the county, according to the letter. The county has had a disease incidence rate of 22 per 100,000 residents and a 1% to 8% positivity rate over the past two weeks, according to the letter.

There are strings attached. If the county experiences a growth of the virus triggering two of four potential triggers, the variance would be rescinded.

RELATED: Douglas County gets go-ahead to reopen restaurants, gyms, churches, Park Meadows

Colorado has approved variance requests for 27 counties

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has approved variance stay-at-home order requests submitted by 27 counties.

Some of the approved variance requests were very specific. For example, the City of Denver submitted an approved variance request to specifically reopen just the Denver Botanic Gardens.

>Click here for the full list of approved safer-at-home variance requests on CDPHE's website.

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 23,964 people have tested positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, up from 23,487 the day prior.

Fatalities

CDPHE reports:

  • 1,327 deaths among people with COVID-19
  • 1,088 deaths due to COVID-19

The day prior, 1,324 people had died, 1,088 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.

Hospitalizations

Of those who tested positive for the disease, 4,105 hospitalizations have been reported, up from 4,082 the day prior.

As of 11:02 a.m. on May 23, 426 patients were hospitalized with the disease, according to the most recent data from the Colorado Hospital Association. Within the last 24 hours, 32 patients have been transferred or discharged.

Note: 86% of facilities reported data on May 23.

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.

Testing

According to CDPHE, 147,744 people have been tested, up from 142,667 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

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

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