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Gov. Polis warns at-risk people to avoid high country during coronavirus outbreak

The Colorado high country has seen the most coronavirus cases. Hospitals in the area can also be easily overrun by too many patients

DENVER — On a day when Colorado’s number of COVID-19 cases grew by more than a dozen, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said some cases are the result of community transmission and that more are on the horizon.

“This will get worse before it gets better,” the governor said more than once about the novel coronavirus in a press conference on Wednesday. “It is paramount to be honest about what the coming days and weeks are going to look like here in Colorado.”

As the state works more aggressively to curb the disease’s progression, Polis urged vulnerable groups to avoid large gatherings and specifically noted that people who are at-risk should avoid resort and mountain communities, where community spread has been confirmed.

The virus will disproportionally hit those areas ahead of the metro area, he said.

“[I’m] advising our resort communities to provide guidance to travelers over 60 or with chronic health issues should avoid unnecessary travel to the high country areas with the outbreaks, in particular, because of the lack of healthcare capacity for hospitalization and ventilation in these areas,” Polis said.

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That doesn’t mean other Coloradans don’t have a responsibility to be mindful. While state agencies are advising stricter rules for visitors to senior care centers, veterans centers and staff at correctional facilities, Polis said it’s up to everyone to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“I know Coloradans are upset, frustrated, and scared. Some are disappointed that your conference or graduation or gatherings are canceled or maybe canceled your travel plans might have to be postponed or interrupted or canceled. Those are normal feelings we all understand that and we all share that,” he said. “As I said yesterday, there’s only so much any government can do. The most important person who can stop spreading the virus is you. We all have a role to play. Everyone is essential. This is really a test of our Colorado character.”

According to the governor, state authorities have been watching the trajectories in other areas to make decisions.

Polis also laid out plans for how this outbreak might impact schools. If a student or staff member tests positive, a school should shut down for 72 hours for cleaning and investigation. If multiple cases hit one school, or if cases hit multiple schools in one district, parents should expect a 14-day closure.

For now, the state will continue testing. Polis said a proper containment would require thousands of tests each day. More than 300 people in Colorado have been tested for coronavirus as of Wednesday, when the state's first drive-up facility opened in Lowry. About 160 people were tested there.

A second facility will open in the mountains, but Polis did not give a date or location.

Colorado is awaiting the arrival of 1,500 new tests promised by Vice President Mike Pence earlier this week.

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