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No plans to cancel public gatherings in Denver amid COVID-19 concerns

Mayor Michael Hancock emphasized the city is not intending to cancel any public gatherings in the wake of COVID-19.

DENVER — During a news conference discussing the city’s response to addressing cases of the new coronavirus (COVID-19), Denver Michael Hancock said he is trying to balance being proactive with “making sure people don’t panic.”

“The city is still in full operation,” Hancock said Monday, adding that there are no plans to cancel this weekend’s St. Patrick’s Day parade or other upcoming public gatherings, including a volleyball tournament expected to draw 26,000 people.

Nevertheless, Hancock ordered a partial activation of the city’s Emergency Operations Center. This essentially brings together all of the agencies involved in responding to a potential crisis, as well as allows for planning for the potential economic impacts of the outbreak of a disease.

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Matt Mueller, the interim executive director of the Denver Office of Emergency Management, said the center will be open everyday for “as long as this takes.” Denver had previously created a multi-agency task force to address COVID-19.

There have been two presumptive positive cases of the new coronavirus in the city of Denver so far. Bob McDonald, the executive director of the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, said Monday both of these patients are believed to have contracted the virus while traveling internationally.

Eight people who closely interacted with the presumptive positive cases have been placed into quarantine, and at this point, McDonald said they are not showing symptoms.

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“There’s no community transmission within the city and county of Denver,” McDonald said.

When directly asked how the city knows this, McDonald said there was no evidence of community transmission of the disease, but there's "always the possibility of non-symptomatic cases." 

McDonald couldn't say how many people have been tested for COVID-19 in Denver, and how many people have been turned away from receiving the tests. 

There are nine confirmed presumptive positive cases of coronavirus in Colorado as of Monday. During the Denver news conference, Hancock emphasized the importance of handwashing and for potentially sick people to stay home.

The mayor has also ordered that restaurants post signs reminding patrons of the importance of washing their hands.  

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“Throughout all the activities, we’ve been making sure we do not panic as a community,” Hancock said.

The city is working to identify which of its employees can feasibly work from home, Hancock said, and there are also discussions about preparing for the potential economic impact of COVID-19.

“We are an entertainment city,” Hancock said. “[If people] don’t go to the restaurants because of their concerns about this COVID-19, we don’t get that back. When we get over the hump, you won’t say if I didn’t go to the restaurant a month ago, you won’t double up this week.”

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