DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) announced a new tool to help with COVID-19 testing across the state as part of his update Monday at the state Capitol on the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The state has launched a map that locates sites that offer testing for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The map can be found at covid19.colorado.gov under the tab "Find a community-based testing site."
The map includes only about 20 sites across the state, but there are plans to add more. None of the locations so far are in the Denver metro area. The closest to Denver are in Clear Creek County and Fort Collins.
Testing is part of what Polis has said is a multi-pronged approach to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in Colorado, where at least 851 people have died since the virus was first confirmed in the state at the beginning of March.
"We need to provide a variety of sites across the state to meet you if you need testing," Polis said.
He cited four types of testing happening in Colorado:
- Private sector hospitals and health care facilities.
- Local community-based testing sites.
- Targeted testing for outbreaks in long-term care facilities.
- State collaboration with private-sector partners.
The state has sent supplies to 40 state-supported testing sites across the state and is also providing supplies to hospitals. About 22,000 testing kits have been distributed in the past couple of weeks, the governor said.
Additional testing was also provided to the JBS meat packing plant in Greeley, which closed temporarily in April due to a deadly COVID-19 outbreak.
Polis started the news conference with praise for former Aurora Fire Rescue paramedic Paul Cary, 66, who volunteered to go to New York City to help in the battle against the pandemic and died last week from COVID-19.
Cary's body was flown into Denver International Airport on Sunday night, and first responders honored him with a procession from the airport to a funeral home in south Denver.
"He saw people in need and raised his hand and said he's up for the challenge of helping," Polis said. "What a statement of character."
He offered his condolences to Cary's family and asked the public to honor his memory by wearing masks, practicing responsible distancing and making good decisions on their personal conduct.
Polis said the growth rate of COVID-19 cases in Colorado has dropped to 1.4%. The state is moving in the right direction, he said, and it's important to continue that progress.
Colorado lifted its statewide stay-at-home order April 27, but numerous local governments near the Denver metro area extended their versions until May 8.
The state has transitioned to a safer-at-home phase in its response to the pandemic. For many Coloradans, that meant Monday was the first day back at work. Non-essential businesses could return to having 50% of their employees in the workplace, but Polis encouraged companies to continue telecommuting as much as possible.
No one who is vulnerable or has underlying health conditions should be compelled to return to a workplace where they are in close proximity to others, Polis said.
He said that as non-essential retailers reopen to the public, they should use the same precautionary measures as grocery stores that stayed open throughout the state's stay-at-home order.
"We have to get this right as a state," he said. "Preventing people from earning a living is not an option. We have to be able to find a way to engage in things we like to, while meeting public health goals."
As people return to work, the state will need additional guidelines on how to keep people safe, Polis said, adding that he is seeking input from many stakeholders, including retail associations, chambers of commerce, hospitals, real-estate agents and educational institutions.
Guidelines must "meet them (businesses) where they are" on their needs, he said.
Polis also announced the members of the Governor’s Advisory Committee for Cooperation and Implementation, which will focus on helping local governments and the state work together to enforce safer-at-home rules. The committee's members are:
- Steve Johnson, Larimer County commissioner
- Hilary Cooper, San Miguel County commissioner
- Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar
- Montrose Mayor Barbara Bynum
- Robert McDonald, executive director of the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment
- Heath Harmon, director of Eagle County Public Health
- Jefferson County Sheriff Jeffery Shrader
- Broomfield Police Chief Gary Creager
- Thomas DeMint, chief of Poudre Fire Authority
- Kyle Martinez, who sits on the governor's Economic Recovery and Stabilization Council
- Lisa Kaufmann, the governor’s chief of staff
- Stan Hilkey, executive director of the state Department of Public Safety
- Jill Ryan, executive director of the state Department of Public Health and Environment
- Patty Salazar, executive director of the state Department of Regulatory Agencies
On a lighter note, Polis celebrated Star Wars Day — "May the Fourth be with you" — with some advice that everyone can take away from the popular science-fiction franchise:
- Wear a mask when you go out: "Darth Vader would be very safe right now despite his pre-existing respiratory condition."
- Stay one light-saber length away from other people.
- Never give up hope, no matter how dark things seem.
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