COVID-19 roundup for April 27: Safer-at-home begins

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Colorado’s stay-at-home order expired Sunday, and Monday afternoon Gov. Jared Polis outlined the safer-at-home executive order, which is now in effect.

At the briefing, Polis also presented some of the scientific data the state considered when deciding to let the order expire.

“Our modeling shows that we can handle the caseload and that we need to figure out how to do this in a sustainable way for many weeks and months,” he said.

But Polis cautioned that while the stay-at-home order appears to have succeeded in flattening the curve and easing the potential burden on Colorado’s health care system, the sacrifices people made during the order will “amount to nothing” if they don’t maintain social distancing practices through the safer-at-home period.

“This is not a mission accomplished moment,” Polis said. “It just means we’ve avoided catastrophe.”

Polis said the purpose of the safer-at-home period is to:

  • continue to manage the spread of the coronavirus;
  • ensure every Coloradan that gets sick — not just with COVID-19 — has access to world-class health care;
  • find a more sustainable way for residents to live with social distancing;
  • minimize secondary health effects of the virus, both physical and mental;
  • help Coloradans earn a living while protecting health and safety; and
  • protect the state’s vulnerable populations.

Polis also gave more information about how the state will reopen.

Polis’ safer-at-home executive order outlines a new level in Colorado’s response — moving to a more sustainable way of living for Coloradans while slowing the spread of the virus and allowing more individuals to return to work. The order is tentatively set to expire 30 days from April 27, but could be amended or extended at any time.

Coloradans are to continue staying home “as much as possible”, and should keep taking precautions such as wearing masks when out in public and maintaining social distancing.
Polis’ order directs vulnerable populations, including seniors, to keep staying home, only leaving when it’s absolutely necessary.

“The stay-at-home order has done just what we wanted it to — slowed the spread of the virus and bought us time to expand the capacity of our health care system,” Polis said. “We are in this for the long haul, and Coloradans need to be prepared to follow social distancing requirements in the weeks and months ahead.

“If Coloradans let up over the next few weeks, if we fail to take this new phase seriously — we might have to face staying at home again and all of our gains will be lost. I cannot stress this enough — we must continue to stay home as much as possible, wear facial masks when out, and be cautious and careful. We are nowhere near being back to normal, but we will get through this together.”

Colorado’s COVID-19 death toll stands at 706 as of April 26, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. There have been 13,879 cases statewide, 2,485 hospitalizations, and 66,341 people tested.

El Paso County has recorded 886 cases, 200 hospitalizations and 68 deaths, according to El Paso County Public Health.

The changes of the safer-at-home period will be phased in, with different measures taking effect April 27, May 1 and May 4.

Beginning Monday, April 27:

  • Retail businesses can open for curbside pickup.
  • Real estate home showings can resume.
  • Voluntary or elective medical, dental and veterinary surgeries and procedures may resume if facilities are following required safety protocols.

Beginning Friday, May 1:

  • Retail businesses can phase in a public opening if they are implementing best practices.
  • Personal services can open under the same conditions.

Beginning Monday, May 4:

  • Offices can reopen at 50 percent reduced in-person staffing capacity, if best practices are being implemented.
  • Businesses are encouraged to allow employees to continue telecommuting at higher levels if possible.
  • Child care facilities can also expand or reopen if they are following safer-at-home requirements.

Polis’ safer-at-home order also outlines options for local governments. They include:

  • Implementing safer-at-home guidelines to match the state.
  • Implementing guidelines that go further than the state, including but not limited to stay-at-home orders or additional protective measures.
  • Implementing guidelines less strict than the state. To do so, local governments will need to demonstrate proof of 14 consecutive days of decline of infection of COVID-19 in the county. They also must submit an application to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment that includes a written COVID-19 suppression plan approved by the appropriate local public health authority, all hospitals within the jurisdiction and elected leadership.

The entire order can be found here.

Polis also signed an executive order that went into effect Monday that allows medical, dental and veterinary voluntary or elective surgeries and procedures to resume as long as the health care facility or other setting is following required safety protocols as described in the order.

Under this order, facilities performing these procedures must establish a plan to reduce or stop voluntary or elective surgeries and procedures if there is a surge of COVID-19 infections in the county or municipality in which they are located. CDPHE will determine the conditions that constitute a surge. The full order can be found here.

In other developments:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued interim guidance regarding meat and poultry processing facilities. Its Critical Infrastructure Guidance advises that critical infrastructure workers — like those in meat processing facilities — may be permitted to continue to work following potential exposure to COVID-19, “provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the community.”

The CDC’s guidelines state that all meat and poultry processing facilities should develop plans for continuing operations in the event of COVID-19 infecting workers or the surrounding community. It states that they should work directly with appropriate state and local public health officials and occupational safety and health professionals; incorporate relevant aspects of CDC guidance, including but not limited to the CDC’s interim guidance document and Critical Infrastructure Guidance; and “incorporate guidance from other authoritative sources or regulatory bodies as needed.”

The state released test results Saturday from three Front Range long-term care facilities and found 20 cases with “positive or presumed positive results.”

Other tests, conducted at the facilities on April 19, are still pending. Nearly 900 tests were administered overall.

According to the Colorado State Joint Information Center (CSJIC), approximately 40 percent of Colorado’s COVID-19 deaths are associated with long-term care facilities.

The three sites chosen for testing were chosen based on size, as well as the fact that they had not identified any outbreaks prior to the April 19 testing. The state said the strategy was “instrumental in identifying previously unrecognized infections in the facilities.” The data from the testing initiative will be shared in the state’s weekly outbreak report, published each Wednesday here.

The city of Cripple Creek has canceled or postponed several events scheduled for May and June, as a result of the pandemic.

Cancellations include: the 2020 Top of the World Rodeo, which had been scheduled for June 13-14 at Teller County Fair Grounds, and the Once Upon A Time In The West Art Show, scheduled for June 19-July 5 at the Cripple Creek Heritage Center.

Postponements include: the 89th annual Donkey Derby Days, originally scheduled for June 27 and 28 and rescheduled for Sept. 5-7; Gold Camp Historical Trolley Tours, scheduled to start May 23 but currently postponed indefinitely; and the free concert series Music in the Park, scheduled to start May 30 but now postponed indefinitely.

Colorado is conducting targeted COVID-19 testing in Weld County through Tuesday. The testing is coordinated by the State Emergency Operations Center and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and is staffed by members of the Colorado National Guard and the Colorado State Patrol.

According to the CSJIC, the state lab has dedicated capacity to run 300 samples per day from the event. Testing started Friday at Island Grove Park and will run through Tuesday. Testing continues each day from 10 a.m. until 300 samples have been collected.

Testing is open to any Weld County resident with symptoms of COVID-19, which include fever, coughing and shortness of breath. Asymptomatic individuals will not be tested. The majority of tests will be administered through drive-up lanes, but a walk-thru lane is available for individuals not in a vehicle. No appointment or doctor’s note is necessary. An ID is not required but is recommended for patient intake forms. The form will include basic information to help identify test samples.

Weld County currently has the highest case rate of COVID-19 of any Colorado county with a population greater than 100,000 people, with more than 1,200 cases and 69 deaths in a population just over 324,000.

King Soopers announced Sunday it has partnered with the Colorado State Emergency Operations Center to provide free COVID-19 drive-thru testing in Denver.

The first testing site is the Auraria Campus, 650 Walnut St. in Denver. Registration is required. Those who wish to register can do so at or by calling 1-888-852-2567.

Those seeking testing will use a virtual screening tool based on CDC guidelines to see if they are eligible.

For the testing, patients will remain in their cars. The process is completed in a few minutes using self-administered test kits. The test uses self-administered nasal swabs, which King Soopers said are less painful than other methods and designed to increase safety. Testing services are provided at no cost through various partnerships, including with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, eTrueNorth and Gravity Diagnostics. Test results are expected within approximately 48 hours. The Auraria testing site is estimated to have capacity for 250 vehicles per day.

A Colorado Springs pulmonary and critical care medicine specialist is offering his insight into the pandemic. Dr. Christopher Merrick has been treating COVID-19 patients at UCHealth Memorial Hospital and reminds the public “just how fast someone can fall ill with the virus.” Watch the video here.