COVID-19 update for April 22: Hot air balloon rides for first responders

click to enlarge Hot air balloon company Rainbow Ryders is giving away free balloon rides to first responders and front-line workers. - COURTESY OF RAINBOW RYDERS

  • Courtesy of Rainbow Ryders
  • Hot air balloon company Rainbow Ryders is giving away free balloon rides to first responders and front-line workers.
As of 4 p.m. April 22, the Colorado Department of Public Health was reporting 10,878 cases, 2,123 hospitalizations and 508 deaths due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. That data is current through April 21.

In El Paso County, there have been 774 cases and 54 deaths.

The latest data on outbreaks at non-hospital health care facilities, such as nursing homes, shows 123 outbreaks statewide and seven in El Paso County.

New outbreaks in El Paso County include Apple Tree Assisted Living, which had two residents test positive for COVID-19, and Pikes Peak Care Center, which had two residents and one staff member test positive.

You can view more detailed data at or at

And if you haven’t seen it yet, you may want to check out our cover story this week delving into El Paso County Public Health’s response to the outbreak of COVID-19 that began at a local bridge club.

Gov. Jared Polis outlined more specific guidance for businesses that plan to reopen soon, when the stay-at-home order expires April 27 and the “Safer at Home” phase of Colorado’s COVID-19 response kicks off.

The following guidelines, which apply starting April 27, come from Polis’ office:

• Vulnerable populations and older adults must stay home unless absolutely necessary.
• No group gatherings of more than 10 people.
• Critical businesses will remain open with strict precautions (social distancing, masks for all employees, more frequent cleanings, etc.)
• Retail businesses may open for curbside delivery and phased-in public opening with strict precautions.
• Nightclubs, gyms and spas will remain closed.
• Elective medical and dental procedures begin, with strict precautions to ensure adequate personal protective equipment and the ability to meet critical care needs.
• Personal services (salons, tattoo parlors, dog grooming, personal training, etc.) will open with strict precautions.
• K-12 schools and postsecondary institutions will continue to suspend normal in-person instruction for the 2019-2020 school year.
• Telecommuting continues for offices. Starting on May 4, up to 50% of staff can work in person (with social distancing in place).
• The state is not changing requirements for nursing homes and other senior care facilities. There will continue to be restrictions on visiting residents.

For many industries in Colorado, Polis said April 22, “there’s going to be specifics that are outlined by public health around these practices… As consumers, as individuals, you don’t need to know them.” But Polis emphasized that all Coloradans need to wear face masks and practice good handwashing hygiene to prevent the spread of the virus.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, will hold a telephone town hall April 23 to provide an update on the federal response to COVID-19 and to answer Coloradans’ questions.

Bennet will be joined by Dr. Mark Learned from Kaiser Permanente Colorado, Greg Stasinos from the Colorado Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response, and Mark Crisman from the Colorado Health Emergency Line for Public Information (COHELP). Those experts will provide information on Colorado’s response and available resources.

Coloradans can RSVP online here, and are asked to call in at 12:55 p.m. to “ensure a prompt start to the discussion.” The town hall is scheduled from 1-2 p.m.

Five community organizations helping support COVID-19 relief efforts will receive grants totaling $55,000, thanks to the Hillside neighborhood’s Hillside Advisory Team and The Colorado Trust, a statewide foundation.

Among the recipients, chosen by the team for their impact on the Hillside community:

Pikes Peak Community Foundation received $25,000 “to support emergency relief efforts in southeast Colorado Springs,” according to a statement from The Colorado Trust.

Colorado Springs Food Rescue received $10,000 “to support the emergency food relief program at the Helen Hunt Campus,” a nonprofit campus on the site of a former elementary school.

Community Partnership for Child Development (CPCD) Giving Children a Head Start received $5,000 to “ensure family stability and continued educational opportunities for children enrolled at the Helen Hunt Campus.”

Catholic Charities of Central Colorado received $5,000 to “support the Family Connections program at the Helen Hunt Campus.”

Open Bible Medical Clinic & Pharmacy received $5,000 to “support their mobile food pantry.”

PikeRide received $5,000 to “support provision of free rides for health care workers, small-business employees and community members.”

The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) sought to clarify that survivors of domestic violence are permitted to leave their homes — regardless of social distancing restrictions and public health orders — to call or text for help, or to find safe housing.

“The health and safety of Coloradans is our top priority, and everyone who needs to leave their home to stay safe can and should do so,” CDHS Executive Director Michelle Barnes said in a statement.

“We know that people who perpetrate violence in their relationship may use misinformation and lies to control their partners and create fear,” Barnes continued. “It is acceptable to leave your home — and to take any dependents like children or parents with you — in order to ask for help or escape violence.”

Here are some local resources for domestic violence survivors:

Haseya Advocate Program, which serves Native American survivors, can be reached at 719-600-3939.

TESSA Colorado Springs has several advocates working Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They can be reached at the following numbers:

Outside of those hours, you can dial TESSA’s 24-hour Safe Line at 719-633-3819.

Voces Unidas for Justice, which offers cultural and linguistic services for Latin@s, can be reached at 720-588-8219.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline — 1-800-799-7233 — can also connect people to a local provider. People who can’t make a phone call can text loveis to 22522 or visit to chat with an advocate.
The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office encourages voters to prepare for the June 30 non-presidential primary election by making sure their information is up-to-date online.

“Voters should use online services to avoid in-person contact once offices reopen,” a statement from the Pikes Peak Regional Joint Information Center says.

Visit to update your voter information, make changes to your party affiliation or party preference, or register to vote.

Voters affiliated with a major party will only receive that party’s primary ballot.

Unaffiliated voters will receive mailed ballots for both the Republican and Democratic primaries unless they choose a party preference ahead of the election. (If you already chose a preference for the March election, you must choose one again for the June primary if you only want to receive one ballot.)

Even if you receive both ballots in the mail, keep in mind that you may only return one, or your vote won’t count.

UCHealth, in coordination with El Paso County Public Health, is now conducting COVID-19 testing for all people with the ability to walk who have experienced fever, cough or shortness of breath within the last 3-5 days. No doctor’s note is required.

The drive-thru testing site is located at South Parkside Drive in KidsKare Point, one block east of Union Boulevard. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For a bit of levity (see what we did there), hot air balloon company Rainbow Ryders is giving away free hot air balloon rides to first responders, medical professionals, grocery and pharmacy workers.

Nominate someone (including yourself) online, for the chance to win a hot air balloon ride for two, valued at $450.