Polis takes tour, explains how alternative care site will relieve pressure on hospitals Fort Collins Coloradoan
While Colorado transitions from a stay-at-home order to a “safer-at-home” phase next week, Gov. Jared Polis warns precautions for individuals will stay the same and reopening businesses will be required to adopt distancing and mask-wearing guidelines.
In a Wednesday news conference, Polis emphasized the need for people to continue being cautious when the stay-at-home order in the state expires April 26.
“Our success as a state … is about personal responsibility,” Polis said.
Individuals should still limit interactions with people outside their households and continue to wear masks when out in public, Polis said. The safer-at-home phase that begins Monday will consist of:
- Maintaining a social distancing level of 60-65%.
- Individuals wearing masks in public.
- Vulnerable populations continuing to stay at home as much as possible.
- Some businesses may reopen if they are following strict guidelines from the state, which had not yet been released as of Wednesday.
- No gatherings of more than 10 people, and people should continue to limit their interactions to those in their household as much as possible.
- Building up the state’s heath care capacity.
- Increasing testing and contact tracing.
Under the stay-at-home order, Coloradans achieved 75%-80% social distancing, and the safer-at-home order will relax the social distancing goal to 60%-65%, Polis said. This will allow for some businesses to reopen in a limited capacity, following strict guidelines the state plans to release before April 26.
What’s allowed to open during ‘safer-at-home’
- Beginning April 27, retailers will be allowed to provide curbside services with guidelines for phasing in in-person operations. Real estate showings can resume, no open houses.
- Salons, tattoo shops, pet grooming and other one-on-one personal services can reopen May 1, if they’ve implemented the strict yet-to-be-announced guidelines from the state.
- Starting May 4, offices can send people back to work at 50% capacity if necessary, and telecommuting is still recommended. Businesses that can operate at 100% telecommuting should continue to do so, Polis said.
- Elective medical procedures can resume and dental offices can reopen April 27.
- Restaurants can continue delivery or takeout service only.
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What will remain closed during ‘safer at home’
- Restaurants and bars will remain closed for dine-in services.
- Gyms and spas will not reopen.
- Schools will not reopen.
During ‘safer-at-home,’ residents should not
- Leave the house unless needed. If leaving the house they must wear a facial covering.
- Give hugs or handshakes.
- Travel to the mountains or outside their community unnecessarily.
- Have parties, BBQs or get-togethers
- Play in pick-up sports games.
May is going to look a lot like April, Polis said.
“It’s just as dangerous,” especially for the more vulnerable individuals, Polis said.
The goal with these restrictions is to find a sustainable way to live while preventing our health care system from being overwhelmed, so the Coloradans who do contract the coronavirus can be guaranteed the medical treatment they need — including an ICU bed or ventilator.
People should continue to limit their interactions to those within their households and not travel unnecessarily — including for recreation. Polis said people who want to go to parks or trails shouldn’t be traveling farther than 10 miles from their community to do so.
“Resist the temptation,” he said.
Polis said he hopes to see the curve of new cases and deaths continue to flatten by June, at which time more restrictions might be relaxed. But if the state sees the situation worsen, restrictions might have to be put back in place.
In a skiing comparison, Polis said the stay-at-home order was like the bunny hill, and now we’re moving to the green runs, or the safer-at-home phase. But, if we start to fall and injure ourselves, meaning worsening cases, we might have to go back to the bunny hill.
In another comparison, this time to hiking, Polis compared battling the virus to climbing a 14er. Relaxing these restrictions is like taking the climb 1,000 feet at a time, and if we feel good after climbing 1,000 feet we may continue to climb. But, if we start feeling tired or sick, we may have to climb back down.
“We need to manage our expectations and manage our behavior,” Polis said.
Testing alone ‘is not enough’
Polis addressed questions about how the state is ramping up testing to meet requirements modeled by state health officials on Monday.
The state model showed a 5% increase in testing and containment per week, which Polis said he believes the state would meet or exceed.
By the end of this week, Polis said they are expecting a shipment of 150,000 test kits, and another 150,000 swabs are expected to arrive by mid-May. None of that includes the few thousand test kits coming in from several different sources or the kits being obtained at the county level, Polis said.
“Testing alone at any level is not enough to reopen the state,” Polis said.
Polis emphasized the need for a combination of strategies to prevent Colorado’s health care system from becoming overwhelmed:
- Increased testing
- Containment of people who test positive or show symptoms of the virus
- Wearing masks in public
- Maintaining social distancing measures
- Taking strong precautions to protect the most vulnerable populations
“None of those, by itself, keeps us below our hospital capacity,” Polis said. “A successful strategy combines all of those interventions, and that’s what we’re doing.”
In partnership with Colorado State University, Polis said Colorado is the first state or one of the first to test workers at senior care facilities, and that testing has already detected several asymptomatic people who tested positive for the coronavirus.
“That could be 20 lives we saved right there,” Polis said, showing the success of the targeted testing to protect a population of people who are more likely to need hospitalization and more likely to die from the coronavirus.
Polis said they would plan to do a more in-depth presentation next week on they’ve been ramping up testing in the past few weeks.
“Testing and contract tracing is a critical, indispensable part of the overall evaluation,” Polis said.
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Sady Swanson covers crime, courts, public safety and more throughout Northern Colorado. You can send your story ideas to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @sadyswan. Support our work and local journalism with a digital subscription at Coloradoan.com/subscribe.
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