Colorado Coronavirus Updates For March 13: Closures, Testing, Cases And More

Coronavirus DIA Face Masks
Avery Ortiz, in face mask, waits for his luggage at Denver International Airport on Monday, March 9, 2020.

This post collects all of our updates and reporting on the coronavirus in Colorado for Friday, March 13, 2020. If you're looking for the latest news from Saturday, check our liveblog right here. Our original play-by-play continues below.

7:03 p.m. — We spoke to a Denver man in isolation with COVID-19.

Forty-six-year-old Ian came down with what he thought was maybe just the flu.

After a rough night of sleep and a high fever, he went to his doctor. After a gamut of tests — strep throat, influenza A and B — his doctor did some finagling and got his hands on a coronavirus test

Ian (we’re not using his last name for privacy’s sake) had already self quarantined in his basement. In the minutes and hours after the test, he started to get anxious.

“It was kind of freaky, yeah,” he told Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner. “And of course, you’re mind starts to race with all the what-ifs.”

Ian is doing fine. He complained of a lingering cough, but is through the worst of it. His doctor said there’s nothing he can prescribe. So Ian’s been getting a lot of rest, taking Tylenol for the fever, drinking a lot of fluids and watching a lot of Netflix.

Ryan Warner

6:55 p.m. — How has your daily life changed?

Graduate student Cathryn Wright walked to her neighborhood library, near Glendale in southeast Denver, only to find that it was closed. Nearby school closures prompted the branch to do the same.

“It's definitely a big shift in lifestyle, but I get that it's better safe than sorry.”

Wright is in graduate school. “They canceled all classes for the next, at least three weeks," she said.

Wright hasn’t done any stockpiling, of things like hand sanitizer, toilet paper or food... Unlike Mitzi Leaver. She’s shopping at the Glendale Safeway, getting ready for her son to come back home.

“My 20-year-old, his school closed," Leaver said. "Spring break is next week, and they said that if you leave, please don't come back. So he's packing up his room and coming home.”

Leaver says she’ll have three adult children living with her, so she’s stocking up. “Cereal, oatmeal, rice, things that you can stretch out.”

And she’s looking forward to family time. “We’re all a family of introverts, and hunkering down sounds like the best thing on the planet!”

Michael Sakas

5:46 p.m. — Gov. Polis, El Paso County share more details about state's first death

Colorado's first death from the coronavirus was identified as an El Paso County woman in her 80s who died in a Colorado Springs hospital on Friday, March 13. 

The woman died Friday at UCHealth Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs. She was not identified, but was described as having "underlying health conditions."

At a 5 p.m. press conference in Colorado Springs, Polis said the woman lived "independently" in her own home or apartment. He declined to describe her further.

Francie Swidler

5:22 p.m. — A new drive-up testing site at the Denver Coliseum will be open Saturday

Saturday, March 14, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has set up a testing facility at the Denver Coliseum, 4600 Humboldt St, Denver, CO, 80216.

The CDPHE has moved testing from Lowry to this new location for safety and logistical reasons. It will be staffed by a National Guard medical team.

This location will be open 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 14. The testing center will be able to serve the first 100-150 cars in line.

After Saturday, CDPHE plans to move the drive-up testing operation from Denver to strategic locations throughout Colorado in an effort to detect cases early, identify community spread if it’s there and launch targeted public health responses.

CDPHE will post upcoming schedules and locations on their website as it becomes available. 

Francie Swidler

5:04 p.m. — Five additional new presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Colorado

CDPHE has confirmed 5 additional new presumptive positive cases in Colorado.

That brings the total number of presumptive positive cases to date to 77. The state lab has completed test results on more than 600 people in Colorado since testing started on February 28. 

We're keeping track of known, presumptive positive cases in our FAQ.

You can read that in Spanish or in English.

Francie Swidler

4:08 p.m. — Layoffs in Denver due to the coronavirus have begun

Ryan Warner confirms that Denver-based luxury vacation rental club Inspirato has conducted 115 layoffs, citing the new coronavirus as a reason.

Francie Swidler

4:07 p.m. — Colorado legislature will adjourn for two weeks due to the coronavirus.

From Public Affairs reporter Bente Birkeland: In an unprecedented move, the state legislature will suspend its work for at least two weeks, amid the growing novel coronavirus pandemic.

Democratic and Republican leaders made the decision Friday. They plan to adjourn after a final day of wrap up work Saturday. When they eventually return will depend on conditions around the state.

This move comes even as the legislature’s biggest responsibility is still undone: the annual state budget.

Francie Swidler

3:11 p.m. — All Denver public libraries and city-owned venues will close or cancel events starting Monday

It's part of a sweeping mandate from Mayor Michael Hancock that is also closing the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre and the Convention Center. Read the full story on Denverite.

— Esteban Hernandez

3:04 p.m. — First Colorado coronavirus death

The death occurred in a female in her 80s with underlying health conditions living in El Paso County.

Coronavirus FAQ: What You Need To Know Toda

2:56 p.m. — Take a look inside a Denver elementary school on the eve of a three-week break

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Discovery Link supervisor Jennifer Piel teaches kids at Carson Elementary how to wash their hands. March 13, 2020.

I think grown-ups could use the parting words teacher Jennifer Piel left with her class, too:

“I want you to know that the reason that we’re stopping school for a few weeks is because we are utilizing one of our Carson character traits, and that character trait is responsibility.

Even though things might feel a little weird and strange and scary right now, your parents and your grandparents and your teachers and I and everyone else who loves you are gonna work together to make sure we get through this.

And when we come back together, after our break, we are going to be a stronger, even more awesome community than we were when we left.”

Read the full story on Denverite.

— Kevin J. Beaty

2:50 p.m. — The Denver Center for the Performing Arts is canceling or postponing all activities through April 12

The move comes after a mandate from the City of Denver. The performing arts venues, which hosts both local theater company productions and traveling Broadway shows, is still working on rescheduling events.

— Alex Scoville

2:21 p.m. — The Clyfford Still Museum will close

The Clyfford Still art museum in downtown Denver will close to the public effective 8 p.m. on Friday out of concern for the coronavirus outbreak. No reopening date was announced.

— Alex Scoville

2:16 p.m. — An Arapahoe Basin employee is being tested for coronavirus

An Arapahoe Basin call center employee is being tested for COVID-19, according to the resort.

That employee and four others they work directly with are all in isolation.

Colorado's high country has been a hotbed for coronavirus and was where the virus first started to spread within Colorado communities.

Alex Scoville

2:12 p.m. — Colorado's Senate race is moving forward, but not without disruptions

The Coronavirus is being felt in Colorado's hotly contested Senate race, with campaigns stepping away from public events to avoid potentially spreading the disease. 

Democratic hopeful Andrew Romanoff says his campaign will go virtual. In an email to supporters, Romanoff asked them to host "virtual parties" and participate in phonebanks from home. 

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper’s campaign is also canceling in-person events for the time being to focus on phone and online voter contact.

“We take this outbreak very seriously, and are encouraging all Coloradans to follow guidance from Governor Polis and public health officials,” said spokesperson, Ammar Moussa.

The man they both hope to challenge, Cory Gardner, won’t even be in the state for a while. The Senate canceled its planned recess next week in order to work on a coronavirus response package, a move Gardner pushed for.

The virus could have an impact on candidates’ primary chances beyond even diminished campaigning. To make the June ballot, they need to either secure 30 percent or better support at their party’s state convention or gather 10,000 valid signatures.

The legislature is moving swiftly to allow the parties to suspend or modify the process that selects delegates for their April conventions. If those go off as planned, Gardner should easily win his ballot slot there. Romanoff’s strong caucus showing suggests he’s also safe. Hickenlooper barely made the threshold, but his campaign has already turned in its signatures. 

For other candidates hoping to go the petition route, that could be trickier, since signature gathering requires face-to-face interaction. Fellow Dem. Senate candidate Diana Bray announced she will suspend her signature drive.

"As a newcomer to politics, my only route to the Democratic primary ballot is via petition," Bray said in the statement announcing the decision. "Now I must acknowledge that with the Coronavirus reaching pandemic status, the collection of petition signatures itself has the potential to threaten public health." 

Bray emphasizes that she is not ending her Senate campaign, and called on state leaders to require all campaigns in the state to halt their signature gathering for the time being. She also wants to see the rules for the primary changed to allow more candidates access to the ballot.

— Megan Verlee

2:01 p.m. — Coronavirus is in Pueblo

Pueblo's first presumptive positive case of the new coronavirus is in an adult male, according to the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment.

The same day health officials made the announcement, the Pueblo Classic bike race scheduled to take place this weekend was canceled.

— Alex Scoville

1:50 p.m. — Westminster Public Schools prepares for weeks off with a laptop drive-thru

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Volunteers from Sherrelwood Elementary School in Westminster hand out laptops and educational materials to parents and students on Friday, March 13, 2020.

Westminster Public Schools is about to go on an extended break starting Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 27 as a precaution during the coronavirus outbreak.

To help students continue to learn at home, the district handed out Chromebook laptops at Sherrelwood Elementary School on Friday morning to parents. WPS also distributed paper activity packets and information about free or discounted internet service.

— Hart Van Denburg and Alex Scoville

1:28 p.m. — School closures underline fears over coronavirus for some parents

Willie Cook, like other parents dropping their kids off are Columbine Elementary on Friday before a three-week break, think it’s good schools are closing. Denver Public Schools is one of dozens of school districts that have announced extended school closures to slow the virus’s spread.

But Cook is still scared.

"'Cause I don't want, I don't want nothing to happen to my kids, man," he said.

The closures won’t be easy. Cook works nights as a baker at Dunkin’ Donuts, and his wife is a manager there. So it'll be hard to keep up at work, have an eye on his eight kids (who have “100 different personalities”) and get sleep all at the same time.

Jenny Brundin/CPR News
Willie Cooks, who was dropping off some of his eight kids at Columbine Elementary on Friday, is worried about their health and managing his schedule as schools close for three weeks.

"I ain't even gonna lie to, you know what I'm saying? Ain't no, they don't have no tissue. They don't have a lot of stuff. So, since I got paid today, I'm already caught up with bills and everything. I'm just going to be buying a whole bunch of stuff. Cause ain't no telling what's going to happen," Cook said.

He, like many other parents, said he hadn’t yet heard the names of the eight schools where free breakfasts and lunches will be distributed.

"They're my kids, so I gotta do what I gotta do for them regardless. You know what I'm saying? Like, we all right. I work, my wife work, you know, I mean, we got enough income coming in," Cook said. "It's just, it's just going to be very tight."

Cook is also focused on keeping his eight children healthy. He makes them fresh-squeezed orange juice in the blender.

"I cleaned the house nonstop, 24/7. I'm steady mopping, I'm steady wiping stuff down. I got them washing their hands, I make them get in the tub and stuff like that. You know what I'm saying? So like with this stuff going on anyway, you know what I'm saying? I just gotta be on them," he said.

— Jenny Brundin

1:07 p.m. — Denver Museum of Nature and Science to close

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science will close to the public starting at 5 p.m. on Friday until further notice to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

There have been no cases of coronavirus connected to the museum.

— Alex Scoville

1:00 p.m. — Trump expected to declare a state of emergency any minute now

Colorado Public Radio will provide live coverage starting at 1 p.m MDT. You can tune in on the radio in your area, ask your smart speaker or watch the video feed here.

— Alex Scoville

12:33 p.m. — Colorado Symphony postpones remainder of March events

The Colorado Symphony is postponing concerts and other events through March 31 to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The announcement came shortly after Gov. Jared Polis mandated Friday morning that all events with more than 250 people be canceled.

Ticketholders can exchange their tickets for the postponed events, gift certificate or account credit, as well as receive a refund or donate their tickets for a tax deduction.

— Alex Scoville

12:25 p.m. — What coronavirus means for Colorado's Congressional delegation

Typically during a congressional recess, members use this time to meet with constituents be it in small groups or large town halls. Coronavirus is changing that.

“We're canceling our large events and we're seeing how we can use technology to do meetings and events via Skyping and other mechanisms,” Democratic Rep. Jason Crow said. Think telephone or virtual town halls instead of in-person ones. His offices, while open, are stopping drop-in hours. Instead, he’s encouraging people to call or email if they have concerns or need to meet in person.

Most congressional offices are taking precautions of one kind or another. You see hand sanitizer everywhere or signs on doors saying it’s a no handshake office. Some congressional offices in Washington, D.C., have even closed.

So far, none of the Colorado delegation has done this, but Crow said his offices are trying to see if teleworking may, well, work if necessary.

Because of the rapidly changing situation, Republican Rep. Scott Tipton also canceled meetings and tours for constituents visiting D.C. (The U.S. Capitol stopped all public tours Thursday.) He said his office is focused on constituent and staff safety, and are following the advice of the CDC and local health officials. “We will adhere to local guidance to reduce risk of our district staff from being exposed to the virus as the outbreak spreads through the state as we have done here in DC,” Matthew Atwood, Rep. Tipton’s spokesperson said.

Republican Rep. Ken Buck said all his offices remain open. “My staff and I are taking appropriate safety precautions and I am encouraging my staff to stay home if they are feeling sick. I urge my constituents to do the same,” he said. “It’s important not to panic, but continue to take commonsense steps to stay healthy.”

The district work period is slated for next week. The Senate canceled its recess on Thursday. The chamber, and Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner, are expected to come back to Washington, D.C., to vote on FISA reauthorization and an economic stimulus bill — if one passes the House today.

— Caitlyn Kim

12:21 p.m. — Trump to make announcement at 1 p.m. MST

The New York Times and other major news outlets are reporting that President Donald Trump is expected to declare a national state of emergency on Friday afternoon.

Trump will address the nation at 1 p.m. MST on Friday. CPR News will carry his announcement live on air. Watch here.

— Alex Scoville

12:12 p.m. — For one DPS parent, school closure means more stress but also more safety

Jose Vaquera says the closure of K-12 schools is good and bad as he was dropping off hi stepson, a third-grader at Carson Elementary in Denver.

March 13 is the last day of school before a three-week break that Denver Public Schools superintendent Susana Cordova announced Thursday night out of concerns over the new coronavirus.

Vaquera and his wife are expecting a baby any day now. When his stepson was at school, Vaquera could go to work and his mom would go to her doctor’s appointments. But now, he says hospitals aren’t allowing anyone under 12 inside.

Jenny Brundin/CPR News
Jose Vaquera dropping off his third-grader stepson on the last of school before a coronavirus outbreak-spurred DPS break.

"We're having a baby and there are all the rules are strict now, no kids under 12 years old can be there. So we have to find a babysitter and I got to find someone to help me out so I could go to work and help out," he said.

A family member was supposed to help with child care, but he’s sick right, and so are other extended family members. Vaquera is worried that he’ll have to ask for more time off work as a heavy metal welder.

But he also acknowledges that the school closure will help keep people safe, and his family is prepared.

“We have all kinds of masks and stuff at our house and cleaning supplies. So we stocked up way before this happened just for our daughter (soon to be born). So we got like a few weeks prepared before all this hit us in Colorado," he said.

— Jenny Brundin

11:42 a.m. — via Steamboat Resorts on Twitter

11:13 a.m. — Just in: Polis announces guidance for the cancellation of any event with more than 250 people

"I know that can be devastating" to give up trips, graduations and social gatherings, he said. "And I share that disappointment. But we are in the middle of one of the greatest public health disasters in our lifetime."

Here's more on the developments from the governor's briefing this morning.

— Bente Birkeland

10:51 a.m. — Gov. Polis announces new cases and some hospitalizations

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Gov. Jared Polis provides an update on coronavirus in Colorado on Friday, March 13.

In a midday briefing for the media, Polis gave an update to the state's response to COVID-19 and the coronavirus. He announced there are now 72 presumptive positive cases in Colorado — at least four of those cases in the Denver metro can be contributed to limited community transmission. The state has already seen community spread in the high country. The governor said state health officials expect community spread to accelerate in the coming days and weeks.

Of the 72 cases, eight are currently hospitalized and three of those are in critical condition.

"It is just a matter of time until we have our first fatality," Polis cautioned.

The administration has been focused on expanding the state's testing capacity. Polis said there are hundreds, likely thousands, of Coloradans who have the coronavirus and have not been tested or are awaiting tests.

— Jim Hill

10:37 a.m. — The drive-thru testing center in Denver has been closed due to weather

This just came in. State health officials have stated that the weather conditions present a risk for both people getting tested and the lab staff. CDPHE has made the decision to postpone the drive-up test center to Saturday, March 14.

The changes announced this morning still apply: Testing will take place on Saturday from noon — 2 p.m (weather permitting). The testing center will be able to only serve the first 100-150 cars in line.

— Jim Hill

9:56 a.m. — A simple, quick question...

Also, coming up at 10:30 a.m. we'll have the latest from Gov. Polis' announcement. CPR News will carry that live. You will be able to hear it by clicking "Listen Live" above or asking your smart speaker to "Play CPR News."

— Jim Hill

8:23 a.m. — Eagle, Garfield, and Pitkin counties issue public health order to limit large gatherings

The order from the three counties' bans large gatherings and events of more than 50 people. Smaller gatherings are prohibited "unless measures are taken by event organizers to minimize risk," according to the released statement.

The order is now in effect and will be revisited on April 8, 2020.

The order doesn't apply to schools and the counties are not recommending that schools close, but they said they are monitoring the situation closely. Restaurants are also not included — provided that establishments adhere to social distancing requirements.

There are 11 presumptive positive cases in Eagle County and 10 in Pitkin. As of yet, there are no cases found in Garfield County.

The counties said they won't be actively searching for violations. However, if they get word of gatherings that don't adhere to the order they will contact the parties involved "to educate and provide guidance."

Interestingly, the order carves skiing out. It's an important piece of the local economy and a tourism magnet with Vail, Aspen and other smaller resorts in the immediate vicinity. As the release states, "small-group sports like skiing, as long as social distancing occurs, particularly in areas where congregating in groups is unavoidable, such as lift lines" aren't defined as events.

— Jim Hill

7:55 a.m. — Gov. Jared Polis to speak

We're expecting an update from the state Capitol later this morning where Gov. Polis will make an announcement alongside the state epidemiologist, the state's chief medical officer and other emergency managers.

CPR News will carry the announcement live at 10:30 a.m. MDT. You can listen on 90.1fm, find a signal near you or ask your smart speaker to "Play CPR News."

— Jim Hill

6:36 a.m. — Day to day life has changed

The pandemic has brought more to our daily lives than just constant reminders to wash our hands. Social gatherings, pro and school sports and other events have been curtailed or out right canceled. Here are some quick links to some in-depth looks at what we've learned so far:

— Jim Hill

Coronavirus FAQ: What You Need To Know Toda

6:03 a.m. — New rules for Denver's drive-thru coronavirus test center

Since it opened on Wednesday, March 11 in Denver's Lowry neighborhood, Colorado's first drive-thru testing center has collected more than 650 test samples. The response has also been overwhelming and people were turned away on Thursday due to high demand.

Gov. Jared Polis has deployed the Colorado National Guard to help manage the line and traffic and to assist on-site.

The center will operate in a limited capacity on March 13 to "ensure the safety of our lab and health care workers and to minimize unnecessary wait times," public health officials said in a statement.

  • The drive-thru center will be open from Noon to 2 p.m. on March 13.
  • The first 100-150 cars in line will be given access. All others will be encouraged to seek alternate arrangements.

Colorado now has a private lab testing capacity available, so the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment encourage people who are symptomatic to contact their physician for guidance or to obtain a doctor's order for testing.

— Jim Hill

5:36 a.m. — Where current cases stand

Colorado has 49 presumptive positive cases of the novel coronavirus. The bulk of cases are centered in Denver, Eagle and Pitkin counties. All cases need to be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

— Jim Hill

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