Colorado’s First Coronavirus Death Is An El Paso County Woman In Her 80s

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Tents outside of St. Joseph Hospital in Denver that may become a drive-through testing station for COVID-19, March 10, 2020.

UPDATE: Saturday, March 14, 2020:

State health officials have warned residents about possible COVID-19 exposure at the Colorado Springs Bridge Center. CDPHE said Saturday afternoon that the woman attended several bridge games there in late February and early March. The Bridge Center is closed through March.

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. 

“While we were expecting this day, it doesn't make it any less difficult to hear and share this news," Gov. Jared Polis said in a written statement. "As a state we are in mourning and our hearts go out to the family and loved ones of the Coloradan we lost."

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

Read more: I have asthma. Am I at a greater risk of getting the disease?

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.

It’s the first death in the state since the first two people tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, in Colorado on March 5. Currently the state has 77 known cases of the disease.

COVID-19 has affected primarily older adults and those with compromised immune systems. People over 60 with underlying conditions are at highest risk of severe illness. Most people experience symptoms that do not require medical care. Children seem to be at low risk of infection or severe illness.

At a press conference Friday, Polis said Colorado is on the verge of a “tipping point.” He said there are likely thousands more cases than the 77 identified, but those people have not had access to a test or are waiting for results.  He said the state was taking aggressive steps to slow the spread of the disease, including expanding access to testing, restricting large gatherings and lowering barriers to medical licensing.

President Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency over the spread of the disease in the U.S. on Friday.

The best way to protect yourself from getting sick is to wash your hands, disinfect surfaces you touch a lot, cover your cough (with your elbow), avoid touching your face and distance yourself by at least six feet from other people.

Colorado is able to test patients for coronavirus — and get a result within 24 hours. However the state has set strict guidelines for who qualifies to be tested, which is limited by the total number of test kits available.

Health officials have found evidence of community spread in the high country and in the metro area. They are discouraging people from going to large gatherings and have banned gatherings of 250 people or more, unless steps are taken to keep people separated.