Colorado Coronavirus Updates For March 28 & 29: Closures, Testing, Cases And More

Denver Mountain Parks, including Red Rocks, remain open
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Denver Mountain Parks, including Red Rocks, remain open during the statewide stay-at-home order to battle the spread of coronavirus. The Red Rocks Ampitheatre is closed, however. March 26, 2020.

This post collects all of our reporting and updates about the coronavirus in Colorado for the weekend of March 28 and 29, 2020. Looking for Monday's latest? You can find that here. Our original play-by-play of reporting continues below.

4:14 p.m. — Toll of COVID-19 ticks up

Another three people died of COVID-19 in Colorado and 52 more people are in the hospital.

The Colorado Department of Health and Public Environment released new numbers on Sunday afternoon. A total of 47 people have died in the state and 326 are hospitalized, up from 274 on Saturday.

The number of people who are in the hospital has seen a big increase in the last week.

A total of 2,307 positive cases of the new coronavirus have been confirmed in Colorado. One one in six people who are tested are positive for COVID-19.

The state health department also reported that there are now 10 facilities in the state that have an outbreak of the virus.

— Alison Borden

3:56 p.m. — Trader Joe's in Denver closed for cleaning due to employee's positive test

The Trader Joe’s at 750 Colorado Blvd. has closed for cleaning after an employee tests positive for COVID-19.

The Denver Post reports that the store will reopen as soon as possible. 

The infected employee was last in the store on Wednesday. The cleaning and sanitation is “precautionary,” according to the statement given to The Post, which said store employees will continue to be paid for their scheduled shifts during the closure.

— Alison Borden

3:13 p.m. — Larimer County Health Department has no test supplies

While test sites were up and running for a couple of weeks, there are no supplies to test in Larimer County.

There are no supplies to test for COVID-19 in Larimer County. That’s according to a tweet from the Larimer County Health Department on Friday. 

The health department said there were test sites up and running in the county for several weeks, but there are no supplies to test currently. They also said that they are working hard to get test supplies in the county. 

On the department’s website, it said to self-isolate at home until at least seven days after your symptoms start and for three days after your symptoms go away. It also encouraged people to report COVID-19 symptoms they are experiencing on a confidential form on the county’s monitoring dashboard

As of Sunday, there are 79 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and three people have died in Larimer County.

— Alison Borden

Berthoud Pass Sunday March 29 2020
Courtesy of CDOT
On Sunday afternoon of the first weekend of Colorado's stay-at-home order, Berthoud Pass was still drawing backcountry visitors.

12:48 p.m. — Backcountry group asks people to stay home

During the first weekend under the governor’s stay-at-home order, a backcountry skiers’ group asked Coloradans to take that order seriously. 

The Friends of Berthoud pass reposted a statement from Colorado Backcountry Ski & Snowboard to its Facebook group on Friday, asking backcountry skiers to recreate in their own county and not crowd some popular areas -- such as Berthoud Pass. 

“We love the BC, but we should all come to understand just how self-serving of an activity it really is. Now is not the time to be selfish, brash, or daring. Instead of driving to the high country for your recreation, get out for a run or get on the bike,” the statement said.

But as of Saturday morning, pictures showed a crowded parking lot at Berthoud Pass. And people were still visiting the popular area on Sunday afternoon.

— Alison Borden

11:53 a.m. — Just a reminder. Colorado is under a "stay-at-home order" until April 11.

It's been four days since Gov. Polis issued a statewide, "stay-at-home" order. Have you done any of these things yet? They're all part of the things you can do:

  • Go to the grocery store
  • Go to the pet store
  • Go on a bike ride near your home
  • Go nordic skiing near your home
  • Listen to our newsroom's "stay at home" Spotify playslist

Here's where you can find a full list of what you can and can't do, under the order.

— Francie Swidler

11:35 a.m. — A look at how CPR News approaches reporting on the coronavirus in Colorado

The COVID-19 outbreak in Colorado has changed lives in many ways, whether you’re practicing physical distancing, filing for unemployment or trying to keep your kids safe and your sanity intact. This is a story that touches everyone.

In a letter to our audience, News director Rachel Estabrook explains how CPR News has changed its work schedules and its priorities to meet that demand. Part of that means we have more journalists working early mornings, evenings and weekends than ever before.

From our editorial approach to the pandemic, to how we've reorganized our work schedules and priorities, here's some insight into how our newsroom is adjusting to and reporting on the new normal.

Alison Borden and Francie Swidler

Polis Coronavirus Presser
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, speaks during a press conference with Gov. Jared Polis Tuesday, March 3 at the governor’s office about state preparedness regarding the novel coronavirus.

11:15 a.m. — Colorado's top health official has been isolating with family since husband's positive test

The executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has been isolating with her family since March 13 after her husband tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, Jill Hunsaker Ryan said her own test for the new coronavirus was negative. 

She told the Gazette her husband, Taylor, suffered only a mild case of the disease — experiencing a dry cough, chest tightness, fatigue and a runny nose, but no fever — and was never hospitalized.

Ryan lives in Eagle County, a hot spot for COVID-19. As of Saturday, it had 182 cases -- the same count as Jefferson County, and just behind El Paso, which has 184, and Denver’s 367. 

“I will say that I haven't been out of the house since Friday the 13th,” Ryan told the Gazette on Saturday.  “And it's why one of the messages is to buy enough food, get your medications, get your pet food, your baby diapers, your baby formula, whatever you need so that you don't have to leave the house.” 

— Alison Borden

10:02 a.m. — Southern Ute Indian Tribe confirms two positive cases of COVID-19

Two employees of the Southern Ute Indian Tribal government have tested positive for COVID-19. They are in self-quarantine and officials are working to identify anyone who may have been exposed to the new coronavirus. San Juan Basin Public Health and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment are providing assistance.

Any staff reporting to work at any tribal facility in Ignacio must now report to the tents behind the Health Center before going to work. Employees will be screened and cleared to work by Health Center staff if they have no fever or other symptoms of COVID-19.

— Alison Borden

Courtesy Colorado Department of Transportation
CDOT's Bustang Outrider service connects small towns in Colorado to larger cities. CDOT suspended services Sunday to reduce intercity travel during the new coronavirus outbreak.

7:41 a.m. — CDOT suspends Bustang services

The Bustang Outrider buses are parked for now. The Colorado Department of Transportation announced that it is suspending the service between cities throughout the state as a way of limiting the spread of COVID-19. 

CDOT urges all travelers to stay at home whenever possible, limiting all travel to what is absolutely critical, per Gov. Jared Polis’  statewide Stay-At-Home order

“We must do everything we can right now to limit the spread of COVID-19,” said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew, in a statement. “Minimizing travel between communities is one important piece of our fight against this virus, and so we are suspending our intercity bus service.”

The bus service suspension is effective today and will last until at least April 11, but that date may be reevaluated as guidance or statewide orders change. 

— Alison Borden


6:38 p.m. — Colorado is now a major disaster area

President Donald Trump approved Colorado's application for major disaster status as a result of the growing number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths from the coronavirus.

The designation gives Colorado access to additional federal funding and assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in fighting the virus.

“This declaration ensures that Colorado can be on a level playing field with other states that already have this status like New York and Washington when it comes to federal disaster funding and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance,” said Gov. Jared Polis in a statement released Saturday evening. “We are forging new and innovating partnerships daily with the federal government and the private sector to minimize the health threat and the economic threat of the virus.” 

The declaration says that federal funding will now be made available to state, local and tribal governments for "emergency protective measures" to fight the virus. Colorado's two senators and the Congressional delegation, with the exception of Rep. Ken Buck, R-Windsor, wrote to Trump seeking his support of the state's request.

Polis has estimated that Colorado hospitals may be 7,000 ventilators short of being able to handle a worst-case-scenario crush of patients infected with COVID-19. The state has also been trying to find additional masks for health care workers seeing an increasing number of hospitalizations from the virus.

The state is currently under a "stay-at-home" order barring all non-essential travel and closing non-essential businesses to reduce the spread of the virus.

— Chuck Murphy

6:28 p.m. — Orlando McDaniel, who had a brief career with Denver Broncos, dies of coronavirus

A former second-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos has died from the coronavirus.

Orlando McDaniel, an LSU wide receiver who was taken by the Broncos in the 1982 draft, died Friday night, according to multiple media reports. He was 59.

Despite being taken 50th in the draft, McDaniel’s NFL career lasted just three games, at the end of the strike-shortened 1982 season. He did not catch a pass.

McDaniel, who was born in Shreveport, La., was also a stellar track athlete. He won the Southeastern Conference championship in the 110-meter hurdles in 1980 and finished second in the event at the NCAA championships.

McDaniel founded a track and field club for youth in the Dallas area.

The Advocate newspaper reported he fell ill after returning to Dallas from a trip to Washington, DC.

— Chuck Murphy

6:12 p.m. — U.S. mayors, including in Colorado, say there's a shortage of emergency equipment

Two Colorado cities — Denver and Lakewood — participated in a survey of more than 200 mayors across the country who collectively are raising alarms about a shortage of emergency equipment available to fight the new coronavirus.

The survey results don't specify what individual cities said about their needs. But more than 92 percent of respondents said they don't have enough test kits. Nearly that many also said they do not have an adequate supply of face masks for first responders (including police, fire and EMTs) and medical personnel, or other personal protective equipment.

Across all the cities who were able to quantify their needs, there's a shortage of nearly 30 million face masks. The survey also noted a significant lack of ventilators needed to address the pandemic.

— Rachel Estabrook

4:10 p.m. — Death toll keeps growing, as do hospitalizations

Colorado recorded another 13 deaths from COVID-19 and more than 300 new positive tests for the illness, pushing the official total above 2,000, though the true number is likely much higher than that.

The 4 p.m. update from the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment says the state’s death toll is now 44 from the disease, up from 31 on Friday. Another 274 people are hospitalized, a growth of 40 from the 234 reported hospitalized a day before.

The total number of recorded positive tests or diagnoses crossed another grim threshhold, reaching 2,061. 

Testing in Colorado is limited and spotty and results can take several days to be processed and reported, making the testing data unreliable for tracking the growth in cases or spread of the disease.

Just 13,276 people have been tested for the virus in Colorado, a figure that represents about two-tenths of one percent of the state's population.

Gov. Jared Polis on Friday pivoted toward emphasizing the number of hospitalizations as a metric for measuring the progression of the virus.

— Chuck Murphy

1:58 p.m. — Notaries can work remotely, Polis says

A new executive order from Gov. Jared Polis temporarily suspends the requirement that people must be physically present for notaries to perform their functions.

The order also empowers the Secretary of State to set rules by which notaries can do their work remotely.

Notaries serve as witnesses at the signing of important documents and act as a check on fraud.

Polis' order is set to expire on April 26.

— Nathaniel Minor

12:50 p.m. — Second Avs player tests positive for COVID-19

The Colorado Avalanche announced Saturday that a second player for the hockey club has tested positive for COVID-19.

The NHL club, which plays home games at Denver’s Pepsi Center, has not identified either player. The first player to test positive has recovered. The second is said to be recovering in self isolation.

Neither player has been publicly identified. The club said Avs officials are investigating the players’ contacts and reaching out to those who may have been infected to advise them to self-isolate and watch for symptoms.

The NHL suspended the hockey season on March 12, a day after the Avs beat the New York Rangers in Denver. Given the typical incubation period for the virus, it seems likely that the second player caught the illness after the season was suspended. 

— Chuck Murphy

12:40 p.m. — Location of coronavirus outbreaks revealed after newspaper's records request

For much of this week, daily reports from the state have said there were COVID-19 outbreaks in nine different facilities in Colorado.

Two of the homes, North Shore Health and Rehabilitation in Loveland and Laurel Manor in Colorado Springs had previously been identified or identified themselves as areas of potential outbreak. Another, Columbine Manor, was confirmed as a site by the Chaffee County Health Department.

But despite questions from the press, Gov. Jared Polis’s administration refused to reveal the names or locations of the other facilities. Until now.

After an open records request from The Denver Post, the state on Saturday gave the newspaper a list of the facilities. The paper said they include North Shore, Laurel Manor and Columbine Manor along with:

  • Mapleton Care Center in Jefferson County
  • Inglenook at Brighton in Adams County
  • Fairacres Manor in Weld County
  • Centennial Healthcare Center in Weld County
  • Brookdale North in Loveland
  • Libby Bortz Assisted Living in Arapahoe County

All of the facilities are homes or long-term care facilities serving elderly residents or patients, who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

El Paso County Public Health said a week ago that six residents of Laurel Manor had tested positive for the virus. There has been no further update since then. A resident and a staffer at North Shore tested postive for the virus more than a week ago.

An update Friday from Columbine Manor said 15 residents have now been tested for COVID-19. Two tests were positive, four were negative and they await results on nine others.

— Chuck Murphy

9:55 a.m. — More than 1,700 cases in Colorado

Colorado has 1,734 positive cases of COVID-19, and there are probably many more.

The state released that figure Friday afternoon. The true number of cases is probably much higher, Gov. Jared Polis said, but it's unknowable because of a lack of widespread testing.

More than 11,500 people have been tested for the virus. Thirty-one deaths due to COVID-19 in the state have been reported.

We're expecting updated numbers this afternoon. Stay tuned.

— Nathaniel Minor

8:41 a.m. — It's the first weekend under statewide stay-at-home

Coloradans are only supposed to leave their houses to engage in activities that are critical to their health and safety, or to the health and safety of their family or household members, or to go to (or return from) "critical work."

So what does that mean? You can get or deliver food, go out for medical care, you can exercise close to home, or work in something deemed a critical industry. If you have more questions, tag #askcm on Twitter, and join us Monday at 9 a.m. for a special Colorado Matters show that will answer your questions about this whole stay-at-home thing.

Enforcement is likely to be spotty, but Denver says since its own local stay-at-home order went into effect, it's issued 280 warnings, 15 orders to comply and one citation.

Here's a peek behind the curtain at when all this social distancing stuff might start to pay off. Governor Polis said Friday that these orders are already bringing down the number of cases. He said it takes about 12 to 15 days to see the results of each social distancing measure, depending on how compliant the public is.

So, he has a message for you this weekend: Stay-at-home is "not a vacation." But I still hope you get to relax and do something that makes you happy on this Saturday.

— Rachel Estabrook

8:10 a.m. — Department of Corrections has two more positive tests among staffers

The concern that COVID-19 could find its way into Colorado's confined inmate population has grown a little more with news that two more Department of Corrections workers have tested positive for the illness.

One of the staffers works at Sterling Correctional Facility, and the other at the Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center. Neither had been at work for several days before the positive test results.

Neither was identified and both have been placed on administrative leave.

The two new cases join the case of a parole officer from Sterling whose positive test result was announced Thursday. That staffer did not work inside a facility.

A statement from DOC said areas in the two facilities were being disinfected, and an investigation was underway to trace any contacts the staffers may have had inside the prisons.

So far, no inmates in Colorado prisons have tested positive for COVID-19.

— Chuck Murphy

Looking for Friday's updates? You can find them here.