This post collects all of our reporting and updates on the coronavirus in Colorado for Monday, March 20, 2020. You can find the latest reporting on Tuesday here. Our original play-by-play of reporting continues below.
8:27 p.m. — G'night, live blog
Go after your (indoor) hopes and dreams tomorrow like this squirrel did a scrap of pizza outside our window today.
— Alex Scoville
6:17 p.m. — Speaking of less traffic...
This photo from the Denver Post's Helen Richardson tells the whole story.
6:09 p.m. — beep beep
CDOT just voted unanimously to allow large trucks on highways during what was once rush hour along the Front Range.
“Long vehicle combinations” — think trucks hauling many trailers behind them — can now safely use Colorado's interstates near Pueblo, Colorado Springs and Denver at any time.
Earlier in the day, Gov. Jared Polis pointed to a decline in traffic as evidence that social distancing is starting to work in Colorado.
“We are showing a 60 percent reduction of cars on the road from the baseline four weeks ago,” Polis told reporters.
Easing restrictions on the big trucks also helps speed up the delivery of critical supplies.
“When the movement of goods is more important then ever, and the trucking industry is strained and doing everything they can to keep essential products stocked, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to support that effort,” CDOT spokesman Matt Inzeo said in a statement. “This creates one less obstacle for our freight industry to move effectively across the state.”
The emergency rule will stand for four months, but it can be extended.
— Alex Scoville
5:53 p.m. — An inmate at the downtown Detention Center tested positive for COVID-19
From the city’s Joint Information Center:
"An inmate has tested positive with COVID-19 at the downtown Detention Center. Per our COVID-19 protocols, the inmate has been isolated in the medical unit of the jail and is being monitored by Denver Health Medical staff. The housing unit the inmate was being held in has been decontaminated. Any inmate who reports symptoms will be referred to medical staff for immediate evaluation. Employees that develop symptoms have been instructed to report to their supervisor and will follow the city’s COVID-19 employee protocol."
— Esteban Hernandez
4:08 p.m. — Here's where Colorado is seeing coronavirus cases and deaths
4:01 p.m. — More and more health care workers are starting to test positive for COVID-19
Colorado health care professionals are working long hours in difficult conditions and starting to come down with COVID-19 themselves as the disease continues to spread in the state.
“We know that our medical workers [are] putting themselves at risk of exposure every day, working double shifts,” Gov. Jared Polis said Monday from the state’s emergency operations center. “You are really in the frontlines of making a sacrifice to save lives.”
While Colorado now sees indicators that stay-at-home orders, business closures and other social distancing guidance are having an appreciable effect, health care professionals are still preparing for a bigger public health crisis. They continue to push for more protective equipment and note that patients are still being admitted to hospitals at a faster rate than they are recovering.
Dr. Marc Moss, the head of pulmonology at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, said they are treating “an unprecedented number of critically ill patients” at his hospital — which has also created another risk.
“We are unfortunately starting to see health care professionals test positive for the coronavirus,” Moss said. “This is not only devastating to these medical professionals and their families, [but] it hampers our entire response because it sidelines critical medical staff at a time when we need them the most.”
Moss then told the story of a colleague, a critical care physician who started to feel sick a few weeks ago at the very beginning of the outbreak. The intensive care unit doctor started to feel the symptoms of COVID-19, self-isolated herself and eventually tested positive. She’s now fully recovered and repeatedly asked Moss when she can get back to work.
“Why do we take these personal risks?” Moss said. “It's because it's a privilege and an honor to care for patients.”
His colleague is scheduled to be back at work next week, he said.
— Jim Hill
3:49 p.m. — Casa Bonita employees say their paychecks are bouncing
As restaurants and bars across the state struggle under various restrictions enacted due to the COVID-19 outbreak, four Casa Bonita employees told CPR News their latest paychecks have bounced.
They all provided CPR bank statements and pictures of checks.
The workers, who did not want to be named, are accruing bank fees as a result. They say they are not alone, and management isn’t answering their questions.
“Employees are struggling to buy groceries and pay rent because of this. A lot of us live paycheck to paycheck, and it's disheartening to have this happen when so many other businesses are currently struggling to find creative ways to keep their staff paid,” said one employee of almost six years.
The same worker said he knows of more than two dozen employees whose checks have also bounced.
Casa Bonita employs more than 100 people.
CPR News’ voicemails and emails to the corporate office in Scottsdale, Ariz., and to the local general manager have gone unreturned.
In accordance with the state’s order, Casa Bonita is closed to reduce the spread of COVID-19. It is not offering takeout service.
In 2011, the restaurant’s parent company Star Buffet, Inc. filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
— Ryan Warner
3:37 p.m. — RTD's Access-a-Ride will now deliver groceries
With fewer people using RTD's Access-a-Ride to get around town, the paratransit service is switching it up.
Access-a-Ride users can now call the service for grocery delivery. No fare will be charged for the service.
“We are well aware that during a state of emergency, one of the first things people can lose access to is food,” said Paul Hamilton, senior manager of paratransit services, in a statement. “When the public is being told to reduce their exposure to others, the last thing we want to do is ask them to leave their homes if they don’t have to. We are pleased to help our customers where they are, and we appreciate the grocers and food banks that are working with us to provide people with this crucial service.”
Access-a-Ride will pick up groceries from King Sooper and Safeway locations, as well as the Community Ministry Southwest food bank, Senior Hub Senior Solutions and Adams County Food Bank. Additional grocers and nonprofits may continue to sign on.
Customers will have to call the store or food bank first to set up an order and pick-up time, then phone Access-a-Ride to coordinate.
Full details can be found on RTD's website.
— Alex Scoville
2:58 p.m. — Colorado wants to more than quadruple the number of ICU beds in the state
The Colorado State Emergency Operations Center is collaborating with a bunch of hospitals, agencies and public health offices to add more than 6,000 intensive care unit beds across the state by summer.
The center estimates that Colorado currently has about 1,849 ICU beds. The state wants to add 1,000 more by May and 5,000 on top of that by summer.
In the meantime, hospitals are prioritizing which patients get access to ICU beds and transferring as needed to accommodate the wave of COVID-19 patients.
— Alex Scoville
2:39 p.m. — Need more Polis time? He'll be at Rep. Joe Neguse's virtual town hall tonight
Rep. Joe Neguse is hosting two town halls on Monday and Tuesday nights to answer questions about the federal stimulus package.
Both events have pretty stacked guests lists, including the governor on Monday. Various state lawmakers, mayors and health officials will attend both nights. See the full lists here.
Constituents can register for both town halls here.
— Alex Scoville
12:46 p.m. — Partial update on case count, deaths and more
At a press conference this afternoon, Gov. Jared Polis revealed a partial update on the number of hospitalizations, cases identified and deaths recorded in the COVID-19 outbreak in Colorado. Official data is updated at 4 p.m. each day at covid19.colorado.gov/case-data.
- 2,627 cases
- 414 hospitalizations
- 47 counties with at least one case identified
- 51 deaths
Polis also revealed today that Colorado has had its first two deaths from complications of COVID-19 in people under the age of 40.
Editor's Note: Due to an error in the governor's press conference, a previous version of this blog entry misstated the number of people under 40 who have died due to COVID-19. It is two, not one.
— Daniel J. Schneider
12:18 p.m. — Gov. Polis to give updates on state's response to pandemic
Gov. Jared Polis is scheduled to discuss update on the state of Colorado's response to the COVID-19 pandemic at or around 12:20 p.m. MDT. CPR News will carry the governor live on air and online.
Click "Listen Live" above to start the stream, ask your smart speaker to "Play CPR News," find a frequency near you or watch the video below:
12:14 p.m. — Coloradans stuck in Peru continue to hurry up and wait
Roseann Casey was supposed to be home from Peru almost two weeks ago. Instead, she and a dozen other Coloradans remain stuck in Pisac, a town about an hour away from Cusco.
The State Department has organized charter flights from Cusco back to the U.S., but Casey and the two dozen Americans in her group, including 13 Coloradans, still aren’t on those flights.
Casey doesn’t want to sound ungrateful, but the process — or lack thereof — is frustrating. Especially as stories circulate among those stuck in Peru of some Americans who just show up at the airport and get on a U.S. charter flight out of Peru, while others still wait for the embassy message that they are scheduled for a flight.
“So the people who are jumping on the standby line are home. And those of us who have been trying to be organized and trying to go along with the embassy plan, are still sitting here wondering what’s going on,” Casey explained.
Part of the problem for Casey’s group is getting to Cusco. Internal travel within Peru has stopped, unless you have government permission. The U.S. Embassy in Lima has organized buses to other remote areas of the country to get Americans, but a bus hasn’t been sent to Pisac. Casey said for a week they were told that a bus would come for them.
“However, every new person we talk to seems surprised that we think we’re getting ground transportation,” Casey said. “There’s not really a consistent response.”
Casey said the group has organized transportation to get them to the airport on their own. They’re just waiting on a letter from the embassy to show the vehicle is allowed to travel and would require Peruvian government approval.
“Since we found our own ground transportation, the embassy seems more confident that they would get us on a flight manifest,” Casey said. “Every step where we think we make progress, we’re not sure, but we’re hopeful,” Casey said. She said the embassy is confident they can get the Americans on a flight home tomorrow, but it’s something the group has heard before.
— Caitlyn Kim
11:21 a.m. — Elbert County Coroner confirms recently deceased resident tested positive for COVID-19
An Elbert County man in his 70s who died at his home on March 26 was revealed to have tested positive for COVID-19 by postmortem lab results by the county coroner, according to a release issued Monday.
“Our sincere condolences are with his friends and family during this difficult time. While this is a worldwide pandemic, we always remember that it has a very personal effect on our friends and neighbors here in Elbert County,” County Commissioner Chris Richardson said in a statement.
This brings the number of COVID-19 deaths recorded in Colorado to 49.
— Daniel J. Schneider
11:10 a.m. — State gives essential workers full credit for childcare
Essential workers that are exempted from Colorado’s stay-at-home order will get full tuition credit for childcare till May 17. This went into effect immediately. The list of essential workers who will be covered by this care, as outlined in the order, includes:
- Health Care Operations
- Critical Infrastructure
- Critical Manufacturing
- Critical Retail
- Critical Services
- News Media
- Financial Institutions
- Providers of Basic Necessities to Economically Disadvantaged Populations
- Critical Services Necessary to Maintain the Safety, Sanitation and Critical Operations of Residences or Other Critical Businesses
- Vendors that Provide Critical Services or Products, Including Logistics and Technology Support, Child Care and Services
Gov. Jared Polis collaborated with early childhood providers, advocacy groups, school districts, Gary Community Investments, and the Colorado Department of Human Services to create a system of emergency child care. The Emergency Child Care Collaborative began March 23.
“We know that this global pandemic is putting an unprecedented strain on Colorado’s health care and emergency workers,” Polis said. “More than 80,000 of our emergency workers have children under age 8, and without child care, many of these workers will not be able to perform the jobs that are most crucial to containing the spread of the virus.”
Licensed child care providers across Colorado provide all care through the Collaborative. The supply of care is limited so parents are encouraged to only use it when they have no other options. Families interested in being matched with a local child care provider can fill out the form at covidchildcarecolorado.com to immediately begin the matching process.
— Taylor Allen
9:01 a.m. — TSA worker at DIA tests positive for coronavirus
The Transporation Security Agency agent in question is a screening officer that worked on the Level 6 Oversize Baggage Screening Checkpoint at the Denver International Airport.
The employee was last on the job on March 21 and worked the 4 a.m. to 12:30 p.m shift.
— Jim Hill
8:44 a.m. — Gov. Polis to speak today
The governor will provide an update to the state response to the coronavirus outbreak and take questions. CPR News will carry his remarks live at noon. Find a signal near you or ask your smart speaker to "Play CPR News."
— Jim Hill
8:15 a.m. — The Colorado Legislature extends its break
Originally the bipartisan plan from legislative leaders had been to suspend the session through April 13, via a letter signed by the majority of lawmakers. But some lawmakers in both parties questioned whether they could adjourn via a letter and not a formal vote.
The legislature has also asked the Colorado Supreme Court to decide how much time lawmakers would have to finish their work whenever they do return to the capitol.
“These are unprecedented times, and there is a lot of uncertainty particularly as we wait to hear from the Supreme Court. Today, we’re continuing the suspension while we wait to learn from the Supreme Court whether we can pick up where we left off in the session or whether we continue our business, regardless of the pandemic, in order to adjourn on May 6,” said Democratic Speaker of the House KC Becker.
Legislative leaders also postponed a meeting scheduled for Monday morning that was scheduled to discuss adjournment.
— Bente Birkeland
7:34 a.m. — 📷
7:26 a .m. — Fort Carson Hospital Unit sets up shop in Seattle
A military field hospital for people with medical issues not related to the coronavirus outbreak is being deployed at Seattle's CenturyLink Field Event Center, which is home to the Seahawks football team.
Officials say 300 soldiers from the 627th Army Hospital at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs have deployed to Seattle to staff the hospital, which is expected to create at least 150 hospital beds for non-COVID-19 cases. Officials plan to use the field hospital for maladies such as broken bones and other needs.
The Washington state Department of Health says there have been 4,300 confirmed coronavirus cases statewide, including 189 deaths. In contrast, Colorado has seen 2,307 cases and 48 deaths.
— Associated Press
7:01 a.m. — Colorado got its federal disaster declaration over the weekend
More federal aid may come to Colorado to help fight the coronavirus. On Saturday, President Donald Trump granted the state's request for a major disaster declaration related to the pandemic.
Trump has granted similar declarations for at least 18 states. Gov. Jared Polis said it means Colorado will be on the same playing field as those other states in competing for aid.
— Rachel Estabrook
6:54 a.m. — NCAR scientists have seen lower carbon emission in China
During the quarantine in mainland China due to COVID 19, Boulder scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research found a 45 percent reduction in carbon monoxide, a gas linked to poor air quality and climate change. The drop occurred between February 1 and March 10.
NCAR scientist Helen Worden pointed out that the new coronavirus forced large changes in economic activities, including industries and transportation.
"We can see what happens to our atmosphere when things shut down like this," she said. "Maybe it's something that people take away as a possible benefit of reducing that sort of activity."
The Boulder-based lab plans to look at the same impact in the United States once stay at home orders are complete.
— Grace Hood
6:18 a.m. — Here's where cases stand as we start the week
Colorado has 2,307 known positive cases of the novel coronavirus. Positive cases have been identified in 46 of the state's 64 counties.
There have been 48 deaths due to COVID-19.
— Jim Hill