Colorado Coronavirus Updates For March 31: Closures, Testing, Cases And More

Denver Health Paramedics ambulance at Denver Health on Speer Boulevard.Denver Health Paramedics ambulance at Denver Health on Speer Boulevard.Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A Denver Health Paramedics ambulance parked at Denver Health on Speer Boulevard.

This post gathers all our reporting and updates on the coronavirus in Colorado for Tuesday, March 31, 2020. You can find Wednesday's updates here. Our original play-by-play of reporting continues below.


5:30 p.m. — The team behind the Underground Music Showcase is bringing you live local music, at a distance

Every day at 5 p.m. or so, a Colorado musician will take over the Underground Music Showcase's Facebook page for a live virtual mini-concert.

Paul DeHaven is playing now, and it's very nice.

— Alex Scoville

5:06 p.m. — Colorado bike shops are open as essential services. Here's a look inside one

Under Gov. Jared Polis' initial stay-at-home order, bike shops had to close. But the order was amended March 26, and now shops like Any And All Bikes on Broadway in Englewood are operating with strict social distancing and other precautions.

— Hart Van Denburg

4:59 p.m. — Gardner working to secure more test kits for Colorado tribes

Sen. Cory Gardner is asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for additional COVID-19 test kits for the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Indian tribes.

The senator wrote in a letter to the agency that there are at least two positive cases on the Southern Ute Indian reservation, with more to come.

"The Indian Health Service expects an increase in positive cases amongst all tribes in the coming weeks. The federal government needs to fulfill its trust responsibility to tribal governments and ensure they have access to the resources they need,” Gardner wrote.

— Alex Scoville

4:53 p.m. — Round 3 of Denverite's social distancing bracket is live

coffee bracket

Video Chat Cocktail Hour vs. Call Old Friends.

Rewatch Six Seasons Of Something vs. Mutter.

Choose your champion here.

— Denverite

4:45 p.m. — Polis wants all work permits for DACA recipients to be reauthorized

Colorado's governor wrote to the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday asking for automatic extensions of work authorizations given to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.

There are about 15,000 Dreamers in Colorado.

“Coloradans face unprecedented challenges to their economic and social lives, and this extension would provide some needed stability to our businesses and residents who benefit from opportunities that DACA provides,” Polis wrote to Acting Secretary Wolf.

— Alex Scoville

4:31 p.m. — Past and present National Parks employees ask Bernhardt to close all parks

Rocky Mountain National Park may have closed itself to visitors, but many parks are still open. The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks wants to change that.

The nonprofit made up of NPS employees past and present issued a letter to Interior Sec. David Bernhardt on Tuesday asking to close public access to all parks. The governors and Congress members of Arizona, Virgina and Utah were also cc'd.

"For park employees, and everyone who cares about them, the inconsistency between which parks remain open and which are closed is utterly mindboggling and defies rational explanation. There is obviously a lack of clear guidance or leadership emanating from the Department and NPS leadership on this life-threatening crisis," the letter reads. "In this time of crisis we believe that the absolute PRIORITY of the Department and the NPS should be to safeguard employee and public health. Now is the time to close public access to parks when and where appropriate and practical."

The Washinton Post reported on Tuesday that at least seven NPS employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

— Alex Scoville

4:24 p.m. — Price gouging and companies not providing refunds are two of the most common coronavirus-related scams in Colorado

Coronavirus Masks Gloves Donated At CU AnschutzHart Van Denburg/CPR News
After a donation drive, personal protective equipment for healthcare workers starts to pile up in a warehouse at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus on Friday, March 27, 2020.

The state Attorney General’s office fielded more than 300 COVID-19 related complaints in March, with most related to price gouging and companies refusing to offer refunds for canceled bookings. The office’s website has coronavirus related information, including ways to report possible scams.

Unsurprisingly, most of the alleged predatory pricing was around cleaning and medical supplies and most of the refund complaints had to do with travel, lodging, and the cancellation of the ski season.

In a press release, the AG’s office urges people not to let price gougers profit off their fears of the virus, and to read the fine print before seeking a refund, and to ask for a credit if the company won’t refund money.

The office has also gotten complaints about phone scammers, fake “work from home” schemes, and coronavirus-related malware links.

With the passage of the federal stimulus bill, AG Phil Weiser warns that Coloradans need to be on guard against more aggressive attempts at fraud, as scammers use the lure of relief money to convince people to give them personal and banking information.

“It’s important to remember that the federal government hasn’t issued a single stimulus check yet, and will not call you on the phone to ask for sensitive personal information,” Weiser warned this week. “Anyone who calls claiming to be able to send money now—and asks for your personal information—is a scammer.”

Relief payments will be issued directly by the IRS, which has said that no sign up will be required to receive the funds.

— Allison Sherry and Megan Verlee

4:11 p.m. — There are nearly 3,000 cases of COVID-19 in Colorado

New numbers from state health officials released Tuesday show an increase of 339 cases, bringing Colorado's total to 2,966.

Colorado also saw a substantial jump in deaths due to COVID-19 since the previous day's report, from 51 to 69.

Nearly 100 more cases have been hospitalized, from 414 to 509.

There are now 16 outbreaks in non-hospital healthcare facilities.

The state releases updated data on coronavirus in Colorado every day at 4 p.m. here.

More: When will we start to see the results of social distancing?

— Alex Scoville

3:23 p.m. — This Loveland Home Depot employee says the store is seeing massive amounts of customers

Debbie Dzuris, a customer service rep for the Home Depot location in Loveland, says her stores and others are seeing huge numbers of shoppers.

"It's not just toilet paper, it's not just people after cleaning supplies … it's people doing projects to keep themselves busy," Dzuris said.

Hardware stores like Home Depot and Lowe's are considered essential businesses and are allowed to stay open under the statewide stay-at-home order.

"It's scary. It's absolutely frightening," she said.

On top of being flooded with customers, Dzuris also said some have been rude and inconsiderate.

"They think it's all media hype, they think it's made up and exaggerated. And in order to prove that point to you, they get upset if they see you wiping down the pin pad while they have to engage you in conversation," she said. "And they'll get in your space just because we're asking them not to. They'll cough in their hand, they'll try to hug you. They'll go out of their way to make you uncomfortable and that's very stressful."

— Taylor Allen

2:21 p.m. — Walmart stores will now take employees' temperature before their shifts

Before Walmart workers clock in, they'll get their temperature taken.

The company announced the move on Tuesday as the latest strategy to combat the spread of COVID-19.

If an employee's temperature is 100 degrees or more, they'll be paid for the day and sent home. They won't be able to return to work until they've been fever-free for three days.

Employees will also answer "some basic health screening questions" before starting their shift.

The retailer also said Tuesday that it will be making masks and gloves available to workers who wish to wear them.

— Alex Scoville

2:12 p.m. — If you hadn't already canceled your trip to Hanging Lake, the park just did for you

Courtesy of U.S. Dept. of Transportation
Hanging Lake, near Glenwood Springs, Colo., is one of the state's most popular — and crowded — outdoor attractions. A new shuttle and permit system hopes to alleviate the strain.

Access to the Hanging Lake trail and rest area will be closed off until April 11, the City of Glenwood Springs announced Tuesday.

The hike is one of Colorado's most popular. Peak season for Hanging Lake begins in May.

— Alex Scoville

12:54 p.m. — Which businesses are essential, which are not, and how to report violations

The mandatory stay-at-home order sets out clear requirements on what residents and businesses must do in order to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in Colorado.

The order, which went into effect at 6 a.m. last Thursday, remains in effect until at least April 11.

So which businesses can remain open because they are considered "critical" or "essential?" What if a business is open but isn't listed as critical? Here's a list and who to call.

— Colorado Public Radio Staff

10:43 a.m. — Stay-at-home enforcement in Denver is giving warnings — and tickets

A Denver enforcement team is giving warnings — and a few tickets — to those violating the city’s stay at home orders, which are intended to curb the spread of COVID-19.

City spokesperson Erika R. Martinez said in an email that through Sunday, the enforcement team had issued four citations, made 2,577 contacts and issued 543 warnings (a “contact” is when someone from the city explains the orders to a resident or business).

Read the rest of the story at Denverite.com.

— Esteban L. Hernandez

10:36 a.m. — Tomorrow's the first. Rent is due.

Your rent or mortgage payment is due on the first of the month — that's tomorrow. Are you concerned about your ability to pay, or are you a landlord with a mortgage of your own to cover? We want to hear from you. Email taylor.allen@cpr.org.

Taylor Allen

10:33 a.m. — Bread, toilet paper, and … guns?

Brennan Linsley/AP Photo
In this Feb. 23, 2016 photo, gun safety and suicide prevention brochures on display next to guns for sale at a local retail gun store in Montrose, Colo.

The extraordinary run on firearms continues in Colorado as people apparently fear the worst of the coronavirus impacts are yet to come.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation reports processing 12,266 background checks last week. That’s almost double the number of checks during the same period last year.

Including the week of March 13th, that’s 37,734 background check requests in two weeks. That’s about how many background checks there were in all of December, which is typically the busiest month of the year for gun sellers.

CBI said there’s a backlog of more than 9,257 checks and it’s taking about six days to turnaround a request. Guns may be released to a buyer if the check takes more than three days, but CBI advises sellers against that. The agency says it has added staff to help process the checks.

— Ben Markus

10:04 a.m. — New podcast from CPR News: At A Distance

We've launched our latest podcast effort — our first to focus on the current uncertain times. More:

The coronavirus pandemic has turned life on its head for all of us. Governors tell us to stay in our homes. The economy is reeling. And we feel anxious. Meet two Colorado Public Radio reporters who want to help. Sam Brasch and May Ortega talk with guests and share ideas on how to cope with life during the pandemic, whether you live in Colorado or not. Sometimes serious, sometimes funny, At A Distance is a guide to living through a bizarre time.

Listen to episode one now on Apple Podcasts, or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

— Daniel J. Schneider

8:22 a.m. — Seeing empty streets and highways is still wild and weird

Just a month ago I'm sure you uttered some form of these words: "traffic in [insert where you live] is horrible! ARGH! It's just the worst."

We now live in interesting times. On Monday, as part of his update on the state response to COVID-19, Gov. Polis said that traffic was down a whopping 60 percent over 4 weeks. Take a look at this slide, it still boggles the mind a bit.

— Jim Hill

8:00 a.m. — Colorado's ski resorts were a perfect storm

There was a lot of questioning that came with the decision to temporarily shutter, then later cancel the seasons, on the state's ski resorts but as this story from Jon Murray points out, it was an obvious move. After all, the major resorts like Aspen and Vail are international draws and the perfect place for lots of close-quarter contact in packed bars, restaurants and other public places.

This quote says it all:

“In retrospect, it’s clear the ski resorts had a high potential to play a special role in the spreading of this disease within Colorado,” said Glen Mays, an expert on large-scale public health threats based at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus.

Read more at The Denver Post.

— Jim Hill

7:35 a.m. — Not a lot of optimism in the latest biz confidence numbers

Optimism among Colorado's business leaders is at its lowest level in 17 years thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak. That's according to a quarterly survey by researchers at the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business. Their 2020 second-quarter report says nearly 9 in 10 of business leaders who responded to the survey say the new coronavirus and its effect on the economy is their biggest concern.

However, many of the respondents say they are hopeful the economy will rebound in the third quarter of the year.

— Sarah Mulholland

7:04 a.m. — Inmate at Downtown Denver jail tests positive

An inmate at Denver’s downtown Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center has tested positive for COVID-19. According to the Denver Joint Information Center, the inmate has been isolated in the medical unit of the jail and is being treated by Denver Health medical staff. They also said the housing unit where the inmate was being held has been cleaned.

— Alison Borden

6:29 a.m. — Colorado Springs sets up new financial relief options for local biz squeezed by coronavirus

The city has partnered with the Pikes Peak Community Foundation and local startup accelerator Exponential Impact to provide up to $25,000 in low-interest loans to small businesses. And businesses can start getting that money fast — as early as this week.

Meanwhile, the Community Foundation and Bee Vradenburg Foundation have created a recovery fund that will give about $500 to qualifying local artists. Both programs are in addition to a website (SupportTheSprings.com) recently started by the city with other ideas to help.

— Dan Boyce

6:20 a.m. — Here's the current case count

Out of the 15,364 people tested so far, there are 2,627 known positive cases of the novel coronavirus in Colorado. Four-hundred-and-fourteen Coloradans have been hospitalized and 51 have died.

Gov. Polis said on Monday that the rate of COVID-19 infection has slowed in the state. Before the state closed restaurants and bars, he said the rate of infection was doubling every two days. Since the closures, the spread has slowed to doubling every five days. He said effects from a stricter stay-at-home order he ordered last week won't be seen until mid-April and he urges people to continue to stay home.

— Andrew Villegas, Jim Hill

Monday's live blog can be found here.