Colorado Coronavirus Updates For April 1: Closures, Testing, Cases And More

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David Zalubowski/AP
A shopper wearing a surgical mask loads a package of toilet paper into the back of their sports-utility vehicle outside a Costco warehouse, March 26, 2020, in Arvada, Colo.

This post collects all of our reporting and updates on the coronavirus in Colorado for Wednesday, April 1, 2020. You can find our live blog of updates for Thursday here. Our original play-by-play of reporting continues below.

8:44 p.m. — G'night, live blog

At A Distance Podcast Art 202003

Before we bid farewell, a question: Have you listened to our new podcast yet?

Hosted by CPR's Sam Brasch and May Ortega, "At A Distance" explores life in our new reality, and how to make the most of our new homebound existences.

Listen here and wherever you get your podcasts.

Stay safe, see you tomorrow.

— Alex Scoville

8:22 p.m. — Hey look, City of Westminster is stress baking too

Municipalities deserve carbs too.

7:01 p.m. — Did you order takeout with a side of encouragement?

6:19 p.m. — One bridge tournament in Colorado Springs led to hundreds of cases and four COVID-19 deaths

This Denver Post story outlines how one tournament at the Colorado Springs Bridge Center in late February and early March exposed hundreds, many of them adults over 60 and therefore on of the most vulnerable populations.

5:52 p.m. — The historic Colorado Springs City Auditorium will serve as an isolation shelter for homeless COVID-19 patients

The historic downtown Colorado Springs City Auditorium was converted Wednesday afternoon into an isolation shelter for people experiencing homelessness who are sick with COVID-19.

Local government leaders are planning to seek aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help pay for the costs of the shelter. 

“This shelter is absolutely vital in providing respite for these individuals while keeping our other homeless shelters safe and free of disease," Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said during a Tuesday press conference. 

The shelter has cots for anywhere from 70 to 100 people. Local organizations will be working together to provide food, clothing and transportation to and from local hospitals.

Dan Boyce and Abigail Beckman

5:49 p.m. — NorthCom is splitting up its commanders across multiple shifts and even locations as a precaution

U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs is taking the unusual step of splitting up and isolating some of its commanders as a precaution against COVID-19.

Northern Command is the part of the military focused on protecting the North American continent. It's based at Peterson Air Force Base, along with the Canadian defense partnership NORAD.

But, as NorthCom's duties ramp up in response to coronavirus, command teams are working in shifts. Some have been moved underground to nearby Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station as well as a third undisclosed location to protect against virus spread. 

Some have even been isolated from their families. 

The command has managed the military's coronavirus response, including sending naval medical ships to hard-hit coastal cities.

— Dan Boyce

5:32 p.m. — More live local music today

The Underground Music Showcase is bringing another local musician to you via a Facebook live video.

Today, Tyler Jacobson, co-founder of Mile High Soul Club, the regular all-vinyl soul music dance party, is spinning some records.

Streams with Grit will broadcast a Colorado artist every day starting around 5 p.m.

— Alex Scoville

4:35 p.m. — Weld County jail sees its first positive tests for COVID-19 in an inmate and several staffers

A Weld County inmate and four staffers at the jail have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Greeley Tribune.

Even more staffers had symptoms, but have not been tested and are in isolation at home.

The inmate has been incarcerated since 2018, so officials aren't sure where he contracted the virus — possibly from another inmate or an employee.

The Denver Jail reported an inmate with a COVID-19 test earlier this week.

Lawyers and criminal justice advocates have been calling for "decarceration" efforts within jails so those who have to remain inside can practice social distancing. Gov Jared Polis has given approval of this effort, but it's still mostly up to sheriffs and prosecutors about who stays in jails and who gets released.

— Allison Sherry

4:27 p.m. — The El Paso County Republican Party suggested in a now-deleted Facebook post that COVID-19 is a hoax

In a short-lived Facebook post, the Republican Party in El Paso County raised the idea that the COVID-19 pandemic might be a hoax meant to influence the public.

The message was posted on Wednesday and deleted by the middle of the day after the state party asked local GOP officials to remove it. It read:

“Hello El Paso County! Do you believe that the Coronavirus is a PSYOP (Psychological Operation)? Post your answer…the definition of (PSYOP) is below. Psychological operations (PSYOP) are operations to convey select information and indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.”

The post that was briefly up on the El Paso County Republican Party's Facebook page.

“We found the post to be inappropriate and asked the El Paso County GOP to remove it immediately,” said Joseph Jackson, a spokesman for the Colorado Republican Party.

Under a different post about coronavirus by El Paso County GOP Chair Vickie Cromwell Tonkins, a man posting under the name John Wood commented that he believes Coronavirus is a psychological operation,

“Tell me this Coronavirus isn’t that. Prove it to me. Because to me Coronavirus is psyops," the account wrote.

“You bet it is,” responded Cromwell Tonkins. She then included the definition of a PSYOP.

When asked to comment on the post and when it was taken down, Cromwell Tonkins said in an email: “It was up and we took it down … that is what happened.” She declined to provide any more information about the situation.

A Republican lawmaker from El Paso County called the post ridiculous.

“Obviously it’s influencing our behavior and that of our governments. But it is absolutely ridiculous to think people all over the world are participating in some type of liberal agenda conspiracy,” Republican state Rep. Lois Landgraf of Fountain said. “This disease is deadly serious and those who believe otherwise are very misguided. Anyone who is in a position of responsibility and talks about PSYOP endangering the lives of people. Shame on them.”

Update, 5:28 p.m.

The El Paso County Republican Party has posted a follow-up on their Facebook page.

"I'm sorry a few of you were offended by a definition, that was NOT the intention," the post reads. "I did not give an opinion I just asked what people's thoughts as we have asked your thoughts on other issues."

A follow-up post from the El Paso County Republican Party's Facebook page.

— Bente Birkeland

4:16 p.m. — Updated coronavirus case numbers

The latest data from state health officials differs slightly from the numbers Gov. Jared Polis had just hours before.

There are 3,342 cases of COVID-19 in Colorado, 620 of which require hospitalization. Eighty people have died due to the disease.

There is one additional outbreak in a residential or non-hospital health care facility, bringing the total to 17. It is at the Courtyards at Mountain View in Denver County. We identified the other 16 known to us below.

The state has tested more than 18,500 people.

— Alex Scoville

2:28 p.m. — Families of JBS meatpacking plant workers who are sick with COVID-19 say the company is falling short

Families of JBS meatpacking plant workers who are hospitalized with COVID-19 say the company isn't doing enough to protect its workforce.

Plant employee Crystal Rodriguez is self-quarantining with her four children. Her father, who also works at JBS, tested positive for the disease this weekend. He has been in the hospital since Friday. She doesn't have symptoms but doctors have told her to stay at home. If she does that for more than seven days, JBS told her she could lose her job.

"I'm kind of angry because we're not that far away from each other [when we work] and there's never any soap in the bathroom so we can wash our hands," she said. "I see some people going in and they have flu-like symptoms but they are too scared to miss work or they can't afford to miss work."

The Greeley Tribune reports that around 800 people didn't come to work at the plant on Monday.

Update 5:37 p.m.

JBS has returned CPR's request for comment with this statement:

As the world faces the continued spread of coronavirus, many individuals and companies are being impacted, and our company is no different. We have had team members test positive for COVID-19 in some of our U.S. facilities. We are providing support to those team members and their families, and we hope they all make a full and speedy recovery. Out of respect for the families, we are not releasing further information.

In any positive case, we are communicating directly with our team members and following guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, medical professionals and local health departments every step of the way. The health and safety of our team members providing food for us all during this unprecedented time remains our top priority.

As a global food company providing an essential service during this pandemic, we have enhanced safety measures, health protocols and worker benefits to keep our workplaces, team members and products safe, such as increased sanitation and disinfection efforts; health screening and temperature testing; and promoting physical distancing where possible by staggering starts, shifts and breaks, and increasing spacing in cafeterias, break rooms and locker rooms.

We experienced elevated absenteeism on Monday at our Greeley beef production facility, but this has been a common occurrence on Mondays as a result of recent school closures. The plant is open, operating and meeting customer demand to ensure food is available on American grocery store shelves across the country.

— Natalia V. Navarro

2:23 p.m. — Costco will limit the number of people allowed in a store at once

Another big-box retailer is taking additional steps to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

Costco announced Wednesday that effective Friday, April 3, will only allow two people per membership card to enter.

The stores also have special hours for members 60 and older and those "with physical impairments" during 8 - 9 a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays. The pharmacy is open during that time, but not the food court.

More information on Costco's updated policies can be found here.

— Alex Scoville

2:02 p.m. — With fewer cars on the roads, CDOT wants to get construction work done

CDOT says it is looking to take advantage of fewer people on the roads due to coronavirus to complete complicated road projects.

The agency is asking their contractors to put together more aggressive work plans in areas with provable drops in traffic. The hope is to get a head start on major upgrades like the Central 70 Project and I-25 Gap project near Colorado Springs.

But officials say it's too early to say whether it will alter end dates for those big projects. A harsh winter could cancel out any days gained.

1:38 p.m. — What you need to know out of the governor's address

Wondering how Gov. Jared Polis is making the decisions needed for the state's coronavirus response? He says he looks at three factors:

“We’re not only facing a health care crisis but we’re facing a supply chain crisis,” Polis said.

Right now the governor and health officials say they are prioritizing these goals:

  • Getting transmission down to an R0 number of 1. R0, or R naught, is a mathematical way of explaining how infectious a disease is. We have more information on that here.
  • Getting more medical and personal protective equipment. Colorado recently ordered 2.5 million N95 masks, one million surgical masks, 250,000 gowns and 750 ventilators. The state will test the equipment, in some cases with the help of scientists at Colorado State University, to make sure it works.
  • Expanding the number of beds available for people at all stages and severities of COVID-19. You can see the breakdown of the tiers in this image from the governor's press conference.

Read more here.

— Colorado Public Radio Staff

1:19 p.m. — The latest case numbers in Colorado

During his Wednesday address, Gov. Jared Polis shared updated numbers from state health officials.

There are now 3,338 cases of COVID-19 in Colorado, an increase of 372 from the day before.

There are more cases requiring hospitalization, up from 509 to 612.

Eight more people have died due to COVID-19 since the day before, now 77.

The state has tested 18,645 people.

— Alex Scoville

12:31 p.m. — Listen live: Gov. Polis to give updates on pandemic response

Gov. Jared Polis is scheduled to speak at 12:45 p.m. today with more updates on Colorado's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. CPR News will carry the governor live on air and online. Briefings don't always start on time, but CPR News will transition to the briefing as soon as it begins.

— Colorado Public Radio Staff

11:39 a.m. — How to help Colorado's music scene and a resource guide for musicians

As the Colorado music scene is on pause and performers livelihoods have been halted, Indie 102.3 has shared two useful stories:

The Musician’s Resource Guide offers a comprehensive list of organizations to help artists with their careers, especially during this time amid the coronavirus disruption.

With the recent stay at home orders, to help those in the service industry, officials have suggested we order takeout from local restaurants or buy gift cards for future use from other service providers. But how can Coloradans help the musicians, venues, and music publications the love? Bruce Trujillo found 10 Ways To Help Denver’s Music Scene.

Bonus: NPR Music Live Sessions is featuring a new Indie 102.3 video from Big Gigantic on the main page today.

— Willobee Carlan

11:22 a.m. — These are the facilities with outbreaks in Colorado

Mapleton Care Center Coronavirus Outbreak
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The Mapleton Care Center in Lakewood is one of 16 nursing homes and long term care facilities in Colorado that the Dept. of Health and Environment identified as having had a coronavirus outbreak as of March 31.

CPR News has obtained the full list, as of late on Tuesday, March 31, of residential and non-hospital health care facilities that are currently experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19.

  • Amberwood Court Rehab, Denver County
  • Brookdale North Loveland, Larimer County
  • Casey's Pond, Routt County
  • Castle Peak Senior Life & Rehab, Eagle County
  • Centennial Healthcare Center, Weld County
  • Columbine Manor, Chaffee County
  • Fairacres Manor, Weld County
  • Inglenook, Adams County
  • Jewell Care Center, Denver County
  • Laurel Manor, El Paso County
  • Libby Bortz, Arapahoe County
  • Mapleton Care Center, Jefferson County
  • MorningStar at Morning Shadows, El Paso County
  • North Shore, Larimer County
  • River Point Senior Living, Arapahoe County
  • Someren Glen, Arapahoe County
  • Courtyards at Mountain View, Denver County

An outbreak is defined as two or more residents with new lab-confirmed diagnoses of COVID-19 by an FDA-approved COVID-19 test within a 14 day period, OR two or more cases of respiratory illness in residents with symptom onset within a 14 day period and at least one resident with a new diagnosis of COVID-19 by an FDA-approved COVID-19 test.

— Ben Markus and Daniel J. Schneider

10:33 a.m. — Air Force Academy will have graduation six weeks ahead of schedule

Due to concerns about the coronavirus, The U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs has made the decision to graduate its senior class six weeks early, on April 18. Family and friends will not be allowed to attend, though will be able to livestream the event. 

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
This year's graduation will look a little (read: very) different from the ceremony in 2019.

“I have invited the Class of 2020 to help the staff design their graduation ceremony and they will do this with the same care for military tradition and the Academy’s legacy as they’ve done leading other world-class Academy events,” Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria said in a press release from the academy.

The academy said the graduation day will retain “the rigorous military and academic commissioning standards the academy is known for and the nation expects.” 

The news comes amidst two suspected cadet suicides in less than a week. Seniors have been the only class on the academy grounds after lower classes were dismissed for the year last month. The academy was enforcing strict social distancing requirements for the Seniors, though The Gazette reports those have been loosened in the wake of the two deaths.

— Dan Boyce

10:12 a.m. — Hi, nice to meet you. I'm Denverite's houseplant of the week.

Why yes, Denverite does have a houseplant of the week series. And why not? Lots of people in Denver have houseplants and lots of those houseplants are very nice. Many are even impressive. Some have names.

Elizabeth Petrossian and Adam Hamilton's stingray alocasia. (Courtesy: Adam Hamilton)

This one doesn't have a name that we know of, but we know if belongs to a man named Adam Hamilton. It's a stingray alocasia (also known as a corpse flower).

You even can enter your own plant to be featured. Best of luck.

— Francie Swidler

9:52 a.m. — “If you think for one second that you're walking around, and you're not going to be touched by this, you're going to be touched by this.”

On Monday March 23, CPR News health reporter John Daley was working on a story about hospitals preparing for the coronavirus — one of the dozens he'd written over the past month.  An emergency room doctor in a big Colorado health system was telling me they were seeing a surge, a doubling each day, in COVID-19 patients.  

Courtesy of the Farley family.
Mike Farley, flanked by his wife, his children and grandchildren. Front row from left to right: Karen Farley, John’s wife; Aria Brauchli, Maggie and Marcus’s daughter; Maggie Farley; Zoe Brauchli, Maggie and Marcus’s daughter. Back row left to right: John Farley, Nancy Farley, Mike Farley and Marcus Brauchli, Maggie’s husband.

But, he said, many Coloradans were still in denial and hadn’t yet considered how COVID-19 might impact them.

Moments later, John got a text from one of his buddies. The father of a childhood friend had died from contracting COVID-19. His family had to say goodbye to him on video chat.

It's a heartbreaking story to read. But it's an important one.

— Francie Swidler

9:34 a.m. — Vail was an entry vector for COVID-19 in Mexico

The first cases of the new coronavirus in Mexico came from some of its wealthiest citizens who got sick while on a ski trip in Vail. Now, it's spreading throughout the country. Mexico's former health minister Julio Frenk said the government sent mixed messages when it encouraged people to go out to support the economy.

"By minimizing the threat represented by the pandemic, precious time was lost in getting ready for the emergency," he said

Mexico had 993 cases as of March 31 and the county has started to grapple with the same things Colorado has faced: what are the best ways to balance economic concerns with the strict measures health experts say are needed to crimp the spread of the coronavirus.

— Allison Herrera

9:03 a.m. — A helpful chart appears

You can find a PDF version of the chart here.

8:51 a.m. — Air Force Academy eases distancing restrictions after 2 suicides; sets early graduation

Air Force Academy leaders have eased social distancing restrictions after it reported two cadet suicides in less than a week following attempts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The Gazette reported that emails obtained from the academy show the Colorado Springs facility had received complaints about how the policies made the school prison-like. Academy leaders said that cadets are now able to venture off campus for drive-through food, wear civilian clothing on Fridays and congregate in small groups compliant with state guidelines.

The changes were made in response to the deaths, though it is not clear to what extent the isolation played a role in the suicides.

The academy also says it will hold its commencement ceremony in mid-April, six weeks earlier than scheduled. The commandant says seniors will be involved in planning the celebration, with the goal of upholding military traditions, while promoting cadet safety.

The school will livestream the event for friends and family, but not allow them to attend in person. Service Academy graduations are usually major events. President Donald Trump addressed last year's class of graduating cadets.

— Associated Press, Megan Verlee

8:17 a.m. — Toilet paper, groceries and empty shelves should soon rebound

Jack Buffington, a professor of supply chain management at the University of Denver, said people are seeing most of the retail supply chain get back to normal.

"There [are] other supplies, of course, that are of greater concern, and [those] are cleaning supplies, which there will be a spike in demand that will be more sustainable as people believe that they need to keep their houses and their hands more safer," he said. "These shocks, they will take longer to fix than some of the smaller challenges that you're seeing in your supermarket."

We've never had to pay attention to the intricate ballet that is the supply chain that fuels our grocery stores before, but we've also never really seen this kind of demand for products and basics before either.

— Andrew Villegas, Jim Hill

8:00 a.m. — Gov. Polis will speak today

The governor will deliver an update on the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic today at 12:45 p.m. Colorado Public Radio will carry his remarks live. Find a station near you or ask your smart speaker to "Play CPR News."

— Jim Hill

7:03 a.m. — It's rent day

Today is the first time many Coloradans have to pay rent or a mortgage since the state put in place social distancing measures. Thousands of people have lost their jobs or have had their hours cut.

"It's always down to the last penny," said Debbie Dzuris, a Loveland Home Depot employee who's taking paid time off so she doesn't infect her immuno-compromised husband. "Just the littlest thing can tip the scale and then you're digging yourself back out for months."

Gov. Jared Polis asked landlords to forgo evictions and penalties for late rent two weeks ago. We asked yesterday morning how Coloradans we're feeling with the rent due. Here are a few responses:

— Taylor Allen, Jim Hill

6:41 a.m. — The colors!

6:35 a.m. — Here's where cases stand at the middle of the week

Colorado is approaching 3,000 cases of the coronavirus. There are currently 2,966 known positive cases, 509 of which have been hospitalized. The number of Coloradans tested stands at 16,849 and there have been 69 deaths.

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner wants the federal government to increase testing for the state's two Native American reservations. In a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Gardner said there have already been two confirmed cases on the Southern Ute Reservation, and the disease is expected to spread.

The recently signed stimulus package includes funding for more COVID-19 testing on reservations around the country.

— Megan Verlee, Jim Hill

Looking for Tuesday's updates?