Colorado Coronavirus Updates For April 4 & 5: Closures, Testing, Cases And More

Runner Wearing Mask In LoDoRunner Wearing Mask In LoDoHart Van Denburg/CPR News
A runner wearing a mask mask crosses 15th Street at Larimer Square Friday afternoon. April 3, 2020. Gov. Jared Polis asked Coloradans earlier in the day to adopt face masks whenever they leave their home for essential functions allowed under the state’s ‘stay-at-home’ order.

This post collects all of our reporting and updates on the coronavirus in Colorado for the weekend of April 4 and 5. Monday's latest can be found here. Our original play-by-play of reporting continues below.


Sunday

4:40 p.m. — Colorado officials update crisis standards of care 

State officials voted to update Colorado's crisis standards of care guideline to take into consideration the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Crisis standards of care are recommendations for how health care professionals should allocate scarce resources, such as ventilators and intensive care unit beds, in the extreme case when patients outnumber the resources.

“The state has been working hard to avoid having to use these standards,” said Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in a statement. “We’re working with the hospitals to increase the number of ICU beds and ventilators to try and meet the anticipated demand. We need everyone’s help to slow the spread of the virus by following public health orders, to reduce the likelihood of putting these standards into practice.” 

The Governor’s Expert Emergency Epidemic Response Committee voted to send along its recommendations to Gov. Jared Polis, who could decide to activate the new standards at any time.

Details about the updated crisis standards of care include who should service on a triage team, and that the teams such not base decision on race, ability to pay, sexual orientation, religion and several other factors. The standards also address the use of personal protective equipment.

Standards say that every institution should have a triage team that should use a tiered approach for allocation/re-allocation of scarce resources like ventilators. In the event of a tie within a tier, the triage team should move to the next tier of considerations.

Tier 1: A scoring system based on a combination of acuity or severity of acute illness (the likelihood of surviving weeks) and morbidity, or measures of chronic illness (the likelihood of surviving months to years).

Tier 2: Pediatric patients, health care workers and first responders.

Tier 3: Special considerations (pregnancy, life-years saved, sole caregivers).

Tier 4: Random allocation.

The state health department recommends that everyone has an advanced directive, or "living will," that is shared with their loved ones.

— Alison Borden

4:21 p.m. — Tiger at NYC's Bronx Zoo tests positive for coronavirus

A tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City has tested positive for the new coronavirus. It's believed to be the first infection in an animal in the U.S. and the first known in a tiger anywhere. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Sunday that the 4-year-old Malayan tiger, and six other tigers and lions that have also fallen ill, are believed to have been infected by a zoo employee. The zoo says all the animals are expected to recover. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has not received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States. According to the CDC, to date, there is no evidence that pets can spread the virus to other animals or people.

— The Associated Press

4:04 p.m. — Colorado's coronavirus case numbers released

There are 14 more deaths in Colorado from COVID-19 as of Sunday. That brings the total to 140 deaths.

The state health department released new numbers, showing that now there are 37 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities, a number that has had a dramatic spike in recent days.

There are now reported 4,950 cases of infection in the state and 924 people are hospitalized. Officials said that 25,773 people have been tested.

— Alison Borden

2:07 p.m. — Bus service from Glenwood Springs to surrounding towns could be suspended

Roaring Fork Transit Authority bus service that connects Glenwood Springs to surrounding towns could be terminated due to the coronavirus. City council is expected to vote Monday night to decide, the Post Independent reports.

“It’s a tough decision,” Mayor Pro Tem Shelley Kaup said Thursday night. “I think that RFTA has made every effort to clean their buses and to keep their drivers safe and to have policies in place to keep the riders safe.”

Glenwood Springs already shut down its Ride Glenwood service on March 23.

— Stina Sieg

11:46 a.m. — Some Denver streets will close to cars, giving people more elbow room during the coronavirus pandemic

Parts of Denver are about to go back to the days when people congregated and played in the streets before cars dominated them. Except… no congregating and no playing.

The city government will close segments of East 11th Avenue, Bryon Place, Stuart Street and East 16th Avenue to cars, the mayor announced Friday. Denverites will start seeing the changes Saturday.

“The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure will be announcing today roads that will be closed to really encourage people to get outdoors and feel safe walking and biking and enjoying outdoors with the proper physical, distancing,” Hancock said in an announcement on Twitter.

With the move, Mayor Michael Hancock is following the lead of other major cities like New YorkPhiladelphia and Washington, D.C. Officials there closed streets to vehicles to give the public more room to roam as sidewalks and parks became crowded.

— David Sachs, Denverite

11:15 a.m. — U.S. Northern Command to send Air Force, Navy personnel to New York

The U.S. Northern Command, headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, will send 1,000 Air Force and Navy medical personnel to the New York City area to help with the COVID-19 crisis there, according to Colorado Springs station KRDO. 

KRDO reports that the forces will arrive within the next three days, and about 300 of those personnel will work in the Javits Center, a temporary hospital for COVID-19 patients in New York City.

— Alison Borden

9:12 a.m. — It turns out, a mask keeps the tip of your nose warm from the morning chill.

You can't quite see, but Social Media Editor Francie Swidler is smiling under her mask.

It's a beautiful day in Colorado, and this mask is keeping the tip of my nose warm and toasty on my morning dog walk. Tweet us a picture of you in your mask and we might just share it.

— Francie Swidler

7:02 a.m. — Emergency Operations Center staff member tests positive for COVID-19

A member of the Colorado Unified Command Group working at the State Emergency Operations Center tested positive for COVID-19, according to a news release.  The staff member went through daily medical screenings and was asymptomatic until Saturday, when symptoms started. 

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment  is conducting a full epidemiological investigation to evaluate the level of exposure in the operations center. Staff members at the facility were notified Saturday night and asked to follow public health guidelines for possible COVID-19 exposure -- including self-quarantine and monitoring symptoms for 14 days.

The operations center is where Gov. Jared Polis briefs members of the media in person on the state’s response to the coronavirus epidemic. Polis and members of his staff are frequently in the building.

“We don’t believe the governor was exposed,” Shelby Wieman, a spokeswoman, said in a written statement to The Colorado Sun.

— Alison Borden

Saturday


6:50 p.m. — Labor rules changed to grant more workers sick leave

Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment has updated Colorado’s Health Emergency Leave with Pay Rules to include coverage for food and beverage manufacturing.

Those employees will now receive paid sick leave if they have flu-like symptoms and are self-isolating or being tested for COVID-19. 

The change comes after employees at a meatpacking facility in Greeley said their employer, JBS, wouldn’t give them time off for COVID-19. One plant employee told CPR News she was self-isolating after possibly being exposed to the virus and said the company threatened to fire her if she missed seven days of work and didn’t have a doctors note.

Thousands of Colorado workers will now receive emergency paid leave as part of the rule change.

Coloradans For the Common Good, a workers right’s activist group, said in a news release Saturday that leaders with the group sent a letter to the CEO of JBS and met with plant executives Friday. JBS agreed to on-site daily temperature checks, online same-day access to doctors, use of full coverage masks and to post health and safety information in various languages, the group said.

 Other employers and employees covered by the state’s rules include retail and grocery stores, child care, food services and nursing homes.

This is the second time the state has changed the rules to include more industries since they were first enacted on March 11. The rules will expire when the governor's declared state of emergency ends.

— Hayley Sanchez

5:52 p.m. — The White House is watching Colorado

Top doctors addressing the pandemic from Washington say Colorado is one of the areas around the country they're watching closely right now, along with Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

"We're watching them because they are starting to go on that upside of the curve," said Dr. Deborah Brix on Saturday, standing beside President Trump. Brix is the White House coronavirus response coordinator. But at the same time, she acknowledged that Colorado might not see the same trends that have hit New York, where several hundred people are dying each day related to COVID-19.

"We're hoping and believing that if people mitigate strongly, the work that they did over the last two weeks will blunt that curve, and they won't have the same upward slope and peak that New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and part of Rhode Island are having.

"The next two weeks are extraordinarily important," Brix said.

The data in Colorado suggests she has reason for a little bit of optimism, as my colleague Chuck details below. The death tolls in each of the past few days have not been as high as the most widely-cited national models predicted, though they're still double digits each day, and there are a number of outbreaks in elder-care facilities.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, followed Brix at the White House, adding, "It's absolutely essential" that communities like Colorado take precautions so that the U.S. can avoid "multiple waves of peaks."

— Rachel Estabrook

4:10 p.m. — Deaths, hospitalizations keep rising in Colorado

Another 15 people died from the coronavirus in Colorado as hospitalizations and positive test results kept climbing.

The state health department announced at 4 p.m. that 126 people have now died in Colorado from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Another 875 are hospitalized, a number that grew by 52 since 4 p.m. Friday.

Colorado, which reported 69 deaths on Mar. 31, is on track to double the number of deaths from the coronavirus in five days or more, a much more hopeful pace than the three days it has been taking for deaths to double in hot spots like New York.

One of the most widely-used models for tracking the spread of the illness, developed by the University of Washington, forecast Colorado to report 23-26 deaths today.

But a few days of lower-than expected numbers, while reason for optimism, are far from conclusive and the state has encouraged residents to remain at home and wear masks if absolutely necessary to go out. The state remains far from the forecast peak impact of the disease in mid-April.

The state also continues to have its own hotspots, with Weld and El Paso counties both at 22 deaths, combining for about one-third of the state's total.

Just as in other parts of the world, the disease continues to be most severe among the elderly, with 101 of Colorado's deaths occurring among residents 70 and older.

Depending on the level of compliance, impacts from the statewide "stay-at-home" order could begin showing up by mid-week, further showing that residents have slowed the infection, hospitalization and death rates through social distancing.

— Chuck Murphy

2:20 p.m. — Polis says feds swooped in and took ventilators ticketed for Colorado

Gov. Jared Polis took complaints about the federal government national Friday night, complaining that federal officials cut in front of the state after Colorado had a deal for a batch of new ventilators.

Speaking to CNN's Don Lemon, Polis was more pointed than he has been in his regular appearances before Colorado media, at one point challenging the federal government to "be in or out."

Asked if the state had enough protective and medical equipment to address the coronavirus crisis, Polis said he was working on it, but found the competition for goods from the Federal Emergency Management Agency hard to beat.

"Now we're even competing against the federal government. We had a good lead with a manufacturer on vents at a fair manufacturers' price and they got swept up by FEMA so we're not getting them," Polis said. "It was nice when we were just competing against the states. It's harder when we also have to be competing against FEMA."

It's not known what FEMA will do with the ventilators. Presidential senior advisor Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of Donald Trump, said this week that the federal stockpile was for federal needs, not for the states to use, which is how it has traditionally been managed.

Polis complained that it is hard to know whether the federal government is leading the nation's response to the virus, leaving it to the states to manage, or trying to do a little of both.

"Either be in our out folks, that's kind of my message," Polis said. "Either work with us, or don't do anything at all."

The full interview is available here.

— Chuck Murphy

12:22 p.m. — Governor to address Coloradans on Monday, Oval Office-style

Something unusual is planned for Monday evening. Gov. Jared Polis will deliver an Oval Office-style address about the coronavirus pandemic at 6:30 p.m. His staff expects it to last for 15-20 minutes.

No reporters from any news outlet will be present, but CPR News will bring you the address on-air, along with analysis before and after the speech. We'll have coverage online here, and on Facebook Live, as well.

— Rachel Estabrook

11:15 a.m. — Polis seeks more federal help for local governments

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has already started lobbying over the next federal relief package, which is now under discussion in Washington.

In a letter sent Friday to the state's two U.S. senators and entire House delegation, Polis asks Congress to provide at least $500 billion in the next package, with some of that earmarked for smaller cities and counties.

"States and local governments face an expected significant loss in property and sales tax revenue, hitting state and local budgets hard, because of the mitigation steps necessary to slow the speed of the virus," Polis wrote. "We urge you to provide at least $500 billion to assist state and local governments, including those with populations below 500,000, who are responsible for responding to the coronavirus pandemic."

The more than $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) package recently approved by Congress directs money to states, individuals and local governments with populations above 500,000.

"Unfortunately, this is far from sufficient to meet the needs of our state, local governments, fire districts and other special districts, who are struggling to treat and respond to the pandemic," the letter says.

The letter was signed by Polis, and the heads of several groups representing cities, counties and special districts.

— Chuck Murphy

9:29 a.m. — ❤️ over Denver

Office towers and hotels across the country, from Des Moines, Iowa to Atlanta to Niagara Falls, New York, are lighting up select rooms to show support for health care workers and a general sense of solidarity. Now Denver's in on the act, too.

The Optiv building at 15th and Arapahoe Streets is lit up with a pink heart. April 3, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

— Nathaniel Minor

9:11 a.m. — We know you know this, but stay close to home today

It's a beautiful spring morning in Colorado. And despite what we all probably want to do, it's a really good idea to stay close to home today.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is putting a strain on hospitals and first responders everywhere — especially in smaller mountain communities where people often visit for recreation,” CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew. said in a press release. “One of the easiest ways people can help is by staying off the road."

Need some ideas for things to do at home? Denverite's got you covered. And if you do get out for some hiking, here's how to do it safely.

— Nathaniel Minor

8:24 a.m. — Good morning, masked people of Colorado

Yesterday afternoon Gov. Jared Polis asked that Coloradans cover their faces when they leave the house for essential activities.

The request is for re-purposed or homemade masks, not medical masks, like the N95, which he said must be reserved for medical workers.

The state has teamed up with The Colorado Mask Project to offer patterns, including ones that only require material and a pair of scissors.

Polis hopes that wearing masks will accelerate Colorado's recovery from the pandemic — both health-wise and economically.

Meanwhile, Colorado passed a grim milestone on Friday. More than 100 people have died from COVID-19 here. And more than 4,000 people have tested positive.