Polis, Health And Economy Officials: Colorado Will Recover (If Coloradans Stay Home Now)

Gov. Jared Polis answers a question during a town hall on Tuesday, April 7.

Gov. Jared Polis answered questions submitted by Coloradans Tuesday evening about the new coronavirus pandemic.

He was accompanied — via video — by state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy and executive director of Colorado’s Office of Economic Development, Betsy Markey. They addressed questions from 9News anchor Kyle Clark and Coloradans from around the state about how long this will last, the economic impacts and testing for COVID-19.

Colorado has 5,429 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, according to state health officials. The first case was detected on March 5. More than a thousand people are hospitalized across the state with 179 deaths.

Hospitals are preparing for a surge and are preparing to change the normal decision-making processes or “crisis standards of care” in case resources become limited.

Colorado has 44 outbreaks in residential and non-hospital health care facilities as of Tuesday. The state has tested at least 28,094 people. Many more cases have gone undetected

Polis stressed again that people need to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. One reason, he argued, is that it is an incredibly isolating death without physical or emotional contact.

“This is not a good way to go,” he said. “Your friends and your family can’t be there with you. You’re sedated. You’re on a machine. There’s no good way to go.”

When can we loosen restrictions on social distancing?

Polis said he is hopeful to ease restrictions by April 26, but it could be longer. Even when some restrictions are lifted, life will only go completely back to normal if there is a cure or vaccine.

Only social distancing could slow the spread of the virus because there was no mass testing when COVID-19 hit Colorado.

Herlihy said mass testing will be an important strategy to ease social distancing along with isolation and quarantine efforts.

Will Colorado have enough ventilators?

Polis said as long as Coloradans stay home, the state has bought the time that it needs to meet the demand for those who will need a ventilator.

What number of patients need ventilators and what is the survival rate for those people in Colorado?

Herlihy said the need for hospitals, ventilators and ICU care depends on a person’s age group and chronic medical conditions. About 20 percent of adults over 60 need to be hospitalized.

Then, of those individuals, about 5 to 10 percent need to be in ICU, and most of those patients need ventilators.

Herlihy said it’s still too early to tell what the survival rate is for Coloradans specifically on ventilators but the state is asking hospitals to share their data.

What is the end goal and how does normal life begin again?

Polis said when we get back to totally normal, churches and stadiums will be full of people. He said life won’t be like that again until there is a cure or vaccine for COVID-19.

He said everything in the economy will reopen first so people can get back to work, but it won’t mean bars and restaurants operate the same way. The state is working on guidelines. Polis wants to be sure the state moves carefully to avoid a second surge and jumps on infections with mass testing.

At what point does the stay-at-home order become more damaging than the virus itself?

Markey said the quicker the pandemic is under control, the quicker we can get back to normal. The worst thing that can happen is opening back up too quickly. She said the state is doing everything it can and is approaching the economic recovery the same way Governor is approaching the health crisis.

She said the state is being proactive and wants people to take advantage of the forms of economic relief. That includes the $1,200 checks for adults along with the additional $500 for kids under 16, increased unemployment benefits, paycheck protection, and loan forgiveness or small business loans.

Funds for gig-economy workers will open Friday, Markey said. Workers can apply for those loans through their bank.