Colorado Coronavirus Updates For April 15: Closures, Testing, Cases And More

sloan’s lake denver, r msloan’s lake denver, r mDavid Zalubowski/AP
A pedestrian wears a mask while walking a path around Sloan's Lake, Friday, April 10, 2020, in Denver amid the coronavirus outbreak.

This post collects all of our reporting and updates on the coronavirus in Colorado for Wednesday, April 15, 2020. You can find Thursday's latest here. Our original play-by-play of reporting continues below.


9:10 p.m. — G'night live blog

Have a good one, build your cat a bar.

8:36 p.m. — We have more information on the deaths in long-term care facilities and meatpacking plants

We found out more about the coronavirus situation inside elder care, assisted living and independent living facilities this afternoon. For the first time, people with family members living at these facilities (and others) can search the state’s record of how many people have been infected and died from COVID-19.

The number of deaths is higher than previously known, and this is the first time we’ve gotten a snapshot of how many workers have tested positive for COVID-19 inside rehabilitation, elder care and independent living facilities and group homes.

According to the data released by the state, as many as 176 people have died of COVID-19 in Colorado in these facilities. Of those, 137 cases are confirmed. The others are deaths probably related to COVID-19. It’s likely these numbers will rise, since 632 people have tested positive or have probable cases of the new coronavirus in these facilities.

Since we and other news outlets started calling county health departments and elder care facilities directly in the past few weeks, we’ve known these facilities have been hotspots for the virus to spread. Generally, the respiratory disease is particularly serious among the elderly. 

Today’s data is particularly illuminating with regard to the staff at these facilities. 510 staff members have either tested positive for COVID-19 or have probable positive cases that have not been confirmed by labs. Fortunately, according to the state’s data, none of those workers has died.

Today’s information release also includes information about known positive cases and deaths at two meatpacking facilities — the JBS plant in Greeley and a Cargill facility in Fort Morgan. 102 employees at the JBS plant in Greeley have now tested positive for COVID-19 and four have died of the disease.

Previously, two were known to have died and 14 were said to have been hospitalized. Cargill had previously acknowledged that some workers at the plant had tested positive for COVID-19, but Wednesday’s release from the state had the first known mention of a death among workers there.

The state plans to release this data weekly on Wednesdays.

— Rachel Estabrook

6:58 p.m. — VERY GOOD NEWS: There's an otter in Boulder

6:41 p.m. — More than 700 motel and hotel rooms in Denver will now house people experiencing homelessness

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Colorado National Guardsmen Airman First Class John Boyle (right) and Staff Seargent Bart Blumberg map out the Rodeway Inn on Zuni Street as it's transformed into housing for people living in homelessness. April 15, 2020.

Some 5 percent of people experiencing homelessness on any given night in Denver are older than 65, putting them in the age group at high risk of falling seriously ill if they are sickened by the novel coronavirus.

On Wednesday, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless began moving people aged 65 and older into a motel at 2600 Zuni Street to try to keep them safe from COVID-19. The coalition said it has room for a total of 174 people at two motels it has leased at that address and was working with the National Guard and Denver Human Service workers to move people in.

Read the full story on Denverite.

— Donna Bryson

5:13 p.m. — Here's some local music for you

You've made it through Wednesday. Enjoy this livestreamed performance from Slow Caves, a local band I like quite a lot.

— Alex Scoville

5:05 p.m. — Two inmates at the Sterling Correctional Facility test positive for COVID-19

A pair of inmates at the Sterling Correctional Facility have tested positive for COVID-19.

They are in quarantine and receiving appropriate medical care, officials say.

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The Sterling Correctional Facility on the outskirts of Sterling in early August 2018. It’s the largest prison in the Colorado Department of Corrections system.

The Colorado Department of Corrections is working with the facility to identify the staffers and inmates who had contact with the two who are sick. Identified staffers will be put on leave, and identified inmates will be screened twice daily for symptoms and kept in quarantine.

Going forward, meals and medications will be delivered to inmates in their cells out of precaution. The Sterling Correctional Facility has cloth masks it plans to distribute to inmates.

— Alex Scoville

4:54 p.m. — City of Aurora will furlough hundreds of seasonal and temp employees

The City of Aurora will furlough 576 temporary, contingent and seasonal employees starting April 25.

No full- or part-time employees will be affected.

Aurora expects to see a shortfall of $20 to $25 million in revenue due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We proceeded with furloughs when our budget forecasts made it clear we had no other choice, and our hope is that the enhanced unemployment benefits announced under the CARES Act will provide them with financial stability until we can make further decisions about restoring our city services and bringing employees back to work. My heart goes out to all of our employees affected by this.”

Earlier in the week, the City of Boulder furloughed nearly 800 employees.

— Alex Scoville

4:11 p.m. — Updated coronavirus case numbers

The daily report from state health officials is in, and the numbers have changed just slightly from when Gov. Jared Polis shared preliminary updates during an afternoon briefing.

Here's where things stand:

  • 8,280 cases
  • 1,636 hospitalized
  • 56 counties
  • 40,533 people tested
  • 357 deaths
  • 83 outbreaks

— Alex Scoville

3:55 p.m. — Dispensaries can now legally sell weed online, but the process is still tricky

Coronavirus Hancock Closes Marijuana StoresHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Customers lined up for more than a block at AMCH Dispensary in Denver's Capitol Hill neighborhood on Monday, March 23 after Denver Mayor Michael Hancock ordered liquor stores and pot shops to be closed by 5 p.m. Tuesday to combat coronavirus. He later allowed the businesses to remain open.

New rules introduced by Gov. Jared Polis this week will allow online marijuana sales.

Customers can now pay for their purchases online and then pick them up in person. Before the rule changes, payments had to be made in person.

But the change doesn't necessarily mean that every dispensary will be able to accommodate online payments. Because selling marijuana is still a federal crime, credit card companies don't do business with marijuana shops.

Many pot businesses have moved to curbside pickup in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The rule change does not allow marijuana to be legally delivered in Colorado.

— Ann Marie Awad

3:46 p.m. — Colorado Springs small businesses can get up to $25,000 from this local relief fund

The Colorado Springs Downtown Development Authority has established a new small business relief fund that will provide up to $25,000 to select storefronts affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Applicants need to have been operating in the downtown core since at least last June. Eligible businesses range from bars and hair salons to art galleries and ice cream shops. 

Many national chains, as well as service businesses like auto repair shops and real estate agencies, are not eligible.

A press release said the funding of the grants comes from a downtown-specific taxing district. Grant recipients should expect to be notified by mid-May.

3:28 p.m. — More than 800 COVID-19 patients have been released from hospitals

Courtesy Banner Health
Jocie Rocha of Brush, Colo., leaves North Colorado Medical Center with ambulance crews as the hospital's 100th discharged COVID-19 patient on Monday, April 13. The 71-year-old woman was moving via ambulance to a rehabilitation hospital closer to her home.

At least 814 patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 have been released from Colorado hospitals. More than a quarter were released Tuesday, according to data presented by Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday.

"Most COVID patients are going to be just fine," Polis told the press in an update on the state's response. "COVID can be fatal for people of all ages but the good news is there are also people of all ages that can make it through. There are survivors that are 104 and survivors that are 20 years old just as there's victims in both age groups as well."

Read more here.

— Natalia Navarro

3:10 p.m. — Weld County health officials put up striking billboards to encourage social distancing

Courtesy of the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment
A billboard from the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment.

Public health officials in Weld County aren’t pulling any punches in their new effort to get residents to take action to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

"AGE DOESN’T MATTER" the ads proclaim in all caps, over three pictures of people lying in hospital beds, wearing breathing masks. “Stop the spread. Stay six feet away.”

The campaign will be displayed on billboards in the county and posted through social media.

Weld County has 884 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 55 deaths, mostly in people older than 70, according to the county health department.

— Megan Verlee

2:51 p.m. — It's the social distancing bracket finale

There can only be one: get fit, or video chat cocktail hour. Vote now.

2:28 p.m. — New coronavirus case numbers

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Gov. Jared Polis briefs Coloradans on the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday, April 15, 2020.

There are now 8,253 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis said during a Wednesday afternoon briefing.

That marks an increase of 312 cases since the day before.

Nineteen more people have died due to COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 348 deaths.

More than 1,624 cases have been hospitalized across Colorado.

— Alex Scoville

1:59 p.m. — Gov. Jared Polis is about to speak

Gov. Jared Polis is set to brief Coloradans on the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic at 2 p.m. The briefing will be at the governor’s residence at Boettcher Mansion and also include questions from the press.

CPR News will carry the governor's remarks live on air and online. Click Listen Live above, find other ways to listen, or watch the video below.

1:56 p.m. — Four RTD workers tested positive for COVID-19

RTD Buses Trains Central Park Station CoronavirusHart Van Denburg/CPR News
RTD’s Central Park Station had few riders early Thursday morning April 9, 2020.

Four members of the Regional Transportation District's workforce have tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Of the four infected, three are back at work, Mike Meader, RTD's chief safety officer, told the transit agency's Board of Directors Tuesday night.

"Three of them are back at work already because it happened sometime back, and a couple of them weren't even in the workplace when that occurred," Meader said. "They were either out vacationing or they were out, came down with the symptoms, stayed out, then tested positive."

RTD employs about 2,900 people, not including private contractors.

In other RTD news, stricter rules will give police and security guards broader power to kick people out of stations.

— David Sachs

1:55 p.m. — Be in the room where something is happening

After canceling or postponing a number of shows and events, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts has some good news: "Hamilton" is still coming, and you can buy tickets next week.

The touring production of the Broadway show will play at the Buell Theatre from Aug. 12 through Oct. 4. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on Monday, April 20, and can only be purchased online. More details here.

— Alex Scoville

1:46 p.m. — Got questions for Sen. Michael Bennet? Send them Avery's way

1:35 p.m. — 60 more ventilators are on their way to Colorado

Health officials in Denver say they are going to get 60 ventilators this week from a national stockpile to help hospitals care for COVID-19 patients.

It's unclear if this medical equipment is from the controversial 100 ventilators President Trump promised the state.

Colorado Democrats and Trump have sparred over the ventilators. Each says the other is playing politics with the public health response after a shipment of 500 was intercepted by federal officials.

— Andrew Villegas

12:21 p.m. — Eagle County to require face masks on buses

Starting Thursday, Eagle County will require all riders to wear a face covering while on ECO Transit buses.

Bandanas and other non-medical masks that cover the nose and mouth are all acceptable. More information is available from the county's website.

The agency said in a release that intends to continue offering services for people unable to reach essential jobs in other ways "as long as circumstances allow."

The agency also reminded riders that they should travel only when necessary (and never when sick), board from the back door and practice social distancing while on the bus, and that drivers may limit the number of passengers on a bus to comply with social distancing guidelines.

— Daniel J. Schneider

10:33 a.m. — Face fashion: Share your mask couture with Denverite's Kevin Beaty

Whether it's purpose-bought or made from scraps like an old flour sack or cut-up rocket ship pillowcases, let's see your face coverings. Reply to Kevin's tweet below:

10:11 a.m. — It's a town hall, for kids!

Colorado U.S. Rep. Jason Crow will host a virtual town hall today aimed at answering questions from kids. You can submit questions to the Congressman through a Google Form and register to attend via Zoom. Links in this tweet from Crow:

9:30 a.m. — Make a quaranzine with us

All over the world, people are making quaranzines. That includes me.

First, what’s a zine? It's a self-published, small-circulation magazine. It can be as simple as a sheet of paper folded into a booklet. It can be words or pictures, hand-drawn or printed. It’s a DIY creative expression.

So, a quaranzine is a zine about life during a pandemic. Last week Malaka Gharib, an artist and NPR health blogger, taught a workshop over Zoom for Believer Magazine on how to make a quarantine.

“You can just look up the #quaranzine hashtag on social media and you'll find so many examples of people all over the world making zines to document their quarantine experience,” Gharib said. ”It's kind of like a collective memory of what happened and what art we created during this time.”

I was one of the 300 participants on that Zoom call. I spotted some other Coloradans in the crowd. For me, as for so many, this pandemic has brought on some Big Feelings that I’ve had trouble processing and expressing. Here’s what I drew.

Naming and sharing that anxiety, and seeing the art other people are creating in this chaos, really helped me.

More: Here’s a guide to help get you folding your first quaranzine

— Avery Lill

9:11 a.m. — Polis will speak today

The governor will deliver an update on the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic from the Governor's Residence at Boettcher Mansion. His remarks are scheduled for 2 p.m. today and CPR News will carry them live. Find a signal near you or ask your smart speaker to "Play CPR News."

9:07 a.m. — Boulder will furlough more than 700 city workers for 2 months starting Monday

The city announced the move yesterday in response to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Boulder officials say they anticipate losing at least $28 million. That's nearly 10 percent of the city's annual revenue. The city said it will continue to pay for health insurance for employees through June. They'll decide to end the furlough or start layoffs on June 1.

— Natalia Navarro

8:45 a.m. — Video Pence commencement is out. In-person Pence commencement is in

Vice President Mike Pence has changed his plans and will now deliver the commencement address at the Air Force Academy in person this weekend.

Originally, it was reported that the VP planned planning to speak to the graduating cadets through a video message. The Academy moved up its commencement celebration by several weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic. Cadets will be seated 6 feet apart for the ceremony and no outside guests are allowed to attend.

Only mission essential graduation staff will be allowed to access the base from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. on April 18. The event will be live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube.

— Megan Verlee

8:13 a.m. — Colorado isn't slowing efforts to build field hospitals across the state

The latest numbers suggest Colorado's efforts to slow the spread of the virus might be working. New cases aren't increasing as quickly — and health officials say the next couple of days will show whether a decrease is possible.

"We may choose to scale some of that back depending on what information that we see," said Scott Bookman, the commander of Colorado's coronavirus response. "It's really important that we are prepared for any potential surge as we move forward in this, but we also want to make sure that we're using our resources appropriately."

Jared Polis Colorado Convention Center COVIS-19 Pop Up TreatmentHart Van Denburg/CPR News
At Denver’s Colorado Convention Center on Friday, April 10, 2020, where the state is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to build a 2,000-bed pop-up treatment facility to accommodate an expected surge in COVID-19 cases.

The field hospitals under construction in Denver and Loveland will cost an estimated $71 million total, according to Gov. Jared Polis's office. The state is obligated to pay a quarter of that cost and the federal government picks up the rest.

Polis said the federal government should pick up the full cost of the facilities.

The centers will host thousands of temporary beds for COVID-19 patients in case hospitals reach capacity. Separately, the state has signed contracts for three smaller facilities on the Front Range and in Grand Junction.

— Sam Brasch, Andrew Kenney

7:52 a.m. — Pueblo aims to support Steel City small businesses

The Pueblo City council will make $5 million available to help businesses recover from economic damages caused by COVID-19. The funds will come from the half-cent sales tax normally designated for economic development.

"We’re looking out for the little guy who can’t really go to a bank and borrow a lot of money," said Pueblo city attorney Dan Kogosvek.

Businesses can apply online for grants up to $20,000 or ten-year loans up to $100,000. The mayor and an advisory committee will review applications to determine eligibility. The money can be used for rent and mortgage payments, construction and other changes. It cannot be used for payroll.

— Shanna Lewis

7:30 a.m. — How'd you deal with coronavirus? History Colorado wants to know

A new project by Colorado's state history museum aims to record how Coloradans deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Jason L. Hanson, the Chief Creative Officer at History Colorado, said the things people share online give historians a new way of understanding how COVID-19 affects their lives.

"We have the tools now in a way that people have never had before, historians have never had before, to really try and capture that big quilt of experience," he said. "And that's what we're doing with this project."

The museum is collecting stories from residents via a phone line 720-466-8215, an online journal or at historycolorado.org.

— Andrew Villegas

7:07 a.m. — Denver educators concerned undocumented students and families aren’t accessing remote learning opportunities

Some families are afraid to sign up for free Comcast internet because they must provide a photo ID.

"They’re afraid of their information and photo being put in some kind of government system that’s going to hurt them with an agency like ICE," said Denver school social worker Emilio Ramos, who has spoken with several families.

Comcast said it doesn’t track or report their customers' immigration status and is committed to closing the digital divide. A local advocacy organization hopes to meet with Comcast to find a solution that makes families feel more comfortable when signing up.

— Jenny Brundin

6:56 a.m. — Happy NOT tax day

Don't worry if you haven't done your 2019 taxes yet.

Today was supposed to be tax day, that dreaded day every year when taxes are due. But the COVID-19 outbreak has led governments to delay the deadline for three months. Taxes are now due on July 15. Filing timelines for nonprofits and some businesses have also been extended.

— Andrew Villegas

6:05 a.m. — Here's your Wednesday case update

State public health officials say coronavirus hasn't peaked in Colorado — but it might be leveling off. Rachel Herlihy, the state epidemiologist, said the data show that Colorado's efforts to slow the spread of the virus appear to be working.

"We do seem to be experiencing a slowing of our increase in and perhaps even a plateau and the number of cases with the level of social distancing, the stay at home order we have in place right now," she said.

The total known positive cases stand at 7,941 in Colorado with 1,556 total hospitalizations. There have been 329 deaths. The state is expected to soon release numbers that show the number discharged from hospital care.

Herlihy said the next few days should show the full effect of social distancing and whether the daily case count might decrease.

— Sam Brasch

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