This post collects all of our reporting and updates on the coronavirus in Colorado for Monday, April 20, 2020. You can find Tuesday's coverage here. Our original play-by-play of coverage continues below.
8:07 p.m. — Are you feeling panicky in the pandemic? So is Ann
That's Ann Marie Awad, the host of On Something, CPR's podcast about life after legalization. So, Ann decided to dive into how pot works as a treatment for anxiety — according to her personal experience, and according to experts.
7:30 p.m. — A worker at the Denver Amazon plant has tested positive for COVID-19
An employee at the Amazon warehouse at 480 E. 55th Ave. has tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.
The employee was the first at the local warehouse to test positive. Amazon spokesman Timothy Carter said all workers at the warehouse, not just those who came into contact with the sick employee, were made aware of the diagnosis.
— Ana Campbell
6:39 p.m. — We answered some of your questions about unemployment, housing and more
For many Coloradans, the economic struggles of the last few weeks have caused confusion bordering on chaos. We hear questions all the time from people grappling with the state’s balky unemployment system, struggling to pay for rent and food, or groping for a way to keep their small business running.
On Monday, the Colorado Matters special “Making Ends Meet” brought experts to the table to answer some of those questions. Here’s a snapshot.
Unemployment benefits became available for gig workers, self-employed people and independent contractors for the first time Monday. Expect some delays as a flood of workers hit the site all at once, but state officials promise it won’t be as bad as it was for the first wave of workers who file W-2s to report their income.
If you file a W-2 for part of your income and make the rest of your money at a gig job, you’re only eligible for unemployment compensation on your W-2 earnings.
With or without unemployment checks, a lot of Coloradans are struggling to make the rent, buy food and meet other basic needs. Michelle Barnes, director of the Colorado Department of Human Services, said the state’s 211 number can direct people to government agencies and nonprofits that can help. Gov. Jared Polis has urged landlords to hold off on evictions and late fees until at least April 30.
If you’re a small business owner the federal government’s first round of loans is already taken but Congressional leaders say they’re close to approving another $370 billion. In the meantime, check out the state resource Choose Colorado for an updated list of 165 other sources of financial help.
Need advice? The state’s Small Business Development Center has a list of 200 consultants who’ll help you for free here.
— Michelle Fulcher
4:32 p.m. — As Colorado's stay-at-home winds down, Polis outlines what the next stage looks like
Coloradans will still need to continue social distancing and wearing masks after the statewide stay-at-home order expires this coming Sunday, but life will get a little freer.
Gov. Jared Polis outlined that next stage in a Monday briefing.
Retail and personal services will begin to reopen with extreme precautions like curbside-only service and reduced seating. Elective medical and dental services will also restart, and childcare centers will reopen too.
"Nobody likes to be told they can't do something," Polis said. "Now it enters the time of personal responsibility."
— Dave Burdick and Andy Kenney
4:18 p.m. — The latest coronavirus numbers
There are 10,106 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Colorado as of Sunday, April 19, according to the latest from state health officials.
That marks an increase of 376 cases from the day before.
Twenty-seven more people have died due to the disease, bringing the statewide total to 449.
There are 1,880 cases hospitalized in Colorado.
Two more outbreaks in workplaces, long-term care facilities and other areas were confirmed, bringing the total across the state to 113.
The state has tested more than 46,000 people.
— Alex Scoville
4:13 p.m. — Mesa County is ready to reopen on its own timeline
Next week, the Mesa County Board of County Commissioners plans to ask to be allowed to reopen on its own timeline, too, according to a letter provided to CPR News by Commissioner Rose Pugliese.
The Mesa County letter comes with a plan that starts with restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people, and includes six-foot physical distancing, returning to work in phases, encouraging the public to wear masks to enter retail businesses and other guidance. A second phase, which would start at an unspecified time, would increase the cap on gatherings to 50 people, allow non-essential travel, and open more businesses like gyms and bars.
“Mesa County’s first positive case of COVID-19 was reported on March 14th, and to-date, we have 34 positive cases. The greatest spike in numbers occurred in early April when four positive cases were reported,” the letter says. “Between March 14th and today, our epidemiological curve has remained flat. In the course of a month, we’ve had only six hospitalizations, three of which have since been discharged. Our sampling site has reduced its operations to half-day because we’re not able to fill our appointment schedule.”
The plan is currently being reviewed by local businesses before being finalized.
— Dave Burdick
3:38 p.m. — Polis about to speak
Gov. Jared Polis will provide an update on the state's response to the new coronavirus from the governor's residence at Boettcher Mansion.
CPR will air the governer's remarks live. Find a station near you or ask your smart speaker to "play CPR News". You can also watch the video below.
— Alex Scoville
3:07 p.m. — Around 1% of Coloradans have gotten COVID-19, but social distancing is working
A little over 1 percent of Coloradans, about 70,000 people, have been infected with COVID-19 based on testing, according to Colorado's health department.
That was one of the updates from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Monday.
Health officials also said that social distancing has helped bend the COVID-19 curve downward since it was adopted a few weeks ago. Social distancing has been practiced at about a 75-percent level.
Colorado will continue to need to use all the measures — including social distancing, masks, testing, contact tracing and surveillance — to avoid overwhelming the health system over the coming months.
But the bottom line remains that testing isn't widely doable in any state right now, and definitely not at the point where you can have a robust epidemiological response, CPDHE executive director Jill Hunsaker Ryan said.
"The truth is there is simply not enough supplies to go around anywhere," Hunsaker Ryan said.
— John Daley
2:44 p.m. — These long-term care facilities will get a testing boost
Three long-term care facilities across the Front Range will get 300 COVID-19 tests this week, thanks to a new initiative from Colorado's Unified Command Center.
The Colorado National Guard, State Patrol and health department officials will help run the testing at Pikes Peak Center in El Paso County, Elms Haven Center in Adams County and Broomfield Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Broomfield County.
The tests will be used on residents and staff.
Pikes Peak Center got tested on Sunday, April 19. Elms Haven Center will be tested Tuesday, April 21, and the Broomfield Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation Center will be tested on Thursday, April 23.
— Alex Scoville
2:27 p.m. — We challenge you to do 10 push-ups with us
CPR's social editor Francie Swidler demonstrates. See more journalists showing off their biceps on our Instagram story.
— Francie Swidler
1:43 p.m. — This is what Colorado schools say they need right now
Thousands of Colorado school children don’t have access to the internet and are struggling with stress relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a statewide needs inventory conducted recently.
Colorado schools say their top four education needs are:
- support for students who are suffering from stress-related to the COVID-19 pandemic
- providing students’ computer hardware and access to the Internet
- help developing effective remote learning
- help with family engagement
The needs inventory shows as of April 15, about 53,000 Colorado students need Wi-Fi-enabled devices and nearly 66,000 children need Internet access at home.
“I know that our educators and school leaders are struggling with the inequities that may be widening right now — students who were already behind are in some cases falling further behind," education commissioner Katy Anthes said.
The information from the inventory will help policymakers and potential donors target resources and federal relief aid to the most vulnerable student, Anthes said.
Support with student social-emotional needs was identified as the number one priority for six of the eight regions, in particular for elementary school students.
Several rural areas, which have struggled with teacher shortages, indicated they need support in terms of hiring staff for next year.
Districts felt most prepared to meet the needs of high school seniors and gifted learners. They felt least prepared to meet the needs of at risk-students who don’t always respond to virtual outreach, as well as students experiencing trauma, isolation or in families with immediate needs. In follow up calls, however, some raised emerging concerns for high school seniors, English language learners and early learners.
In addition, the survey identified that increased Internet connectivity and assistance with food, mortgages or rent and unemployment assistance are the top needs for communities.
More than 91 percent of districts and cooperative education service agencies (BOCES), as well as 186 charter and facility schools, completed the needs assessment, conducted by the Colorado Education Initiative the Colorado Department.
— Jenny Brundin
1:21 p.m. — Weld County suspends RV occupancy time limit in response to COVID-19
The Weld County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to suspend the section of county code that limits the length of time people can stay in RVs.
"We realize our first responders and health care workers may need an alternative to living in their homes as they are trying to minimize their exposure to family members," Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer said in a release. "Allowing those who live in unincorporated Weld County to use their RVs for this purpose makes sense and is something we can easily do to help our families."
Weld County Code, Section 23-1-90, defines camping as "a recreational activity involving the spending of up to seven (7) consecutive nights in a tent, primitive STRUCTURE, travel trailer or RECREATIONAL VEHICLE at a campsite. This activity is to provide temporary shelter and is not intended to be a residence."
The temporary suspension allows the use of RVs within all zone districts of unincorporated Weld County for temporary COVID-19 quarantine quarters. The county enacted a similar temporary suspension in 2013 to allow people to live in RVs while repairing damaged homes.
— Daniel J. Schneider
1:00 p.m. — Denver planning now for “a slow, phased and controlled reopening.”
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said at a press conference this morning that city and county officials have been working on their own and together with other metro area governments on what a phased reopening of cities might look like.
They’re also watching the data to see if it makes sense to lift the stay-home order, which is set to expire in Denver on April 30, days after the currently scheduled end of the state order on April 26.
A separate social distancing order in Denver is set to expire May 11. Hancock said the city would announce later this week an update to and extension of that public health order restricting public gatherings.
Hancock said that the city would tighten some rules and loosen some others this week.
“We’re going to start restricting the use of shared equipment such as Frisbees and footballs,” he said, saying that officials were concerned with what they were seeing in parks. On the other hand, as of Wednesday, city golf courses will reopen — with restrictions.
— David Sachs
12:43 p.m. — Colorado's unemployment system is open for self-employed and gig workers, extra $600 payments rolling out
Colorado has opened applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the new system that will provide payments for self-employed people, gig workers, independent contractors who weren’t previously covered.
President Donald Trump signed the new federal benefits into law April 2, but the state had to finish implementing a new system to pay the benefits. The system went online mid-morning on Monday.
State officials estimated that independent workers make up about 10 percent of the workforce, or 370,000 people.
The state also is rolling out $600 in extra weekly payments for all unemployment recipients, a new part of the federal law, known as Pandemic Unemployment Compensation. The extra money will automatically go out when people file their next scheduled request for payment.
Colorado already has delivered $71 million via banks to cover the expanded payment today. By Wednesday, the state expects to deliver expanded checks for everyone who has filed claims for last week and earlier weeks of unemployment. The state will pay the benefit retroactively, meaning people will receive $600 for every week they’ve been unemployed since March 27.
The new law also offers unemployment benefits for those who can’t work because they have or are vulnerable to COVID-19. They should provide a medical professional’s note. Also covered are people who are the primary caregiver for a child whose daycare or school is closed.
Have you filed under the new system? Share your experience with our reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Andrew Kenney
12:37 p.m. — Tuesday telephone town hall for Colorado veterans
On Tuesday, April 21, Department of Veterans Affairs Under Secretary for Benefits Dr. Paul Lawrence will host a toll-free telephone town hall for Colorado veterans.
Lawrence will discuss the VA's continued service during the current coronavirus pandemic, and offer more information on existing benefits. Veterans will be able to ask questions during the town hall.
The call begins on Tuesday at 3 p.m. and can be reached at 844-227-7557.
— Daniel J. Schneider
12:14 p.m. — Lake County supports small businesses with online auction
Leadville and Twin Lakes have created an online auction to benefit local businesses and organizations while their storefronts are closed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The online storefront and auction portal feature gift cards and products, and 100 percent of the proceeds are being given back to participating businesses.
The online auction opened on April 10 and surpassed its first sales goal in less than 12 hours. The goal has been increased twice and is now $50,000.
New items are being added daily, but the online auction closes Wednesday, April 22 at 2 p.m. Direct donations can also be made on the site to the Community Disaster Relief Fund.
Additionally, some Leadville businesses have put up special decorations while their storefronts are shuttered to lift community spirits.
— Daniel J. Schneider
9:44 a.m. — Can the governor freeze rent? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Gov. Polis says he can’t simply remove the burden of rent from people struggling with the economic consequences of the novel coronavirus.
On April 13, he said that "No governor, no president has the legal ability to suspend the sanctity of contract law. No state has done that."
Denver City Council disagrees. Lawyers say it’s complicated.
— Jim Hill
9:20 a.m — Polis will speak today
The governor will speak from Boettcher Mansion and provide an update on the state's response to the coronavirus. On Friday, Polis suggested he would offer a preview of how the state reopens. His remarks are scheduled for 3:30 p.m. CPR News will carry live coverage. Find a station near you or ask your smart speaker to "play CPR News".
8:23 a.m. — Help for gig workers and others available today
The state should now be in a position to accept jobless claims from gig workers and similar groups. Colorado needed to make updates to their unemployment systems, which delayed new applications for gig workers, independent contractors and the self-employed to April 20.
The extra $600 payment for all unemployed workers will also start Monday and run through July 31. Applications can be filed here.
— Andrew Kenney
7:54 a.m. — Do you have questions?
7:39 a.m. — The stay-at-home order is set to expire Sunday
It's been four and a half weeks since Gov. Polis initially ordered Coloradans to stay home and only to venture out for essential things like groceries and exercise.
Workers in critical areas like health care and sanitation would remain on the job. Late last week, Polis reiterated the need to do more testing and contact tracing to pinpoint the spread of the virus as the state opens up.
Harvard researchers estimate Colorado is more than 100 tests short each day of what it needs. Polis also ordered more screening of residents and workers in eldercare facilities. And, a requirement that essential workers wear masks. The governor said not to expect to return to normal anytime soon — even after the point when the stay-at-home order is lifted.
— Andrea Dukakis
7:02 a.m. — Eagle County, once a hotspot, wants to reopen early
The state is considering a request from Eagle County to be exempted from parts of the stay-at-home order.
A state spokesperson said it's the first such request the state has received and that it is possible for local jurisdictions to get exemptions from parts or all of the order that requires social distancing.
Eagle County is asking to allow gatherings up to 10 people and let some non-essential businesses open as long as they put rules in place to protect people's health. The county's letter said it has met important criteria, like a sustained decline in positive cases of COVID-19, and the ability to monitor for future outbreaks.
It's a huge improvement for the county, where just a month ago, Vail Health's CEO said the virus was quote "everywhere."
— Rachel Estabrook
6:31 a.m. — Protestors at the state capitol demanded Colorado lift its stay-at-home order
A couple of hundred people protested Colorado's stay-at-home order at the state capitol yesterday. They stood on the lawn and circled the block in their cars, honking in support.
The event was known as "Operation Gridlock." Those gathered opposed the state's restrictions, implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19. Gov. Jared Polis' orders have been in place since March 26.
Deesa Hurt, an auto salesperson from the city of Parker, said it upsets her to see so many people out of work.
"I'm watching businesses close," she said. "I'm watching friends lose their incomes and their livelihoods and we just want to re-open Colorado. That's all we want."
Jennifer Hulan is the owner of a winery and bistro that is now only doing takeout orders. She furloughed employees because of the lack of business. To her, the stay-at-home order is an attack on individual liberties.
"You are either free to make a choice or you're not. You can come in and practice social distancing and be safe or you can stay home but what I prefer is freedom. People have the right to choose," she said.
The stay-at-home order is set to expire on April 26. However, the governor has made it clear, on more than one occasion, that it will not be a return to normal and social distancing will still be a requirement as the state starts to reopen.
Denver’s protesters joined others in the West, including Utah, Idaho and Washington state, who have staged rallies demanding immediate action to reopen states for business.
— Taylor Allen, Associated Press
6:12 a.m. — The state had its highest number of deaths in a single week since at least 1975
During the last week of March through April 4, 901 people died. In recent years, the average number during that same time period been about 150 fewer deaths.
The last week of March 2020 may not hold the record for long. The following week — April 5 through April 11 — had 896 deaths statewide and the weekly numbers are likely to grow as more reports arrive.
In total, Colorado has seen 9,730 known positive cases of the novel coronavirus. More than 46,000 have been tested and about 1,800 have been hospitalized. There have been 422 deaths contributed to complications from COVID-19.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says the high death numbers are due in part to the state's rapid population growth and the state's aging population. But it says COVID-19 has definitely played a role.
— Andrea Dukakis