Colorado Coronavirus Updates For April 24: Closures, Testing, Cases And More

shopper with toilet paper, r m
David Zalubowski/AP
A shopper reads his mobile device while carrying purchases from a nearby grocery store during the state’s stay-at-home order to stop the spread of the new coronavirus Wednesday, April 22, 2020, in Denver.

This post collects all of our reporting and updates on the coronavirus in Colorado for Friday, April 24. The weekend blog is right here. Our original play-by-play of reporting continues below.

8:13 p.m. — How do you grieve in a pandemic?

At A Distance Podcast Art 202003

There's a new episode of Colorado Public Radio's life under coronavirus podcast, "At A Distance." It's a heavy one, but it's important.

If you’ve lost someone close to you during this pandemic, your grief may feel different than what you expected. That’s totally normal.

But at a time when everyone is up against some sort of loss, grief isn't just possible. It might be essential.

Listen here, or wherever you get your podcasts.

7:51 p.m. — Take a look inside the Aurora Medical Center ER

Aurora Medical Center Emergency Room
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Assistant Lead Nurse Jenny Ramirez screens an ER worker coming on shift at the Aurora Medical Center, April 24, 2020.
Aurora Medical Center Emergency Room
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
An ER room stands ready for use at the Aurora Medical Center, April 24, 2020.
Aurora Medical Center Emergency Room
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Charge Nurse Loren Evans in the emergency room of the Aurora Medical Center, April 24, 2020.
Aurora Medical Center Emergency Room
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A box for used face shields and N95 face masks in the emergency room of the Aurora Medical Center, April 24, 2020.

— Hart Van Denburg

7:39 p.m. — Fort Collins will furlough ~600 part-time employees

Fort Collins is the latest Colorado municipality to furlough workers.

The city will furlough about 600 part-time employees beginning next Friday, May 1. Furloughed workers were notified today.

The administrative breaks are planned to last through the end of June, though the city will reconsider whether to bring staff back, extend the furloughs or make more workforce reductions.

“Extended facility closures combined with expected lost revenues led to the difficult decision,” city manager Darin Atteberry said in a statement. “These are valued colleagues that provide programming and support that enriches our community. They are important members of our City workforce, and my heart goes out to them during this unfortunate and challenging reality.”

— Alex Scoville

6:16 p.m. — A note and correction on case data

CPR News has been tracking and charting the daily releases of data from CDPHE on cases, deaths and hospitalizations. In order to double-check the daily change in for deaths and cases, we've tracked the cumulative total (which we download daily from CDPHE when it is released) and then calculate the change in our own spreadsheets.

For the last couple of days, there was an error in CDPHE's case summary data files that switched the 'Cumulative Number of Cases of COVID-19 in Colorado by Date Reported to the State' and 'Cumulative Number of Cases of COVID-19 in Colorado by Date of Illness Onset.' We contacted CDPHE to confirm and they have corrected their data files, which you can find here.

We've updated our data, but the result was our case charts have displayed the wrong data set (Illness Onset) since Wednesday afternoon until the error was caught.

The state's data is subject to revision which is why we grab a fresh download from the case summary files on a daily basis, rather than track the daily numbers as announced by the state by hand. Our first significant revision was a few weeks ago and we continue to see modifications every few days. We've done some reporting on the challenges with the state's data.

The state gave notice Thursday that a data shift was expected due to additional cases with data from outside labs and other changes. Part of those changes showed in today's data — in cases and deaths.

In his news briefing today, Gov Polis noted there hasn't been a spike in deaths, but "numbers that are being retroactively adjusted or cases, in the case of deaths, of folks who had caught coronavirus as their source of death on their death certificate, but weren't previously included in our data" are now part of the count.

The change in cases comes from 1-2 weeks of data that has come in from private labs.

CPR News will continue to chart cases by "Cumulative Number of Cases of COVID-19 in Colorado by Date Reported to the State" and will keep track of daily changes in deaths by "Cumulative Number of Deaths From COVID-19 in Colorado by Date Reported to the State."

The state's latest death data, "Cumulative Number of Deaths From COVID-19 in Colorado by Date of Death," currently undercounts the state's total and contains a note that the "date of death may not be available for all deaths."

— Jim Hill

5:19 p.m. — Adams and Arapahoe counties will keep stay-at-home orders in place through May 8

Two of the counties in the Tri-County Health Department will keep their stay-at-home orders going after the state relaxes theirs on Monday.

Adams and Arapahoe counties will extend their orders through Friday, May 8, the department announced Friday.

Douglas County will break from those two and relax its stay-at-home order with the state on April 27.

— Alex Scoville

5:06 p.m. — Mesa County is the second Colorado county to get an exemption to reopen on its own schedule

Gov. Polis said Friday that Mesa County has been approved for a waiver to reopen on its schedule and it should be official very soon.

Mesa is the second county to get an exception. Eagle’s was signed earlier this week. Custer and Fremont are also seeking them.

“The local buy-in is critical and that's why we are excited to work with Mesa County, with Eagle County, with any others that have better ways that they can open up more or quicker,” Polis said Friday. “We're happy to work with them and get those approved."

In its letter requesting the exception, Mesa County Commissioners noted that identified cases in the area have stayed relatively flat since March, with only six hospitalizations and no deaths.

— Megan Verlee

4:28 p.m. — The latest coronavirus numbers

There are 12,256 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Colorado as of Thursday, April 23, according to the latest from state health officials.

The statewide death total has reached 674.

Those two numbers saw large jumps since the previous day's data release because health officials are accounting for dozens of previously unreviewed cases and deaths that have been determined to be COVID-19-related.

Total hospitalizations stand at 2,366.

Four more outbreaks in Colorado were identified, bringing the statewide total to 134.

The state has tested nearly 57,000 people.

A note about the coronavirus data: CPR News tracks and graphs the "reported by date" data provided by the state of Colorado. This data lags by 24 hours or more, is subject to revision and in some instances, cases take time for the state to confirm, so some prior counts may change. You can learn more about the challenges the state faces with the data in this report.

— Alex Scoville

3:57 p.m. — More federally funded small business loans are on the way

Colorado small businesses hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic are getting a second shot at a lifeline.

President Trump on Friday approved $500 billion in additional federal aid under the Payroll Protection Plan.

That’s on top of $350 billion funded through the first phase of the program, which ran out of money before many small businesses could access the loans.

Colorado businesses have received $7.4 billion in loans through the program so far. Jimmy Funkhouser, the owner of outdoor gear shop Feral with stores in Denver and Idaho Springs, is seeking about $20,000 through the program. He says the money is likely to run out again, and that the state’s small businesses need to move quickly if they want to access funding.

— Sarah Mulholland

3:34 p.m. — This is the rate of coronavirus infections across the state

3:07 p.m. — A former state lawmaker has died due to COVID-19

Members of Colorado’s political community are sharing their remembrances today of former state Sen. Jack Taylor, who passed away recently due to COVID-19.

Taylor, who was in his 80s, served in the state Senate in the late 90s and early 2000s. The Routt County Republican was an advocate for military and rural issues.

— Megan Verlee

2:48 p.m. — More than 130 inmates at the Sterling Correction Facility have tested positive

A Colorado state prison is now the site of the largest COVID-19 outbreak in the state.

More than 130 inmates at the Sterling Correctional Facility have tested positive for COVID-19 with another more than 200 tests results pending after Department of Corrections officials decided to conduct deep diagnostic testing to see how widespread the outbreak there was.

Previously, only 8 people had tested positive, but many other people had been sick inside the facility.

State officials say they've tested 473 symptomatic and asymptomatic inmates. Of those, 255 results have been returned with 138 positives, 104 negatives, 12 are inconclusive and 1 was unsatisfactory. More than 200 tests are still pending.

"Given the insidious nature of this virus we had suspected that despite seeing a relatively low number of inmates with symptoms, the number of positives was potentially much higher,” said Department of Corrections Executive Director, Dean Williams, in a statement. “That is exactly why we conducted this large scale testing, so that we can continue to isolate, monitor and treat any inmates who were positive and try to mitigate the spread to others inside the facility.”

CPR News reported that Corrections officials are planning to release more than 150 inmates from across the state early due to COVID-19 concerns. They have cracked down on large gatherings and in Sterling, all inmates have to stay in their cells, except to shower or use the restroom.

But defense attorney Gail Johnson, who represents felons in facilities across the state, said officials have been slow to modify behavior inside prisons.

This includes a "movie night" last week at the Denver Women's Correctional Facility.

"At this point, the horse has left the barn," she said. "So I think there is an imperative right now to try and protect those vulnerable people so that we don't have prisoners who were sentenced to a term of years suddenly serving what is, in effect, a death sentence."

— Allison Sherry

12:40 p.m. — Polis' latest COVID-19 update

The governor is scheduled to speak at 1 p.m. CPR News will carry live coverage as soon as Polis starts to speak. Find a signal near you, click LISTEN LIVE above, or ask your smart speaker to "Play CPR News."

Noon — Boulder County extends stay-at-home order through May 8

Joining Denver and JeffCO, Boulder County has now extended its stay-at-home order till May 8 as the statewide order expires this weekend.

“We have increasing cases of COVID-19, insufficient access to testing, and too few case investigators to consider anything else than extending the current Stay-At-Home Order, ” said Boulder County Public Health executive director Jeff Zayach in a statement. “We want to avoid relaxing restrictions only to have to reimpose them if there’s a new surge in cases.”

Just as with the Jefferson County order, non-critical businesses may offer curbside pickup and travel for those purposes will be allowed.

— Jim Hill

11:19 a.m. — Denver wants do 1,000 coronavirus tests a day and needs the workforce to make it happen

Public health executive director Bob McDonald said in a news conference on Friday that Denver is building out a workforce to help provide the testing. The announcement coincided with the city officially confirming it was extending the stay-at-home order to May 8.

That workforce will include some 100 people who will be trained in the next few weeks to provide the testing. Providing more testing is a big part of the city’s plan to slowly phase out restrictions meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.

— Esteban L. Hernandez

9:45 a.m. — JeffCO extends their stay-at-home order to May 8

Jefferson County Public Health extended its public health order on Friday to morning to May 8, just as the statewide order was set to relax this weekend.

“No two communities in Colorado are the same, and each community has different needs as we look to the next stages of response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Mark B. Johnson, executive director of Jefferson County Public Health in a released statement. “We have to consider what impact opening too soon could have on those in our community and region, and take a phased, science-based approach to reopening.”

Non-critical businesses will be able to offer curbside delivery and residents allowed to travel for these services as part of the new extension.

The county public health department said the order was needed as they have not seen a decline in daily cases and they don't have the needed testing.

The state's move to safer-at-home allows for local control and many metro area authorities are considering their own or coordinated orders that go past the state's April 26 date. JeffCO's decision came after "collaboration with public health officials across the Denver Metro Area, as well as with local business owners, community members and elected and appointed officials," according to the public health department.

— Jim Hill

9:30 a.m. — Tell us about how reopening will affect you

9:23 a.m. — Polis to speak today

The governor will hold a remote briefing today between 1-1:30 p.m. MDT. CPR News will carry his remarks live and will make more details available once we have them.

8:19 a.m. — Denver will ask residents to stay at home through May 8

During an online city meeting Thursday, Mayor Michael Hancock said Denver is not prepared to relax its restrictions. Denverite and CPR News obtained audio of the recorded comments.

Hancock said the metro area still cannot test enough people or trace the contacts of those who are infected for him to lift the order. Denver has reported more cases of COVID-19 than any other Colorado county. The statewide stay-at-home order is set to expire this Sunday. Denver's own order currently goes through the end of April.

Mayor Hancock said he'll make a public announcement later this morning.

— David Sachs

8:00 a.m. — JBS meat plant in Greeley reopens today

The JBS facility was ordered to close for two weeks for employee testing for the novel coronavirus and disinfection on April 10, but that order has been set aside in favor of a new agreement.

According to the company, it allows them to reopen so long as they do daily symptom screening, testing and provide PPE and social distancing in the plant. Workers, however, say the layout of the facility makes social distancing impossible. Weld County and JBS have not responded to questions about the details of this new agreement.

— Natalia Navarro

7:33 a.m. — The NFL is just like us. They had to draft from home on their laptops last night

Nothing is normal right now, but the NFL was a schedule to keep so we were all treated to a televised Zoom-style first round of the draft on Thursday night.

Yet, for all the changes to this year's NFL draft, things looked and sounded somewhat normal. Quarterbacks were in demand. Ohio State and the Southeastern Conference dominated the picks. The Patriots traded out of the first round. And Commissioner Roger Goodell even got booed, if only digitally. 

Joe Burrow is already popular in Ohio, where he became a prep star and played at Ohio State. He gets a chance to return home and try to salvage the Cincinnati Bengals, who took him with the first overall pick in the NFL draft.

The Denver Broncos picked 15th and got some help for QB Drew Lock by selecting Crimson Tide wide receiver Jerry Jeudy — considered one of the top wide receivers in this year's class. This offseason marks the first in four years that general manager John Elway has an established starter at quarterback. He promised to build around Lock in the draft.

The second and third rounds of the draft continue Friday night at 5 p.m. MDT and the final rounds are on Saturday.

— Corey H. Jones, Jim Hill, Associated Press

7:05 a.m. — Eagle County is 1st with exemption from statewide restrictions

Gov. Polis appeared over video conference to congratulate a small group of county officials on Thursday. It was a ceremonial appearance that granted local officials the authority to set their own guidelines.

“It is really appropriate that one of the first and hardest-hit counties is the first to really have your act together in a way that has the full confidence and support of the state of Colorado,” he said.

After an early outbreak at Vail resort, Eagle county public and private health leaders instituted early restrictions and the county has put together robust testing and contact tracing for suspected COVID-19 cases. Even with the exemption, Eagle County will still loosen its coronavirus restrictions on work and public life in much the same way as the state is, and at the same time, starting Monday.

— Dan Boyce

6:45 a.m. — Aurora Walmart closed

Health officials have closed down the Walmart in Aurora at 14000 East Exposition, in the City Center, after COVID-19 spread among employees there. Tri-County Health Department said three coronavirus deaths are linked to the site — one of which was an employee there.

Officials say a 72-year-old female employee and her husband are among the dead. In addition, a 69-year-old security contractor who worked at the store has also died. Officials say six more employees at the Walmart have also tested positive and did not offer a timeline for reopening.

The order was issued by Tri-County following complaints about no social distancing, too many people in the store at once and employees without mask or face coverings.

— Andrew Villegas

6:35 a.m. — Where cases stand this Friday

As of Thursday afternoon, Colorado now has 11,262 known positive cases of the novel coronavirus. There have been 552 deaths since the first cases were detected in early March.

The state is on the precipice of slowly reopening when the statewide stay-at-home order expires on Sunday. In its place, there will be a new series of protocols known as "Safer-at-home" that Gov. Jared Polis introduced on Monday. Several counties are looking to maintain local control and will either institute their own stricter measures or in other cases, seek an exemption from the state.

A note about the coronavirus data: CPR News tracks and graphs the "reported by date" data provided by the state of Colorado. This data lags by 24 hours or more, is subject to revision and in some instances, cases take time for the state to confirm, so some prior counts may change. You can learn more about the challenges the state faces with the data in this report.

— Jim Hill

Thursday's Live Blog.