Colorado Gov. Polis: Coronavirus hitting mountain resort communities the hardest |

Colorado Gov. Polis: Coronavirus hitting mountain resort communities the hardest

Governor says virus outbreak will 'get worse before it gets better,' tells older travelers to avoid mountains

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis enters his office to brief reporters on the new coronavirus on Wednesday.
Moe Clark | The Colorado Sun
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It’s been less than a week since confirmation of Colorado’s first case of the novel coronavirus. As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 33 cases, with nine in Pitkin County and four in Eagle County.

The virus tends to be more severe in people older than 60, as well as others with underlying health issues including diabetes and high blood pressure.

Given the number of cases in mountain resorts, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday asked those who are older, or have underlying health issues, to avoid coming to the mountains.

In a Wednesday afternoon news conference, Polis warned that the state might be near a “tipping point” regarding the spread of the virus. That means the virus now might be spreading from person to person.

“At this point, we can confirm community spread in the high country of Colorado,” said Polis. “We are likely on the verge of a tipping point where we will see more community spread in the days and weeks ahead.”

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To help slow the spread of the virus, Polis Tuesday declared a state of emergency for Colorado. That declaration is intended to ramp up testing and provide sick pay for employees, among other measures.

Local impact

The advice for older people to avoid public gatherings has already affected events in the Vail Valley.

The town of Vail Tuesday closed its annual community meeting to the public. That meeting will be televised on High Five Access Media’s website and Channel 5 on local cable systems.

Other events include a Thursday event in Vail to discuss a community wildfire prevention plan. Roundup River Ranch will be canceling its Superhero Ski Day at Vail Mountain on Saturday. The town of Minturn has closed its March 19 town council candidate forum to the public. Residents can watch on High Five, and can submit questions via email. Minturn has also canceled a March 22 community dinner.

In all those cases, officials have cited the prospect of attendance by older residents or public safety as the reason for either closing or canceling those events.

At this point, other Vail Valley events are still on the schedule. But nothing is certain.

At his press conference Wednesday, Polis was blunt, saying the COVID-19 outbreak will almost surely get worse before it gets better. And, while Polis said state and local officials are working as quickly as possible to ramp up testing, he also implored residents and visitors to take responsibility for their own well-being. Those steps include washing hands with soap, avoiding handshakes and keeping 6 to 8 feet away from other people.

Polis also urged residents and visitors to stay home if they’re sick.

“This is more serious than a typical cold or flu season,” he said.

The state has expanded sick pay rules for public and private employers to encourage those who need to stay home.

As testing expands, so will confirmed cases.

Polis said he’s recommending all schools close for at least 72 hours when someone has tested positive for the virus. That could expand to 14 days in other cases.

Polis acknowledged that self-isolating is difficult. He said he’s spoken with the person who first tested positive in Summit County last week.

“I told him, ‘I know it’s hard,’” Polis said. “But I said, ‘Let us know if you need (books or TV entertainment).”

While COVID-19 is likely with us for a while, Polis asked residents to “rise to this challenge. … We’re all in this together.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at or 970-748-2930.

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