Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issues stay-at-home order to fight coronavirus spread
Colorado has seen a dramatic rise in COVID-19 deaths this week
Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday announced a temporary stay-at-home order for Colorado starting Thursday and lasting through April 11.
The order comes as the state has seen a dramatic rise in the death toll associated with the COVID-19 outbreak. The week started with seven deaths recorded and by Wednesday, the death toll had reached 19.
“We have 148 hospitalizations, that number has doubled since yesterday,” Polis said Wednesday. “These numbers are continuing to grow here in Colorado.”
Polis requested that President Donald Trump declare Colorado a major disaster area, to match California, Washington and New York. Polis called Colorado’s mountain communities “ground zero” in the pandemic.
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“We are making the request for disaster status because Colorado is near the top (of the country) in terms of cases per capita, with a uniquely high situation unfolding in our mountain communities,” Polis said. “This major disaster declaration, when granted, will open up additional federal resources for medical care, housing and disaster management that we need, and I call upon President Trump to grant this immediately.”
‘Innovate our way out’
Critical businesses are exempt from the stay-at-home order.
The April 11 timeframe coincides with the hopes of Trump, who said Tuesday he would like to see the country open for business again by April 12.
While the federal government does hold a level of authority with national and international companies in Colorado, that does not constrain state governors from instituting policies like Polis’ stay at home order, or the 50% workforce reduction order Polis issued earlier this week.
“The governor has quite a bit of authority here,” Mike Willis with the Colorado Emergency Management Office said Tuesday. “The president’s authority would be by extension, particularly for national and international companies that were allowed to open.”
The directives are part of a suite of agenda items Polis has presented this week in an effort to step up the state’s response to the coronavirus.
Polis blamed the federal government for the situation the state now finds itself in, where the true level of spread is unknown due to a lack of testing. Polis on Sunday said he plans to “innovate our way out of this quagmire that the lack of a coordinated national response has created.”
Polis said that by increasing testing, he hopes to see the state “return to as normal of a functioning society as we can, as quickly as we can … so rather than with a mallet, we act with a finely tuned quarantine on those who have the virus.
“We know other countries have fared better than the United States on being prepared to combat this virus,” Polis added. “They’ve done it through mass testing and isolating those who test positive, versus quarantining a whole society, which is unsustainable for a period of time.”
State versus federal response
President Trump this week made similar comments to Polis about large-scale quarantine efforts in the U.S.
“Our country was not built to be shut down,” Trump said.
White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx said she is focused on finding innovative solutions to the coronavirus, including “trying to get data down to the most granular level, so we understand what’s happening at the level of the spread,” Birx said Tuesday.
“Even today, there are counties throughout the United States that still don’t have their first case,” Birx said Tuesday. “So our job is to make sure they never have their first case.”
Several counties in Colorado have yet to confirm cases, but that is not an indicator of the actual spread level in those areas, Willis said Tuesday.
“It’s very safe to assume that there are substantially more cases in rural Colorado than are currently being reported,” Willis said. “The number of cases in a community far exceeds what we know from tests.”
Testing capacity still unclear
Increased testing tops the list of Polis’ priorities for his Innovation Response Team, which also launched this week and is headed up by Matt Blumberg, a technology entrepreneur who founded and led Broomfield-based email technology company Return Path for the past 20 years.
Willis said Tuesday that the Innovation Response Team has not yet identified how much capacity a mass testing effort in Colorado could provide, and if that effort could lead to young and healthy people in infected areas getting tested instead of turned away for testing, which is the current practice in the state.
“As we develop that program and we start to have a really clear understanding of its capacity, that will be the indicator as to who all we can test,” Willis said.
Workplaces that are excluded
- Health care operations
- Critical Infrastructure, including utilities, fuel supply and transmission, public water, telecommunications, transportation, hotels, organizations that provide for disadvantaged people, and food supply chain
- Critical Manufacturing, including food, beverages, chemicals, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, sanitary products, agriculture
- Critical Retail, including grocery stores, liquor stores, farms, gas stations, restaurants and bars for takeout, marijuana dispensaries but only for medical or curbside delivery, hardware stores
- Critical Services, including trash and recycling, mail, shipping, laundromats, child care, building cleaning and maintenance, auto supply and repair, warehouses/distribution, funeral homes, crematoriums, cemeteries, animal shelters and rescues
- News media
- Financial institutions
- Providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations
- Public safety services like law enforcement, fire prevention and response, EMTs, security, disinfection, cleaning, building code enforcement, snow removal, auto repair
- Vendors that provide critical Services or products including logistics, child care, tech support, or contractors with critical government services
- Critical government functions
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After a sudden stop in March and extended isolation, people may be ready to travel or play. But don’t expect a full-throttle return this summer.