DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s 12,000 bars and restaurants will be limited to takeout and delivery orders under a ban on gatherings of 50 people as the state expands testing to try to brake the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Jared Polis said Monday.
Polis also announced the closure of all theaters, gyms and casinos until further notice. The restaurant-bar measure will affect 240,000 workers and last at least 30 days, Polis said. He called it a tough but necessary step to fight a pandemic that he said likely has infected thousands of people in Colorado.
At least 160 people had tested positive for the coronavirus as of Monday, and 20 of them are hospitalized, Polis said. The greatest challenge, he said, was in chasing a virus where the latest information, based on tests, is always three to five days old.
“We are doing our best,” Polis said, admitting that scaling up testing “has been very frustrating.”
Earlier Monday, Denver limited restaurants and bars to takeout and delivery orders, and the state began expanding testing in mountain ski resort communities to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Mayor Michael Hancock announced other measures to try to limit the spread of the disease as well as to prepare for handling more cases. People arrested for low-level crimes will no longer be booked into jail and social distancing would be increased behind bars, he said. To keep people in homes, sheriff’s deputies will not enforce eviction notices during the crisis, and the city is also negotiating with hotels to house homeless people, prioritizing those who have significant respiratory problems.
Hancock also called on the federal and state government to address a “critical shortage” of protective gear like masks so that city workers and volunteers could continue to help those at risk.
The state said it had hired 50 nurses to staff testing sites and health care facilities. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said it was opening a testing site Tuesday outside Telluride to serve about 100 people chosen by area health care providers as needing testing and also planned to do testing later in the week in Routt County, where Steamboat Springs is located.
While other ski resort areas, including Eagle County, home to Vail, are already known to have community spread of the disease, health officials need to do testing to find out what is happening in the other resort areas that also draw a lot of tourists, said Scott Bookman, the health department’s COVID-19 incident commander. The results will help health officials make recommendations about social distancing measures in those communities although a backlog in testing means it will take several days to get the results of the new tests, he said.
The state said it received additional testing kits from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week and planned to distribute them statewide. The private firms Labcorp and Quest Diagnostics were augmenting state testing.
State authorities have targeted Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Gunnison counties because of high rates of community spread. As of Sunday, the four counties, home to several ski areas, accounted for at least 40 of the state’s 131 cases.
Polis ordered all ski areas closed this week — an order he called “likely renewable”on Monday.
The pandemic cast a shadow over a highly uncertain quarterly economic forecast released by the governor’s office Monday. As businesses close and shoppers stay home, state revenue could decline sharply and recession is possible, said the governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting.
For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The World Health Organization says people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while severe cases may last three to six weeks.
From her hometown of Vail, World Cup ski racer Mikaela Shiffrin used her social media channels to urge personal and community responsibility to cope with the crisis.
Shiffrin said that during a recent trip home she saw people using bathrooms without washing their hands and sneezing without covering their mouths. At stake is the health of loved ones, the greater community and especially the elderly, she said in a video posted Sunday and first reported by Vail Daily.
“Now personal hygiene is really global hygiene,” Shiffrin said. “This isn’t supposed to be a tattletale message but more of a call to action.”
“Lastly, be kind,” she concluded. “You never know what someone is going through.”
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