DENVER (AP) — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced measures Friday to grow the ranks of doctors, nurses and other professionals in anticipation of an increasing coronavirus caseload straining the state’s health care system.

Polis said state officials will expedite the licensing of health-care professionals who live in Colorado and already have licenses in other states. State officials are also asking retired doctors and nurses and those who left the field to consider returning to help with the outbreak.

The Colorado National Guard has been activated and Guard medics are being trained, Polis said. Medical students are being asked to help with testing and clinical work.

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An increase in health professionals will be needed as the number of coronavirus cases grows exponentially, and as health professionals treating those patients become infected themselves, Polis said.

“We are in the middle of one off the greatest public health disasters of our lifetime,” he said. “It’s critical for us to take it seriously.”

Polis called for the cancellation of events with groups of 200 or more people, unless organizers can guarantee participants are spaced 6 feet (2 meters) from one another.

He also called for an increase in testing, while saying the state’s 1,500 collected tests to date outpaces the national rate.

As of Friday, Colorado had 72 cases of the coronavirus. Eight people were hospitalized and three were in critical condition.

“It’s just a matter of time before we have our first fatality here in Colorado,” Polis said.

The state’s drive-up testing laboratory was postponed on Friday because of bad weather. Demand at the site has been huge, with hundreds of drivers waiting in line for three hours on Thursday. More than 650 tests have been collected there to date.

Colorado canceled its high school basketball tournaments, and the Air Force Academy said it has begun dismissing its cadets amid the coronavirus spread.

For most people, the new coronavirus 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 vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

RELATED: Here’s where COVID-19 is currently found in Colorado

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