“This is not a vacation,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Friday in warning the state’s residents to take seriously the 2-day-old, stay-at-home order he issued in the face of a mounting coronavirus pandemic.
The order, issued Wednesday, requires residents to stay at home except for critical activities such as doing what is deemed to be essential work, grocery shopping and obtaining medicine or medical care. While out working, shopping or taking walks, everyone must maintain a six-foot distance from other people.
The order went into effect Thursday and will last until April 11, Polis said.
“This pandemic is not a vacation,” Polis said Friday during a news conference, calling out residents driving to Colorado’s mountains or hiking on narrow trails. “The more noncompliance there is, the more people that are not heeding the advice to stay at home, the longer and more severe this crisis will be.”
The number of positive cases in Colorado rose to 1,734 Friday, but that number is “far from the exact number,” Polis said, reiterating that thousands of Coloradans most likely have the disease but have not been tested.
On average, the number of people one person is likely to infect with the coronavirus in Colorado is between three and four, Polis said. That ratio is known as the R-nought (R0) value — the exponential reproduction rate of a virus — and is used by scientists to describe the intensity of an outbreak.
The time between exposure to the virus and being symptomatic or dying from it, Polis said, has created a lag in the state’s data.
According to researchers, COVID-19 symptoms appear about five days after exposure. From the onset of symptoms to when the patient appears in the state’s data log is eight days, Polis said. Between exposure and when a patient is typically hospitalized can be up to 17 days, Polis said.
“We have some information early on, but we don’t know the true impact until 12 days or so after a particular measure is taken …” Polis said, referring to recent orders on banning large groups, closing nonessential businesses and the stay-at-home order. “Each of these social distancing numbers significantly reduces (the R0 value.)”
The state is reporting 31 deaths from the coronavirus in Colorado, Polis said.
The stay-at-home order has been met with some resistance from local officials, who have questioned whether it was too extreme.
In response, Polis said in a worst-case-scenario, an estimated 33,200 Coloradans would die from the coronavirus by June 1.
With a 60% increase in social distancing, the estimated number of deaths drops to 11,500, he said. The state hopes that the stay-at-home order will create an 80% increase in social distancing levels, Polis said.
The governor also addressed a desperate need for Intensive Care Unit beds and ventilators:
“We have about 900 ventilators in the state of Colorado. We need about 7,000. We have about 1,800 hospital beds … we need about 5,000 ICU beds.”
Hospital officials are hoping that the stay-at-home order would help “flatten the curve,” a term being used to describe slowing the rate of new coronavirus infections.
“The goal of the stay-at-home order is to bring down how contagious the virus is … to save lives and to return to normalcy as soon as possible without costing additional lives,” Polis said.
He added that no one “should be under the illusion that success is that the virus is gone from our state in a week or two weeks.”
“If we get this right, some might say we did too much too soon,” Polis said. “I’d much rather be the recipient of that complaint than to have a full-scale public health disaster with tens of thousands of Coloradans paying the ultimate price.”
In other developments Friday:
• The two most recent El Paso County residents to die from coronavirus were women in their 80s, said Michelle Hewitt, a spokeswoman for El Paso County Public Health.
The total deaths reported in El Paso County remained at seven.
Public health officials are not aware of any contact between the women and a bridge tournament in town at the end of February where the virus was spread or with residents at Laurel Manor Care Center, where there has been an outbreak of the virus, she said.
One of the women died on Wednesday and the other died on Thursday, she said.
Public health officials are contacting all patients who test positive for COVID-19 and discussing how they spent their time two weeks prior to getting ill to find others who may have been exposed to the virus, she said. Public health officials are contacting them to inform them of the need to isolate themselves, Hewitt said.
• A woman in her 70s became the eighth person at Fort Carson to test positive for the coronavirus, the post said in a statement.
The positive test result came back Thursday, the statement said. The woman is being treated at a Colorado Springs hospital.
“Upon notification of the result, Fort Carson officials and Evans Army Community Hospital health professionals ensured the individual was medically cared for and immediately began conducting contact tracing to determine whether any others may have been exposed,” the statement said. “If any individuals are determined to be at risk, they will be directly notified.”
• An Air Force Academy cadet who lived alone has tested positive for the coronavirus, the military school said.
The cadet is in isolation in accordance, a statement said.
“Academy officials will continue to monitor the individual’s health,” the statement said. “Academy personnel and cadets who may have come in close contact with the cadet have been identified and are being monitored, according the academy’s COVID plan and established USAFA self-quarantine procedures.”
• Two staff members with the Colorado Department of Corrections have tested positive for COVID-19, a department news release said.
One of the staffers worked at the Sterling Correctional Facility but has not been inside the facility for several days, the statement said. The other works at the Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center and has not been at the facility for more than a week, it said.
Both staff members were put on administrative leave.
“At this time the department is currently working with the (Colorado Department of Corrections) medical team and conducting a detailed contact investigation tracking any contact that the staff members had, and will be working to quarantine people as necessary,” the statement said.
No inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus, the department said.
• The 4th Judicial District chief judge rescinded all jury summonses in El Paso and Teller counties from Monday through April 3, the latest precaution to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The order cancels at least 41 trials in Colorado Springs and 10 trials in Cripple Creek, the online court docket shows. In each case, the defendants involved must appear in court as judges determine the status of their cases.
• Starting Monday, Harrison School District 2 will give away free sack meals from 10 a.m. to noon weekdays at every school in the district.
Woodland Park School District RE-2 will offer grab and go meals beginning Monday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Gateway Elementary bus loop in Woodland Park, Summit Elementary student drop-off loop in Divide and the Florissant Grange parking lot in Florissant.
• Project C.U.R.E., along with local health systems in Colorado Springs and the Rocky Mountain Vibes baseball team, will host a personal protective equipment (PPE) drive in Colorado Springs from noon – 4 p.m. Sunday at UCHealth Park (Vibes stadium) to help fight the spread of COVID-19.
Donation drop off will be at the corner of Tutt Boulevard and Barnes Avenue.
Unused products in unopened boxes will support healthcare providers directly in the Colorado Springs area. Items needed are as follows: Eye protection/goggles, face shields, surgical masks, sterile & nonsterile gloves, disposable gowns, N95 masks, sanitation wipes and personal wipes.
The Gazette’s Mary Shinn, Lance Benzel and Debbie Kelley contributed to this report.
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