COVID-19 roundup for April 20: Stay-at-home order will be lifted, social distancing and precautions to continue

Colorado’s stay-at-home order will come to an end as scheduled on April 26, but the state’s fight against COVID-19 will continue to unfold in the coming weeks and months, Gov. Jared Polis announced today.

Polis said at a press briefing on Monday that Colorado is starting to see its daily hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients level off and announced the state will be transitioning out of its stay-at-home order and into a “safer at home” period, which will continue to call for social distancing while allowing many businesses to reopen with strict precautions.

Polis said the stay-at-home order was essentially the “sprint” of the state’s response to the pandemic, but that the hardest part — the “marathon” — is yet to come.

“The job isn’t finished,” Polis said. “Not by a long shot.”

During the stay-at-home order, the state sought to maintain 75 to 80 percent physical distancing. During the “safer at home” period, it will seek to achieve distancing of 60 to 65 percent.

The “safer at home” period encourages many of the same precautions in the current order — it encourages staying at home unless absolutely necessary, wearing face coverings in public, avoiding unnecessary travel, disallowing gatherings of more than 10 people and calling for sick people to stay home from work.

For seniors and vulnerable populations, life should remain pretty much the same as it was during the order — the state advises they continue to stay at home except when absolutely necessary due to their increased risk of complications from COVID-19.

Also during the “safer at home” period:

  • Non-essential retail establishments can open for curbside delivery, with phased-in openings to the public with strict precautions. Retailers may open May 1 if they have social-distancing policies in place.
  • Business offices will be able to open with strict precautions. Larger workplaces will be advised to conduct temperature checks. Telecommuting for offices should be maximized.
  • Elective medical and dental services can open with strict precautions to preserve personal protective equipment (PPE) and ability to meet critical care needs.
  • Restaurants and bars will remain closed. Take-out and delivery services will continue. Polis said he hopes restaurants could be opened in some capacity by mid-May.
  • Childcare businesses will be open, with strict precautions.
  • Schools will remain closed.
  • Personal services, such as salons, tattoo parlors and animal groomers will be able to open April 27, with strict precautions.

As of Sunday, there have been 10,106 cases recorded in Colorado, with 1,880 hospitalizations and 449 deaths. A total of 734 of those cases were recorded in El Paso County, which has seen 50 deaths.

But state officials said Monday during the governor’s press briefing that those 10,000 cases likely only represent a small fraction of the state’s actual cases.

Using models that accommodate for local case and testing data, as well as transmission rates for symptomatic and asymptotic carriers, they estimate about 65,000-75,000 Coloradans either previously had or currently have the virus, equating to between 1.1 and 1.3 percent of the state’s population.

In other developments:

Colorado has a new COVID-19 support platform for workers impacted by the pandemic. It can be found at onwardco.org.

Displaced workers can use the platform to connect to emergency resources like food, shelter, childcare, and money; find training programs to upskill for a new career; search for job opportunities.

The platform was developed by Bitwise Industries in coordination with Gov. Polis, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and the Kapor Center. A version of the online resource also went live in California for its workers on Monday.

The platform is powered by Shift3 Technologies, Salesforce and Mastercard and is designed as a one-stop resource for Coloradans impacted by job loss during the pandemic.

It connects existing resources like 2-1-1, Indeed, LinkedIn and MyColoradoJourney, among others. The site can be accessed by computer or phone.

Colorado announced enhancements to its myColorado mobile app to help residents stay current on COVID-19 information and access food, cash, medical, and early childhood assistance on the Colorado PEAK website. Other new features include the ability to display vehicle registrations in the app and chat with site support staff. The app can be downloaded for the Apple App Store or from Google Play.

A new menu of helpful COVID-19 links to state and national resources is also now available on the myColorado home screen, and can be accessed without logging in or creating an account. Among the many resources in the latest release are access to the School Free Lunch Sites MapUnited Way 2-1-1Do You Have Symptoms?Colorado Mask Project, and Help Colorado Now. Individuals can also sign up to receive text and email alerts within the myColorado app. 

Cheyenne Mountain School District 12 has ruled out in-person instruction for the remainder of the school year, and will continue with remote learning for all grades.

The move was announced in a letter sent to parents Monday and signed by Superintendent of Schools Walt Cooper.

“We hope that a responsible lessening of many current restrictions will come sooner rather than later. However, after reviewing Governor Polis’s most recent plans for a phased easing of the current restrictions across Colorado, it is clear to me that we have no logistically feasible nor socially responsible path to resuming normal in-person instruction during the next four weeks,” Cooper said in the letter.

The district will continue remote learning until May 15, and the week of May 18 will be used to organize end-of-year tasks, such as gathering personal belongings, returning devices and materials, and retrieving records.

Cooper’s letter also detailed additional information and resources for parents, such as that elementary summer school will be postponed until the last week of July, but summer school for junior high and high school students will continue online as planned.

The district will continue to provide free  lunch and breakfast distribution at Cheyenne Mountain Junior High School from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. daily.

Those who would like to donate food for families whose food insecurities are greater than the food distribution program can provide for, can visit the district’s ELEVATE website or its D-12 community-based outreach program here.

Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind has decided to continue remote learning for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. In a statement Monday, the school said “considering guidance from the governor that normal, in-person learning is ‘highly unlikely’ as well as looking at our traditional school year end dates, we cannot say for sure that we’ll be able to offer any substantial in-person instruction this school year.” Rather than prolong that uncertainty, the school decided to extend its closures. CSDB will continue remote learning for all students through June 5, and May 28 for seniors.

In a recent survey of over 3,000 people about cancer care during the pandemic, many respondents reported that receiving the care that they need has been challenging.

The survey by Survivor Views — a national cohort of cancer patients and survivors who complete surveys on a range of public policy issues important to the cancer community — showed 51 percent of those surveyed reported some impact on their care due to the virus. Of those who’ve experienced an effect, nearly one-in-four reported a delay in care or treatment, with half of all reported delays coming to in-person provider appointments.

Among respondents who remain in active treatment, 27 percent reported a delay in care, and 13 percent said they don’t know when it will be rescheduled.

Nearly 40 percent of respondents said COVID-19 is having a notable affect on their ability to afford care, largely due to reduced work hours.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network says many patients are experiencing financial stress trying to afford care in “an increasingly difficult economic environment.”

The concern, the organization says, is especially pronounced in patients with lower- and middle-class incomes — Nearly half (46 percent) of those earning $30,000 or less said they are worried about affording their care; more than a third (34 percent) of those earning up to $60,000 said they are worried and a 25 percent of those earning up to $110,000 said they’re concerned.

The American Cancer Society has created a resource for cancer patients and survivors at cancer.orgCoronavirus, COVID-19 and Cancer Hub. ACS is also available 24-hours a day, seven days a week through its National Cancer Information Center and cancer hotline at 800-227-2345.

Software company Volusion released a new report that shows 22.1 percent of Colorado workers — or about 616,800 people — in the industries of retail, leisure and hospitality have been highly impacted by the pandemic.

The report evaluates how the pandemic is impacting retail, leisure and hospitality workers in states across the country. Nationally, 21.3 percent of the workforce is found in those sectors.

Other findings on Colorado include: that it has 272,200 retail workers and 344,600 leisure and hospitality workers; that the state’s cost of living is 3.2 percent above the national average, and that 9.6 percent of the state lives below the federal poverty line.

Centura Health is sending 34 clinical health care workers to aid three New Jersey communities that have been hit hard by the pandemic. The 34 caregivers and one administrative assistant — selected from multiple Colorado Centura Health facilities — are scheduled to depart from Colorado Tuesday to provide staffing and support at Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth, the Paterson and Wayne Campuses of St. Joseph’s Health, and Saint Peter’s Healthcare System in New Brunswick.

The T. Rowe Price Foundation announced Monday it is giving $40,000 to local Colorado Springs-area nonprofits, which will be split evenly between Care and Share, Silver Key Senior Services, YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region and Exponential Impact.

The foundation also has donated 30,000 N95 masks to Colorado Springs health care facilities, which was split evenly between UCHealth Memorial Central Hospital, Centura Health’s Penrose St. Francis Health Services and Children’s Hospital Colorado Springs.

The Unified Command Center announced Monday it began COVID-19 testing at long-term care facilities on Sunday. The testing is supported by members of the Colorado National Guard, Colorado State Patrol and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment at three long-term care facilities along the Front Range this week. 

According to the UCC, approximately 40 percent of Colorado’s COVID-19 fatalities are associated with LTCFs. The state strategy is to test at locations based on the number of staff and residents at each facility with no previously reported outbreaks. The goal is earlier identification of COVID-19 cases to try to limit spread in the facilities.

The three facilities to receive testing this week are located in El Paso, Adams and Broomfield counties. El Paso County testing was performed Sunday. Three hundred tests will be provided for each facility to test staff and residents. The Elms Haven Center in Adams County will be tested Tuesday. The Broomfield Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, in Broomfield County, will be tested Thursday.

Reporter

Zach Hillstrom is a Colorado Springs native and graduate of Colorado State University-Pueblo. He has worked as a reporter for Southern Colorado print outlets since 2015.