Coronavirus in Colorado: Latest COVID-19 updates from March 24, 2020

Posted at 6:05 AM, Mar 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-25 09:50:09-04

NOTE: This blog contains updates from Tuesday, March 24. Click here or updates from Wednesday, March 25.

DENVER — At 5 p.m. on Tuesday, the city of Denver will officially be under a stay-at-home order in the wake of the spread of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

The number of confirmed cases in Colorado are continuing to rise. As of the latest state data from Tuesday, there are at least 912 cases and 11 deaths related to COVID-19. In total, more than 7,701 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Colorado.

In addition to Hancock's stay-at-home order Monday afternoon, Gov. Jared Polis issued an order Sunday directing employers to cut the number of in-person workers at businesses to 50% or less of the workforce by Tuesday.

READ MORE: List of Colorado businesses that are open | Volunteer and donation opportunities

Click here for the latest update on the number of cases, the age, gender and location of presumptive positive, indeterminate and confirmed cases from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Below, we're updating this blog with the latest information regarding COVID-19 in Colorado.

Latest updates:

Tuesday, March 24

10:30 p.m. | Second El Paso County Sheriff's Office employee tests positive for COVID-19

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office says a second deputy within the agency has tested positive for COVID-19. The deputy has been isolated since first developing symptoms and all employees and inmates who have had direct or indirect contact, or other work-related contact with the deputy have been personally contacted and notified, officials said in a news release.

8:41 p.m. | RTD approves services changes starting April 19 in response to COVID-19

The Regional Transportation District (RTD) said its board of directors has approved changes that will drastically reduce the agency's bus, light rail and special services starting April 19.

The initial changes shift most bus service to a Saturday schedule and light rail service to a Sunday schedule, RTD officials said in a news release. The changes were made following a 70% reduction in ridership due to the novel coronavirus in Colorado, officials said.

The following bus routes will be affected: 0L, 1, 15L, 16, 16L, 27, 32, 46, 55, 65, 66, 67, 99, 99L, 125, 130, 139, 153, 157, 206, 236, 403, 483, FREE MALLRIDE, JUMP; Y, 116X; BroncosRide, BuffRide, Rockies Service, RunRide.

The following light rail lines will be affected: C, D, H, R

Access-A-Ride will also be affected.

RTD Interim General Manager and CEO Paul J. Ballard said the reduced service levels will remain in effect through Sept. 20, which is the next planned service change.

8:25 p.m. | Grand County to host virtual forum Wednesday

The Grand County COVID-19 Response Team will be hosting a virtual forum tomorrow, Wednesday, March 25, at 4 p.m. via Facebook Live. The county will be accepting questions from the public in a real-time Q&A session with panelists, Incident Commander Brad White, Operations Chiefs Brene Belew-LaDue and Brett Schroetlin, and Drs. Darcy Selenke and Michelle Lupica. The virtual forum will be taking place in the Grand County Public Health Facebook Page (@GcPublicHealth)

7:59 p.m. | Montrose County identifies 4 cases of COVID-19

Montrose County health officials have identified the four positive cases the county has reported to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. The cases were identified as follows:

-- A 39-year-old man with unknown exposure who tested positive on March 20. He is currently in self-quarantine at home.
-- A 35-year-old man who traveled to Crested Butte. The man tested positive on March 20. He is currently in self-quarantine at home.
-- A 27-year-old woman who was out in the Montrose and Delta communities on March 16, and who tested positive on March 24. She is currently in self-quarantine at home.
-- An 88-year-old man with unknown exposure who tested positive on March 24. he is currently in self-quarantine at home.

The county is discouraging children from getting together for play dates, sleepovers, or any other type of gatherings after getting reports that children are hanging out in the midst of the outbreak. They also urge neighbors to check on each other and for the community to come together during these difficult times.

7:47 p.m. | Tri-County Public Health preparing "stay at home" order

The Tri-County Health Department, the health department which covers Arapahoe, Adams and Douglas counties, is reportedly drafting the final details of a "stay at home" order for localities in those three counties. In a tweet early Tuesday evening, Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman said the order will be similar - but not identical - to Denver's, the difference being that TCHD's order will expire on April 17. The order, which is still being drafted, is expected to go into effeet at 8 a.m. Thursday.

6:50 p.m. | CDPHE's Hazardous Material and Waste Management Division moves to all-remote staff

Due to COVID-19, the CDPHE's Hazardous Material and Waste Management Division has transitioned to an all-remote staff at the Grand Junction Office. Beginning March 18, the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) staff has handled all requests for information and building permit clearances via email, and voicemail currently instructs callers to email their requests.

The Grand Junction Office, which is the repository for information on all properties remediated through the program, will still be processing requests electronically. This includes requests for historical uranium mill tailings usage on properties and past gamma radiation surveys.

Some requests cannot be processed electronically, including field surveys and disposal requests, officials said. Such requests will be evaluated on an individual basis to determine if the request can be processed at a later date and, if not, if the request can be completed in a manner that is consistent with recommended social distancing practices.

6:01 p.m. | Fort Carson sends medics to Washington state

More than 300 medical personnel from Ft. Carson's 627th Hospital Center will deploy Washington State to provide supplemental routine and emergency medical support to community medical staffs, allowing them to focus their resources and efforts on detecting and treating patients believed to have been exposed to COVID-19, officials said in a statement.

5:01 p.m. | AG argues 120-day limit to legislative session should be paused during COVID-19 emergency

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser submitted a brief to the state supreme court Tuesday, contending that the 120-day limit on the duration of the legislative session should be paused during the COVID-19 shutdown. The General Assembly’s joint rules permit this approach and are constitutional and consistent with the 120-day limit that voters put in place in 1988, Weiser argued. Governor Jared Polis joined the brief.

The Colorado legislative session is limited to 120-days under the state's constitution. The General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution 20-1006 on March 14 before adjourning for two weeks. Through an interrogatory, the legislature asked the Supreme Court to determine if the 120-day session is limited to consecutive and continuous days or, for purposes of operating during a declared disaster emergency, to days when the legislature is in session.

4:56 p.m. | Polis asks King Soopers, Safeway for more safety protocols

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis wrote to the presidents of the companies that own Safeway and King Soopers Tuesday to ask them to implement more changes to better protect workers and customers at the stores, and thanked them for the measures already put in place.

4:06 p.m. | Over 900 cases of COVID-19 and 11 deaths in Colorado

The number of positive cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Colorado jumped by 192, to 912 Tuesday afternoon, according to the latest data collected by the CDPHE. Cases include people who test positive for COVID-19 and people who have symptoms of COVID-19 and are a close contact to someone who tested positive.

Twelve more people were hospitalized Tuesday, bringing the number of hospitalizations to 84. The coronavirus has claimed 11 lives in the state.

In total, 7,701 people have been tested, and the virus has spread to 35 of Colorado's 64 counties. There have been 11 outbreaks of the virus at residential and non-hospital healthcare facilities.

Officials believe there are many more cases in the state but are prioritizing testing for those who are most at-risk.

3:41 p.m. | Denver Zoo announces job eliminations, lay-offs amid COVID-19 shutdown

The Denver Zoo confirmed to Denver7 that they have taken some cost-cutting measures amid "an unprecedented loss of revenue," including job eliminations, lay-offs and furloughs, as well as pay reductions for all zoo leadership and the elimination of some benefits for remaining employees. The exact number employees impacted was not released. The zoo has been closed for at least a week as the city and state fight a growing COVID-19 outbreak.

2:42 p.m. | Denver DA's Office to seniors: Be wary of strangers offering to shop for you

The Denver District Attorney's Office is warning senior citizens to be wary of strangers offering to shop for them. A geriatrician at Denver Health Medical Center reports that two of her elderly patients were approached separately by complete strangers in grocery stores, who had come up to them and offered to do shopping for them and deliver to their home. She described both patients as being elderly and frail.

One of these seniors had agreed to let the person come to their apartment and get their shopping list. Neither was asked for money, and neither know what the arrangement would be. Fortunately a robbery or an assault did not occur. However, the DA's office says giving strangers your address, access to your home or your debit card could be very hazardous. Many seniors are not familiar with store delivery or online shopping, and may have a lot of trepidation about going out to the store at this time.

Officials advise seniors to consult first with family, friends, or trusted community groups. More tech-savvy family members may be able to place grocery orders for them, or pick up essentials from the store. And of course many stores are now offering senior only hours.

2:24 p.m. | Popular Denver ice cream shop shutting down all locations to comply with stay-at-home order

One of Denver's favorite ice cream shop is shutting down all of their locations to comply with the mayor's stay-at-home order. Little Man Ice Cream Company will close all of its five Denver stores at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Little Man will reopen for business on April 10, when the mandate is lifted. However, that date could be extended, the mayor said.

Mayor Michael Hancock issued the stay-at-home order Monday, directing Denver residents to stay inside and all non-essential businesses to close to fight the spread of COVID-19. The mandate goes into effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday and continues through April 10.

1:50 p.m. | DPS will distribute computers, hotspots

Denver Public Schools will begin distributing computers and internet hotspots to families who need them, ahead of remote learning in the district starting April 7. The district will be offering the equipment in curbside grab-and-go pickups at schools. Families need to check their student's school website for pickup information.

Families will be asked to pull up to the school, stay in their cars and pop the trunk, so staff can place the equipment directly into the vehicle. The district has reviewed the process with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to ensure safety.

We’ve developed the following process and have reviewed it with experts at CDPHE who approved the plan.
•Curbside grab-and-go pickup; families should not enter buildings.

— Susana Cordova (@SusanaCDenver) March 24, 2020

1:40 p.m. | State discouraging open burning
State officials are discouraging residents from open burning during the coronavirus outbreak. COVID-19 poses more of a threat to those with respiratory issues, and smoke from open burns could further strain high-risk populations, according to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.

"Open burning" is any outdoor fire where smoke is released directly into the air without passing through a chimney or smokestack. The state requires a permit for open burning, though campfires and grilling are exempted.

“In this challenging time, it’s important that we look out for each other,” said Scott Landes, air quality meteorologist at the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division at CDPHE. “We are strongly urging Coloradans to hold off on open burning while the state responds to the COVID-19 virus. Please be considerate of your neighbors, especially those who are in uniquely vulnerable populations.”

1:33 p.m. | Buckley AFB spouse ordered to isolate after showing COVID-19 symptoms

Buckley Air Force Base says a spouse at the base was ordered on March 20 to isolate inside base housing. They have been tested for the virus but results are still pending. The base is investigating where the person has been and has been in contact with.

Anyone on the base feeling ill during duty hours is asked to call the base clinic at 720-847-9355 for guidance. After hours, people can call 800-874-2273.

1:30 p.m. | Elitch Gardens opening day pushed back

Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park says it is moving its opening day from April 11 to May 16 for the time being. The theme park says it is closely monitoring the ongoing coronavirus situation and have plans to increase sanitization protocols.

The park is asking team members who have cold or flu-like symptoms to stay home.

“All guest and team member high-touch points including surfaces, railings, technology screens, handles and doors will be sanitized throughout the day as per regular policy. We are also adding additional hand sanitizer stations throughout the park. Anti-bacterial soap will continue to be available throughout the park and signs will be installed to remind team members and guests of health and hygiene best practices,” the park said in a release.

1:21 p.m. | Boulder County policy on property tax payments

Boulder County says that under the governor’s authorization, it has made new rules for property tax payments. From Tuesday until April 20, the Boulder County Treasurer’s Office will accept delinquent first-half payments without interest, which were originally due March 2. Second-half payments will be due June 15.

But the first-half payment without interest can only be paid via check or cash at the dropbox at 1325 Pearl Street or mailed to the treasurer’s office at P.O. Box 471, Boulder, CO 80306-0471.

“The Order only applies to payments made between March 20 and April 20 (interest cannot be retroactively removed if a late payment has already been made prior to March 20),” the county said in a new release. “This waiver of interest does not apply to accounts where the taxes are being paid by a mortgage company through a taxpayer’s escrow account or by a title company as part of a real estate closing.”

More information can be found here.

1:15 p.m. | East Colfax nonprofit apartments declare moratorium on evictions

Hope Communities and Rocky Mountain Communities, along with the East Colfax Community Collective, launched the East Colfax Nonprofit Renter Relief Program Monday.

The collective says it will not “not initiate evictions or legal notices for nonpayment, they will not charge late fees, and they will not seek increased rent for people unable to pay because they have been affected by COVID-19, ie. who are sick, are quarantined, have jobs that were ended or significantly reduced as a result of mandate or lack of business, or don't have childcare and are unable to work with kids home from school.”

That commitment will be in place “at least two months,” the collective said and renewed monthly until the pandemic has passed or they are prevented from doing so. Read more here.

1:04 p.m. | Amid COVID-19 fears, the CDC, CPW welcome Coloradans to responsibly exercise outside

Denver’s stay-at-home order begins Tuesday afternoon to help cut down on the number of novel coronavirus cases, but health officials are still encouraging Coloradans to get outside and exercise, as long as they do so in a safe and responsible manner.

Read more on how to best do so by clicking here.

1 p.m. | Colorado Apartment Association issues guidance to members on COVID-19 response

The Colorado Apartment Association issued a set of recommendations Tuesday to its members on how to respond to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Colorado, including creating payment plans for people who have lost their income and waiving late fees through the end of April.

The CAA’s COVID-19 task force, comprised of representatives from more than 40 housing providers and communities across Colorado, is recommending its members do the following through April 30 as the outbreak grows and more municipalities close down businesses and issue restrictions on gatherings and people’s movements:

· Create payment plan for residents that can’t pay rent because of a loss of income due to the virus
· Waive all late fees through April 30
· Avoid increasing rent
· Stop enforcing eviction orders through April 30
· Limit entry to rental properties to only emergency maintenance response
· Follow HIPAA rules to protect resident and employee privacy if a housing community sees a positive test
· Increase cleaning of common areas with CDC-approved supplies
· Follow Gov. Polis’ mandates on reduced workplace staffing and Colorado and the CDC’s guidelines for social distancing
· Continue emergency maintenance needs for tenants
· Share the Colorado Housing Financial Assistance Programs and Apartment Association of Metro Denver’s list of resources for renters

Noon | Loveland distillery making hand sanitizer

Spring44 Distilling in Loveland converted their distillation process to make hand sanitizer, according to Fort Collins Police Services, which thanked the distillery on Facebook on Tuesday morning. The distillery donated thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer to first responders in the area, including several hundred for Fort Collins.

11:28 a.m. | Gun background checks surging in Colorado amid coronavirus pandemic

Gun purchases in Colorado have apparently surged this month amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation reported receiving 25,468 background checks for firearms in the last week, compared to about 7,700 during that same period last year. That's a 227% uptick from normal. The week before last, the CBI received 14,604 background checks, compared to 7,357 during that time in 2019.

11:19 a.m. | First case in Otero County announced

The Otero County Health Department says a county resident has tested positive for COVID-19. They were in their 40s and had been quarantined while they were waiting on their test results.

The person was placed into isolation after they received their positive test results and is currently recovering.

The health department is now doing an epidemiological investigation and looking into any possible connections to the case in Crowley County.

The county has a telephone line to discuss COVID-19 with officials: 719-383-3050.

10:45 a.m. | Loveland Ski Area, USFS to close uphill access at midnight days after crowds flooded area

Uphill access at Loveland Ski Area will be prohibited starting just after midnight Wednesday just days after dozens of vehicles lined the parking lot at the ski area and along U.S. 6 up Loveland Pass.

“Loveland Ski Area encourages guest use of public lands and supports uphill access throughout the ski season. To honor the intent and language of the executive order and other state direction on minimizing group size, as well as meeting the needs of local law enforcement and emergency service providers, Loveland Ski Area will prohibit uphill access,” Loveland Ski Area spokesman Dustin Schaefer said in a statement.

7:18 a.m. | Gaylord and Aurora Town Center close

Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman said the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center and Aurora Town Center are now officially closed.

7:16 a.m. | Start dates for remote learning in metro area

Below are the start dates for remote learning in the Denver metro area, following some districts' spring breaks:
- Douglas County Public Schools: Starts Tuesday, March 24
- Cherry Creek Public Schools: Monday, March 30
- Aurora Public Schools: Tuesday, March 31
- JeffCo Public Schools: Tuesday, March 31
- 27J: Tuesday, April 7
- Denver Public Schools: Tuesday, April 7
- Mapleton Public Schools: Thursday, April 2

6:50 a.m. | 2020 Summer Olympics postponed

Japan and the IOC have agreed to postpone the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo for up to one year. It will likely take place in 2021. Click here for more details.

6:15 a.m. | Officials mum on details of COVID-19 outbreaks at residential health care facilities

According to The Denver Post, Colorado public health officials say they know of at least five “outbreaks” of the new coronavirus inside residential health care facilities and have notified people who may have been exposed. But they declined to give any other details, like how many people may have been exposed and where the facilities were located. Read the story here.

5:40 a.m. | PPE drive in Larimer County

Larimer County announced it is holding a drive for personal protective equipment (PPE) on Wednesday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. All PPE must be unused and unopened. This includes items such as:
- Sterile and non-sterile gloves
- Hand sanitizer
- Bleach bottles or sprays
- Bleach wipes
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Eye protection and goggles
- Clear face shields
- Masks
- Respirator masks
- PAPR respirators
- Disposable gowns
- Shoe covers
- Biohazard bags

County officials are asking the public not to bring used PPE, clothing that's new or used, food or water.

Below are the drop-off locations:
- Berthoud Fire Protection District Station 1, 275 Mountain Avenue, Berthoud
- City of Fort Collins Police Department, 2221 S Timberline Rd, Fort Collins
- Crystal Lakes VFD, 237 Blackfoot Drive, Red Feather Lakes
- Estes Park Daniels Fire Station, 901 N Saint Vrain Ave, Estes Park
- Glacier View Fire Protection District, 1414 Green Mountain Drive, Livermore
- Glen Haven Area Volunteer Department, 7380 Co Rd 43, Glen Haven,
- Loveland Fire Rescue Authority Station 6, 4325 McWhinney Boulevard, Loveland
- Pinewood Springs Fire Protection District, 61 Kiowa Rd. Lyons
- Poudre Canyon VFD Station 2, 33689 W Highway 14, Bellvue
- Poudre Canyon VFD Station 1, 10230 W Highway 14, Bellvue
- Poudre Fire Authority Station 8, 4800 Signal Tree Dr, Fort Collins
- Red Feather Lakes VFD, 44 Fire House Ln, Red Feather Lakes
- Thompson Valley EMS, 2750 N Taft Avenue, Loveland
- Thompson Valley EMS, 4480 Clydesdale Parkway, Loveland
- Wellington Fire Direction, 8130 3rd Street, Wellington
- Windsor Severance Fire Rescue Station 1, 100 N 7th Steet, Windsor
- Windsor Severance Fire Rescue Station 2. Timber Ridge, Severance
- Windsor Severance Fire Rescue Station 3, 7790 Rea Parkway, Windsor

Click here for updates from March 23. Click here for the updates from March 20-22.