Coronavirus in Colorado: Latest COVID-19 updates from May 14, 2020

Posted at 5:22 AM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 07:21:23-04

NOTE: This is the live blog from Thursday, May 15. Click here for the live blog for Friday, May 15.

More than 1,000 people have died of the novel coronavirus in Colorado.

According to Wednesday's data released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 1,062 people have died in the state of COVID-19.

READ MORE: List of Colorado businesses that are open

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:

Thursday, May 14

6:42 p.m. | 'It's almost like we dodged a bullet': Kiowa Co., currently COVID-free, still wary it could be next

Communities across Colorado have made their case as to why they should be allowed to lift certain regulations ahead of the rest of the state. Few have an argument as sound as Kiowa County's, which has reported zero coronavirus cases to date.

Denver7 went to Kiowa County this week to see how people are feeling about the safer at home phase and the future of living with COVID-19.

Click here to read the full story.

4:52 p.m. | No doctor’s note needed for mobile testing in Denver

Mayor Michael Hancock and Denver Department of Public Health and Environment Executive Director Bob McDonald said Thursday that people will not need a doctor’s note in orderto get tested from the mobile testing unit, which they said hit the road today.

The two officials announced the mobile testing unit on May 5 and said people could request the unit to their home or community if they are unable to get tested for COVID-19 at a health care or other facility and that the city hopes to launch up to seven similar units.

At the time, they said that they were working to get a standing order passed that would allow the tests to be given without a doctor’s note – something that can also be difficult for people unable to get to a health care facility to obtain.

On Thursday, both said that doctor’s notes were no longer required, which they said was a huge and positive development.

McDonald said the city secured a “couple thousand” more full testing kits earlier this week and that everyone who has called in to ask for a test had already been tested or is scheduled to be.

Hancock said people will be notified of their results whether they are positive or negative. If they are positive, one of the 100 contact tracers – mostly city employees who have been trained to perform the task – would conduct contact tracing by phone or text.

Hancock said tracers will never ask for Social Security Numbers or payment – the testing is free – and that they would only be asking for people’s basic information: Their name and date of birth, which he said would never be shared or sold with others.

“Things are going very well right now,” McDonald said.

4:38 p.m. | Kaiser Permanente giving $1M toward fighting COVID-19 in homeless population

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced at today’s news conference that Kaiser Permanente is giving $1 million toward resources to fight COVID-19 among the city’s population that is experiencing homelessness.

The contribution will support Denver’s Housing and Homeless Services Fund and will go toward isolation and quarantining people with the virus, expanded testing, contact tracing and cleaning and hygiene.

The contribution still has to be approved by the city council.

“We’re fortunate to have such a strong network of community partners in Denver committed to implementing real solutions to support our residents experiencing homelessness,” said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. “Kaiser Permanente’s continued support for people experiencing homelessness comes at a critical time for our community, and we’re proud to be able to leverage this investment to help further protect residents from COVID-19.”

4:22 p.m. | Day of Remembrance Friday for Colorado COVID-19 victims

The governor’s office says 94 cities, towns and counties, as well as the Pepsi Center, Empower Field at Mile High and Coors Field, have confirmed they will participate in Friday’s Day of Remembrance for the more than 1,000 Coloradans who lost their lives to COVID-19 so far.

At 7 p.m. MT on Friday, the state Capitol, cities, counties and organizations will turn their lights red to honor the victims and police and fire departments are encouraged to turn on their lights for a minute at 7 p.m. People are also asked to hold a minute of silence at the same time while wearing a face covering or mask.

Gov. Polis has also ordered flags be lowered to have staff Friday for Peace Officers Memorial Day.

“This global pandemic has cost 300,000 lives across the world and over 1,000 in Colorado alone. Too many Coloradans have lost family members and friends to this deadly virus, and we honor and celebrate their lives especially because many victims couldn’t have proper in-person funerals, remembrances, and wakes,” said Polis said in a statement. “This is a challenging moment for many of our friends and neighbors and to those Coloradans who are struggling: you are not alone and we are all in this together. We still have work to do to stop the spread of this virus and can defeat this virus by staying home as much as possible, wearing facial masks when in public, and washing our hands regularly. Together we can avoid burying and remembering more Coloradans far too early.”

4:15 p.m. | General Assembly Dems ask for more federal relief

Democratic lawmakers from the state Capitol wrote to Congress Thursday after learning of the $3.3 billion budget shortfall the state faces on Wednesday in which they called for more flexible federal funding for states and cities to offset revenue gaps.

The letter asks Congress to pass several bills sponsored by members of Colorado’s congressional delegation and for more federal funding directly to states and local governments.

“We are currently just over a week away from passing a budget with dire consequences and request that you also act urgently. Colorado will need billions of dollars in direct aid to survive the extreme and continued loss of revenue or we will be forced to cut essential services in the midst of a pandemic and potentially crippling economic recession,” the lawmakers wrote.

Read more here.

4 p.m. | Latest coronavirus numbers for Colorado

Here were the latest coronavirus numbers for Colorado, as of 4 p.m. Thursday:

20,838 cases (+363)
3,789 hospitalized (+54)
60 counties (+0)
115,996 people tested (+3,491)
1,091 deaths (+29)
208 outbreaks (+2)

And here was the latest hospital data for the state, also released Thursday afterrnoon:

GRAPH: COVID-19 hospital beds in use as of May 14, 2020

3:20 p.m. | Denver mayor announces $226M budget gap, mandatory furloughs for 9K city employees

More than half of Denver’s 12,000 city employees will have to take eight furlough days by the end of the year as the city tries to fix a forecasted $226 million shortfall in revenue because of the COVID-19 outbreak, Mayor Michael Hancock announced Thursday.

All of the city’s roughly 9,000 non-uniformed workers would have to take the eight days by the end of the year – five that will be fixed which coincide with national holidays and three more of each employee’s choice, Hancock said. The 3,000 uniformed employees are covered by collective bargaining agreements.

The mayor said he would also be taking the furlough days as well in solidarity with city employees, and 12 of the 13 city council members – save for Candi CdeBaca – will be voluntarily taking the furloughs as well and will reimburse the General Fund for the equivalent of eight days of post-tax salary since elected officials' salaries are not allowed to be changed under most circumstances.

Chief Financial Officer Brendan Hanlon said that the budget gap was being driven by major hits to sales and use taxes, the lodgers' tax and parking revenue while the stay-at-home order was in effect and people were not shopping or traveling, and the city was not collecting parking fees.

He said that the economic impacts of COVID-19 are likely to dwarf those of the Great Recession, when he was also working on the city’s financial team.

Click here to read the full story.

(This post has been updated to show that the city misspoke when it talked about the number of uniformed vs. non-uniformed employees. There are 9,000 non=uniformed who will have to take furlough days and 3,000 uniformed employees who will not have to take furlough days, the city said.)

2 p.m. | Mental health becomes major focus in Colorado

Mental health has become a major focus for Colorado health experts as the novel coronavirus continues to impact everyday life.

According to data from Colorado Crisis Services, its crisis hotline saw a 57% increase in calls in March 2020 compared to March 2019. March 2020 saw the highest volume of calls to the crisis hotline for a singular month, said Robert Werthwein, director of the Colorado Department of Human Services’ Office of Behavioral Health.

In total, 21,338 calls were made to the hotline this past March and 13,572 calls were made in March 2019.

Go here to read the full story about COVID-19's impact on mental health in Colorado.

1:15 p.m. | City making "significant cuts" due to budget shortfall

Mayor Michael Hancock on Thursday said the city would be making "significant cuts in spending" to close a $226 million budget shortfall from lost revenue during the COVID-19 crisis. City employees, including Hancock, will be required to take eight furlough days this year.

Brendan Hanlon, the city's chief financial officer, said Denver expects a 16.8% decline in sales tax revenue to the general fund in 2020. The lodging tax revenue is expected to be down about 62.3%, Hanlon said.

1:10 p.m. | More Denver updates

Farmer markets can reopen in Denver on Saturday with workers and customers required to wear face masks and remain socially distant.

Also, on Thursday, the city's mobile testing unit, Wellness Winnie, hit the road. Anyone who may be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or were exposed to the virus can call 311 and arrange a test through the mobile unit, Hancock said.

The mobile unit has about 100 tests stocked at one time.

The city also has about 100 police officers and city workers trained for contact tracing to help track the spread of the virus. Hancock said the contact tracing will be conducted via phone or text and that city workers will always identify themselves, inlcuding a phone number and will never ask for a social security number or payment.

1 p.m. | Kaiser Permanente contributes $1 million to housing and homeless fund

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Thursday announced that Kaiser Permanente Colorado, a philanthropy group, will contribute $1 million to the city's housing and homeless fund in the response to the COVID-19 crisis.

"It's going to go a long way to help our most vulnerable residents," Hancock said.

12:44 p.m. | Colorado initial unemployment claims continue to fall, but benefit payments continue at record highs

Colorado is paying out the same amount of unemployment benefits on a monthly basis during the COVID-19 outbreak that it typically does in a year, but initial unemployment claims dropped again last week in Colorado as most of the state moved to the safer at home phase.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said that another 22,483 Coloradans filed initial regular unemployment claims last week, which was down from 28,164 the week before. It was the fourth straight week that regular unemployment claims have declined in Colorado.

In total over the past eight weeks, a combined 451,155 regular and PUA initial unemployment claims have been filed in the state.

Colorado paid out $96 million in regular unemployment benefits last week. Since the first week of April, the state has paid out more than $432 million in regular benefits. The average weekly benefits payout in 2020 prior to those weeks was $8.7 million.

The officials said – as Legislative Council Staff wrote in its latest forecast earlier this week – that they expect the state’s unemployment trust fund to become insolvent in late June or early July. There was $1.1 billion in the fund earlier this year before the COVID-19 outbreak.

The officials said that once the fund becomes insolvent, they will be able to borrow from the federal government at 0% interest for the rest of 2020 to pay benefits.

Click here to read the full story.

11:35 a.m. | Flyover fundraiser happening now

A squadron of more than 30 planes will fly over the Denver metro area Thursday for an aerial parade and fundraiser in support of Colorado frontline workers.

Gov. Jared Polis and Mile High United Way coordinated the parade, along with Lockheed Martin, which offered to match up to $500,000 in donations to the Colorado COVID Relief Fund. Watch live by clicking here or in the player embedded below.

Colorado Photo Stream

10:47 a.m. | Loveland Cherry Pie Celebration canceled

The city of Loveland and the Loveland Museum announced that the 2020 Cherry Pie Celebration scheduled for June 27 has been canceled.

“This event has always been a true small-town, feel-good gathering, that many will miss this summer," said Jenni Dobson, curator of dducation at the museum. "The health of our volunteers, patrons, staff, and vendors is our top priority. We look forward to celebrating Loveland’s cherry industry heritage with the community in the future."

10:05 a.m. | "Hamilton" at The Buell Theatre postponed

"Hamilton" was expected to play at The Buell Theatre from Aug. 12 through Oct. 4, but the shows have been postponed due to COVID-19. The Denver Center for the Performing Arts is working to secure alternate dates.

9:45 a.m. | Senate unanimously passes Sen. Gardner’s bipartisan bill to designate 3-digit number as suicide hotline

Sen. Cory Gardner said calls to Colorado’s mental health crisis line have spiked 47% recently and about 60% of the calls are related to the novel coronavirus. On Wednesday, his bipartisan bill bringing the U.S. one step closer to creating a three-digit national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline was unanimously passed in the U.S. Senate.

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, S.2661, would require the Federal Communications Commission to designate 988 as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which would also include veteran-specific mental health support. The current National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Veterans Crisis line is 10 digits long — 1-800-273-8255.

Read more here.

7:30 a.m. | State labor department reports more than 31,000 unemployment claims filed last week

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment announced today that there were 22,483 initial regular unemployment claims filed the week ending May 9. In addition, there were 9,125 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance initial unemployment claims.

This is the fourth week in a row of gradual declines in regular unemployment claims.

6:30 a.m. | Department of Labor indicate 3 million Americans filed initial claims for unemployment last week

The Department of Labor said Thursday that 3 million people filed initial claims for unemployment for the week ending May 9, bringing an eight-week running total to 36 million. Thursday's figures continued the downward trend in initial filings for the past month. But the number of unemployment claims continue to dwarf those of pre-pandemic numbers. Click here to read more.

5 a.m. | Happening today: El Paso County to vote on variance request from public health order

El Paso County Commissioners will vote today on a resolution requesting a variance from the state's safer-at-home order to allow the county a limited reopening of in-person dining at restaurants. The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. and can be viewed on the county's Facebook page.

5 a.m. | Happening today: Denver Mayor Hancock to provide update on city’s response to COVID-19

Mayor Michael Hancock along with city leaders will be providing an update on Denver’s response to COVID-19, including testing, contact tracing, the implications of the pandemic on the city budget and the creation of a “Social Safety Net” strategy today at 1 p.m.

Denver7 will carry it live on our website, our streaming apps and our social media pages.

5 a.m.. | Happening today: First responders will parade emergency vehicles around Centura-Littleton Adventist Hospital

Beginning at 7 a.m. today, first responders from various agencies, including fire departments and law enforcement, will drive emergency vehicles through the campus of Centura-Littleton Adventist Hospital in support of health care workers. At least 32 vehicles are expected to take part.

5 a.m. | Happening today: Aerial Fundraising Parade and Salute to essential workers

Watch the skies between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. today! Local aviators have donated their time and resources to raise money for Help Colorado Now and will fly their planes from Longmont to Castle Rock. Learn more here.

Click here for the live blog from Wednesday, May 13, 2020.