Coronavirus in Colorado: Latest COVID-19 updates from May 20, 2020

Posted at 5:25 AM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-21 07:22:24-04

NOTE: This is the live blog from Wednesday, May 20, 2020. Click here to see the live blog from Thursday, May 21, 2020.

As of Tuesday afternoon, almost 4,000 people in Colorado have been hospitalized with the novel coronavirus, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Exactly 968 people in the state have died due to COVID-19, and there have been 1,257 deaths among the total cases.

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:

Wednesday, May 19

5 p.m. | Polis signs order allowing alternate care sites to operate

Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday signed an executive order allowing the operation of alternate care facilities, in the event that hospital space exceeds capacity during the COVID-19 crisis.

The sites, which include the Colorado Convention Center in Denver and The Ranch in Loveland, would care for COVID-19 patients who no longer require inpatient hospitalization but still need some medical care.

"We are going to continue maintaining those spaces throughout the summer and into the fall so we are prepared in case we do have a second wave," said Scott Bookman, incident commander for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. "The vast majority of work on the sites is done. We want to make sure state is prepped as we can be in case we see cases later this year."

The convention center would be able to have space for up to 2,000 patients, while the The Ranch would have a capacity of about 500, officials have said.

4:43 p.m. | Colorado delegation requests FEMA reimburse 100% of the state's approved COVID-19 costs

Members of the Colorado delegation including Sen. Cory Gardner, R-CO, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-CO, and U.S. Reps. Joe Neguse, D-CO, and Jason Crow, D-CO, are requesting that FEMA cover 100% of approved COVID-19-related costs incurred by the state of Colorado and its city, county, and municipal governments and two federally recognized tribes.

"Local governments at the city, county, and municipal level, and Colorado’s two federally recognized tribes are faced with unanticipated revenue shortfalls on top of unprecedented expenses. As a result, many of them are facing significant financial strain, particularly in light of balanced budget requirements,” the members of the Colorado delegation wrote. “There have been several cases where the Federal government has adjusted its share of recovery costs above the minimum 75 percent. Additionally, FEMA is authorized to provide 100 percent of the share of these costs ‘if warranted by the needs of a disaster’ (44 CFR§ 206.47(d)), a criteria the current pandemic seems to meet. For these reasons, it is imperative that FEMA increase its share of the approved costs associated with COVID-19 to 100 percent so that these governments and tribes are able to function during this national disaster and in the immediate aftermath.”

4 p.m. | Colorado surpasses 1,000 deaths due to COVID-19

Colorado has surpassed 1,000 deaths due to COVID-19, according to the latest numbers from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE). Here are the latest figures reported by the state from COVID-19. Please note: The (+) denotes the increase of cases from the previous day.

22,797 cases (+315)
3,990 hospitalized (+35)
60 counties (+0)
135,611 people tested (+3,774)
1,299 deaths among cases (+42)
1,001 deaths due to COVID-19 (+33)
249 outbreaks (+9)

The latest hospital data from the CDPHE shows 626 hospital beds in use by confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients — the same number of beds than reported on Tuesday.

3:20 p.m. | Elbert County outlines guidelines for in-person graduations, places of worship

The Elbert County Board of Commissioners has released a plan for school districts to implement in-person graduation ceremonies as well as gatherings at places of worship effective Friday, May 22.

Read the plans here.

3:23 p.m. | Cherry Creek Swim Beach closed due repeated violations of public health orders

Cherry Creek State Park officials say they are closing the park's Swim Beach effective immediately until at least May 28, "due to people continuously violating the social distance order." Smoky Hill parking lot will be closed to the public, officials said.

2:50 p.m. | 3 Colorado children suspected of contracting new inflammatory illness linked to COVID-19

The governor and health officials announced Wednesday three suspected cases of a new inflammatory syndrome being seen in states across the country involving children in Colorado that medical professionals believe is related to COVID-19.

While the officials said that the syndrome, known in the U.S. as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), is believed to be rare, they said that Children’s Hospital Colorado is researching the syndrome and working on treating the children with suspected cases.

Dr. Samuel Dominguez, who specializes in pediatric infectious diseases, said at the governor’s afternoon news conference that medical professionals are still working to understand the syndrome, which he said was first reported a couple of weeks ago in Europe. But he said that so far, experts believe the syndrome is rare.

He said that initial information shows the syndrome generally affects children between the ages of 5 and 15, though there have been some cases of children up to age 20 having the syndrome. He said there are just more than 100 current cases in the United States.

He acknowledged there was still much officials do not know about MIS-C, but said that most cases have shown up about four weeks after COVID-19. He said that suggested the syndrome was a post-infectious or inflammatory response to the virus as opposed to one that would cause long-term damage to those who contract it.

Children typically have very high fevers for several days and typically experience body inflammation, particularly in the gastrointestinal system and sometimes in the coronary system.

Dr. Dominguez said that the syndrome can present similarly to Kawasaki syndrome, which similarly affects children through inflammation. But he said that early information is showing medical professionals some differences between the two.

Dominguez said that Kawasaki syndrome typically affects toddlers and not older children and can include red eyes, lips and swelling of the hands and feet. He and State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said that parents should look out for any of those symptoms in their children and consult with their doctor as to whether their children should come in for treatment.

Click here to read the full story.

2:15 p.m. | Outbreaks leveling off

State health officials on Wednesday said COVID-19 outbreaks are leveling off across Colorado — and declining in senior and inpatient health care facilities — but more than 200 outbreaks remain active.

An outbreak is two or more cases in a facility or non-household group, such as a business, within a 14-day period. Colorado has had 248 outbreaks during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 208 are ongoing.

Read the full story about the latest outbreak data here.

12:54 p.m. | City of Boulder closes stretch of creek where large group of people gathered this week

The City of Boulder has closed a stretch of Boulder Creek where a large group of young adults gathered Monday, violating the county's public health orders, mainly: prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people; maintaining proper social distance of six feet and mandatory mask-wearing while out in public.

Officials closed all park land and creek bed north of the Boulder Creek Path from the eastern boundary of Eben G. Fine Park, located at 101 Arapahoe Ave., to the western boundary of the city, effective immediately.

City officials said the closure "is intended to reduce the community spread of COVID-19 in an area shown as conducive to social gathering and large groups exceeding current Safer at Home orders."

Between April 29 and May 19, Boulder police issued 66 citations at Eben G. Fine Park when education was ineffective, officials added.

11:53 a.m. | City of Aurora offers rental assistance

Starting today, the city of Aurora will begin accepting applications from residents who need help paying their monthly rent because of financial hardships caused by COVID-19.

The Rental Assistance Program is funded through the House Aurora Partnership and Community Development Block Grants. It offers up to two months of rental payments to qualifying residents.

“While the threat of eviction has been lessened because of action by the state during this pandemic, there remains widespread concern over long-term housing security with people falling behind on their rental payments,” said Jessica Prosser, manager of community development. “The city of Aurora hopes this program can provide some relief, security and hope for those who have experienced so much hardship because of COVID-19.”

To learn more and fill out an application, visit the city's website here.

11:50 a.m. | State distributes another allocation of experimental anti-viral treatment

The Colorado State Unified Command Group received and distributed a second shipment of the experimental anti-viral drug remdesivir from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The UCG reported that it received 1,720 doses of remdesivir. It was distributed to five hospital systems and three independent hospitals across the state, in proportion to the number of COVID-19 cases. Recipients include: Banner Health, Centura Health, HealthONE, Boulder Community Hospital, Children's Hospital of Colorado, Denver Health, SCL and UCHealth.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an Emergency Use Authorization for use of remdesivir for the treatment of individuals hospitalized with COVID-19. Click here to learn more.

10:44 a.m. | Aurora food pantry gives out 1K boxes in 1 hour

On the first day of the program between the city of Aurora and the Aurora Interfaith Community Services, 1,000 free boxes of food (with about nine meals each) were distributed in less than an hour.

Denver7’s Nicole Brady was at the handout and saw cars wrapped around the block awaiting the food pickup. The distribution will happen every week through Aug. 26 at various locations.

Proof of Aurora residency is required for people to pick up food. All Aurora households are eligible food, and emergency food kits are available for people experiencing homelessness.

Next Wednesday’s distribution will be at Hinkley High School, located at 1250 Chambers Road. Distribution will begin at 10 a.m. and run until 1 p.m. unless all the food has been distributed, as was the case Wednesday. More details can be found here.

10:40 a.m. | Second round of small business stabilization grants in Wheat Ridge

The city of Wheat Ridge City Council has approved a second round of Small Business Stabilization Program grants. In this second round, $250,000 is available to small businesses in the city who have been significantly financially impacted by COVID-19. Businesses can receive up to $5,000 from the combined first and second round of grants. Click here for details on the first round.

To apply, click here. The deadline is June 5 at noon.

10:34 a.m. | Gov. Polis to provide update at 1 p.m.

Gov. Jared Polis is expected to provide an update on the state’s response to COVID-19 in a news conference at 1 p.m. from the governor’s mansion. We will carry the briefing live.

10:15 a.m. | Denver Botanic Gardens variance request approved

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has approved Denver’s request for a variance to allow the Denver Botanic Gardens to reopen in a limited capacity.

The request was approved Tuesday in a letter from CDPHE Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan to Mayor Michael Hancock and Public Health Administrator Bob McDonald.

Under the variance, the Botanic Gardens will allow 250 guests at a time in two-hour increments, which the CDPHE and Denver said equates to 11 people per acre and 25% of typical attendance. Ryan said that CDPHE agreed that was a “reasonable reduced opening proposal.”

Restrictions and a possible rescinding of the variance would occur when there are two positive COVID-19 cases at the Gardens.

The Gardens will be required to monitor employees and contractors daily for symptoms and to remove them from the workplace to isolate until they have been symptom-free for 10 days and fever free for 72 hours.

They will also be required to keep adequate staffing levels to monitor visitor traffic and keep groups of 10 or more from gathering at any time – including on educational trips.

The CDPHE did not approve a second phase and retains the right to modify or rescind the variance as needed. But Ryan said that the department sees the Gardens as similar to an outdoor space.

“We view the risk of disease transmission at the Gardens, while not identical, similar to an outdoor park setting,” Ryan wrote in the variance approval.

9:40 a.m. | Denver to deploy $20 million in emergency relief funding support

The City and County of Denver will inject an initial emergency allotment of $20 million in federal funds to support residents and businesses that are struggling with the financial impacts from the novel coronavirus, according to a press release from the city and county.

The funds are the city’s first deployment of the $126.8 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) dollars that was received to address expenses related to COVID-19. This initial $20 million will be deployed to support residents with housing and food assistance, provide economic relief for local small businesses and non-profits, and to support widespread community testing and other public health programs and needs.

6:50 a.m. | Colorado Freedom Memorial's annual Memorial Day celebration postponed

The Colorado Freedom Memorial has postponed the annual Memorial Day commemoration event until Aug. 1, so it now coincides with Colorado Day.

CFM President and Founder Rick Crandall said its intention is to honor WWII veterans and want to postpone the event to calm any concerns the veterans have about attending the event amid the coronavirus.

"It’s our fervent hope that by Aug. 1, the pandemic we’re facing now will have run its course and we, as Coloradans, can celebrate the accomplishments of the Greatest Generation and the sacrifices made by every generation," Crandall said. "We will honor the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII as planned, and as designated by the Colorado State Legislature in a joint resolution in February.”

5 a.m. | United Airlines gate/terminal at DIA to get electrostatic sprayers and disinfectant

United Airlines says the airports in Denver and Chicago — two of its hubs — will be the first to see a roll out of Clorox electrostatic sprayers and disinfectant along with disinfecting wipes at the gate and in their terminal areas.

Clorox is working closely with United to enhance the airline’s cleaning program, redefine disinfection procedures and equip customers with amenities that help support a healthier and safer environment throughout their travels.

5 a.m. | Happening today: 9,000 free meals for Aurora residents through mobile food pantry

In partnership with Aurora Interfaith Community Services, the city of Aurora Community Relations Division will distribute 1,000 free boxes of food — roughly enough for 9,000 meals — every week beginning today through Aug. 26 via the city's mobile food pantry program.

This program is part of the city’s continuous efforts to provide needed services to the community in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Photo ID or other proof of Aurora residency is required.

The first event will be today at Aurora Central High School, 11700 E. 11th Ave. The next is May 27 at Hinkley High School, 1250 Chambers Road.

Distribution will begin at 10 a.m. each day and last until 1 p.m., or until all food has been distributed. Call 720-557-6444 for more information.

Click here for the live blog from Tuesday, May 19.