Girding for surge, Colorado buys millions of masks, gloves; Aurora region starts own virus reporting

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DENVER  |  Colorado is buying millions of masks, gloves and other personal protective items from Chinese and domestic manufacturers and is preparing a multi-tier system to cope with the imminent surge of coronavirus patients, Gov. Jared Polis said Wednesday.

But Polis insisted the purchases aren’t nearly enough with scarce U.S. government supplies and at a time when the supply chain crisis is global. That makes statewide shelter-in-place measures essential to sustaining Colorado’s health care infrastructure by slowing the exponential rate of spread of the virus.

Also Wednesday, Tri-County Health, the cooperative health department for Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties — including all of Aurora — launched its own daily distribution of information about the pandemic.

“To make it easier for our community to know how cases are growing and to see how the measures we are taking are impacting the spread of COVID-19, (Tri-County Health Department) has created a website that has daily updates of cases by date, jurisdiction, age, hospitalization, and pre-existing conditions,” Tri-County spokesman Gary Sky said in a statement. See the new data here.

Wednesday report shows that of 824 reported COVID-19 cases in the Tri-County area, 236 are in Aurora. Of all Tri-County cases, about 350 required hospitalizations, 36 of which were admitted to intensive care units, according to the Tri-County data. Breakdown of deaths due to COVID-19 is not included.

Data for Tri-County is updated daily by 6 p.m., officials said.

Polis said at a news briefing Wednesday that all equipment shipped to Colorado will be rigorously tested before being distributed. The state will continue its round-the-clock search for protective equipment, ventilators, beds and test kits until U.S. industrial capacity can meet demand, possibly this summer, he said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Colorado on Wednesday reported more than 3,338 virus cases and at least 80 deaths. At least 13 of those deaths were in El Paso County, where older, vulnerable people were exposed to an infected woman at a bridge tournament and at living facilities. Officials set up a shelter for homeless people with symptoms and those who are recovering in the Colorado Springs City Auditorium.

More than 500 people are hospitalized in Colorado for the illness, and those patients need intensive ventilator care lasting, on average, between 11 to 20 days, said Scott Bookman, incident commander for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The biggest surge in cases could come anytime between mid-April and July, he said.

His goals include:

— Increasing critical care hospital beds from fewer than 1,900 today to 5,000 by April 18.

— Having in place ambulatory care units and freestanding emergency rooms to assist hospitals’ critical caseload.

— Having 2,000 beds for recovering patients at arenas and warehouses by April 18.

— Having 10,000 beds in hotels, dormitories and other lodging facilities for those in quarantine and the homeless by May 15.

— Having a safe patient transport system in place.

Also Wednesday, Colorado’s Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the Legislature, which suspended its 2020 session on March 14, can extend the 120-day session beyond an original May 6 end date. Democrats who control the body hailed the decision. Republicans had argued the Legislature must conclude after 120 consecutive days, or May 6, under the state Constitution. It’s unknown when the session will resume.