Fishermen fish off the banks of the dam and Quincy Reservoir, April, 17, 2020. Fishing is one of the activities deemed suitable so long as safe social distancing is practiced. Fishing licenses are available online. Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

You have questions. The Sentinel found answers. Readers call, email and message the newsroom each day with queries about how the pandemic crisis affects them.

City officials say they, too, are queried regularly by residents confused about what’s new, what’s changed and what’s different depending on where residents live.

   Many residents aren’t clear why the city doesn’t make decisions about the pandemic. Aurora, unlike Denver, is not a city-county. Also, the Aurora mayor is not the top city administrative official, like that position entails in Denver.

   Aurora’s health department, empowered by state law, is the Tri-County Health Department. It oversees health-law for Arapahoe, Adams and Douglas counties. Aurora, a city, is overlaid by all three counties.

   Here’s a list of the most frequently posed questions and where those answers stand for now.


 

   The state says driver license offices are open, but Arapahoe County says county offices are still closed. Which is right? Can’t I take care of all of that online anyway? What about the written test for learner permits?

   While nearly all state driver license offices, including the location on East Fourth Avenue in Aurora, opened on May 11, local county DMV offices remain closed. State offices handle license issuances and renewals, and will be allowing learning permit holders to take their written tests on site. However, driving tests are being postponed indefinitely and should be completed through a private driving school. DMV offices in Aurora’s largest jurisdiction, Arapahoe County, are expected to begin re-opening May 18 at reduced capacity and by appointment only. Appointments can be scheduled using a forthcoming online tool on the county website. Local officials are encouraging anyone who can complete services online or at grocery store kiosks, including most vehicle registration renewals, to do so.


 

Shoppers wearing masks enter and exit the Target store on Havana Street, May 8, 2020. While several cities and counties in the Colorado have put into place a mandated mask order, Aurora, and the counties in which it sits, have yet to put forth such an order. Businesses can require masks.
Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

Masks aren’t mandatory in Aurora, can Aurora businesses force me to wear one?

Yes. Businesses may set policies requiring masks in their establishments.


Walmart and Costco meter customers, but King Soopers and Lowes don’t. Why? How many people are allowed inside a store and how do they calculate that?

The health department does not regulate this. It’s up to individual businesses. Businesses are generally required to operate at 50 percent capacity. Capacity is determined by local fire inspectors.


I may have COVID-19, am I supposed to seek treatment if I just feel like I have the flu, or stay home?

Unless you are experiencing life-threatening symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, residents are generally discouraged from seeking medical treatment for COVID-19. However, anyone experiencing symptoms, including fever, chills and loss of smell, is now encouraged to get tested for the virus. That’s an admitted reversal of previous messaging, according to Dr. John Douglas, head of the Tri-County Health Department. “Three weeks ago, the message was that if you have COVID-19 and you’re not deathly ill, just curl up in bed and don’t get tested and don’t go to your doctor,” he said. “Now we want more people to get tested … We want to try to reverse some of that earlier message as best we can.” Douglas recommends seeking a viral RNA detection test.


I don’t like the mail-in ballots, am I going to be able to go to a voting center to vote in the primary or general election this year?

Yes. Voting centers must have social distancing measures in place and voting booths should be cleaned after each use.


I’m an undocumented immigrant. Can I apply for unemployment now that I’ve lost my job?

No. State unemployment benefits are restricted to legal residents. Some refugee services organizations are launching cash relief funds for undocumented people, including a network of Denver and Aurora organizations. Visit this link to apply for relief or get in touch.


Is the air pollution in metro Denver different than usual for this time of year?

Air pollution appears to have declined in the Denver metro from April 2019 to April 2020. Satellite measures of major metropolitan areas in the U.S. and China also suggest declines in air pollution. However, a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said any serious effort to suss out if the air is cleaner is “premature,” noting that the season for ozone pollution is still weeks away, and more data is needed.


STRIDE Community Health Center, in connection with Cherry Creek Schools, hosted a pop-up drive-thru swab test, May 8, 2020 at Overland High School. Stride will be offering tests through June at various Cherry Creek Schools. Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

I’m sick and I want a COVID-19 test, can I get one for free?

STRIDE Community Health Center has been providing tests near Del Mar Circle in Aurora and in Wheat Ridge for several weeks. No payment is taken at the time of the test, though insurance is collected from individuals with coverage. STRIDE has pledged to cover testing costs for uninsured patients and for anyone whose insurance provider declines coverage.


I’m not sick, but I have to visit someone at risk, can I get a COVID-19 test just in case?

Call your doctor. Testing is still being reserved for people who are showing symptoms of the coronavirus and front line workers. Clinics are asking that patients only seek a test if they have exhibited symptoms


Is the city on accident alert right now?

Not exactly. Similar to the “accident alert” protocols Aurora police enact during high call volume events such as snow storms, the city has indefinitely moved to a “modified response to calls for service.” That means that unless you are actively witnessing a crime or the victim of a crime, residents are generally encouraged to report most events through the department’s online reporting tool at: https://www.auroragov.org/residents/public_safety/police/make_an_online_report.


Text of the city and state’s stay at home orders in Korean. Aurora created numerous posters like this in a variety of languages.

My neighbor doesn’t speak English and they need help understanding all this, who can I call to get them help?

The City of Aurora is translating COVID-19 information into 10 languages. Those documents can be found on the city website here. Aurora residents can also call Access Aurora at 303.739.7000.


Who’s hiring right now?

There are currently hundreds of full-time, Aurora-based jobs listed on the state job board, connectingcolorado.com. From bank tellers to grant writers to warehouse workers, all manner of industry is represented. Job seekers can peruse the list without an account, but must register with the state website before seeing the full job posting. A cornucopia of additional resources at the Arapahoe/Douglas Works! Workforce Center website at adworks.org.


An RTD rider waits on his arriving R Line train, March 30, 2020, at the Aurora Metro Center stop. RTD said March 30 it would reduce service in April because of a decrease in ridership due to the current health crisis. Currently, buses and light rail rides are free.
Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

Is the RTD bus and light-rail still free?

Yes. Fares for travel on RTD trains and buses were suspended on April 5. That suspension remains in effect until further notice. However, capacity is limited on buses and trains, and riders are encouraged to remain 6 feet apart from other people.


Caution tape is wrapped around the community areas, March 26, 2020, at General’s Park. As ordered by TCHD, all playgrounds, golf courses, tennis courts, basketball courts, picnic areas and similar areas are closed during the shelter-in-place order.
Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

Some park benches across the region are covered with crime tape, such as retirement communities. Playgrounds are taped off. Can you get COVID-19 from a bench or a slide? Why aren’t RTD benches taped off?

Officials have generally cordoned off access to areas that promote leisurely public gathering, such as picnic tables, basketball courts and jungle gyms. The moves have been an effort to keep people from congregating in areas where maintaining social distancing protocols would be difficult or impossible. However, because RTD services continue to run, their amenities remain open. (The National Institutes of Health have suggested the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on metal surfaces for up to three days.)


Which parts of Aurora have the most infections per capita?

The Expo Park, City Center and Aurora Hills neighborhoods in the center of the city have maintained the highest rates of infection in Aurora for several weeks, according to Tri-County Health Department data. There are currently more than 433 confirmed cases in that pocket of the city, or 6.89 cases per 1,000 residents.


Should I wear a mask when I go through a drive-thru?

The CDC advises you wear a mask in “settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies)” and “especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.” While many drive-thrus have implemented barriers at windows, it wouldn’t hurt to wear a mask. Some businesses offering curbside service, like those at Stanley Marketplace, are asking that patrons still wear a mask even if they aren’t getting out of a car.


I’ve seen a couple of stores and businesses that aren’t facilitating social distancing. Who can I call to complain?

Complaints about public health, including serious concerns about social distancing at local businesses, can be made to the Tri-County Health Department. A form can be found online at the Tri-County Health Dept. website.


Safeway customers form a line to enter the store, May 8, 2020. The store on Havana Street is limiting the number of customers in the store at one time to help with much needed social distancing. Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

What are some stores offering seniors-only hours?

Many stores are offering senior-only hours. A full list can be found at AARP.com Albertsons and Safeway stores are reserving 7 a.m. to 9 a.m on Tuesdays and Thursdays for senior guests. Costco designates 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays to seniors 60 years and older. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, senior shoppers can shop at King Soopers from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.


FILE – In this Friday, May 8, 2020 file photo, the owner of a cat cafe checks the temperature of one of her cats in Bangkok, Thailand. According to a study published on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, cats can spread the new coronavirus to each other without any of them ever having any symptoms. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Can my dog and cat get COVID-19? Can I get it from them?

Cats and dogs have tested positive for the virus, but there is no evidence that pets are spreading it to humans.


Can I camp in Cherry Creek State Park?

Yes. Camping in state parks opened on May 12, but as of this year, all campsites must be purchased and reserved in advance. Campsite reservations, as well as annual park passes, dog off-leash passes and fishing licenses, can be purchased at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website: cpwshop.com. Cherry Creek officials have already warned that the park is seeing an “extremely high number of visitors,” so book early. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance. Interested campers can either email [email protected] or call 303-690-1166, option 0, with park-specific questions.


A handful of golfers took to the links, May 5, 2020, at CommonGround Golf Course on the border between Denver and Aurora. Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

Do I have to wear a mask if I play golf, and can I get a cart?

Beginning May 15, golf carts can be rented at four of Aurora’s five municipal golf courses (save Murphy Creek G.C., which remains walking only currently) and are first come, five served based on tee times. Masks are recommended, while the City of Aurora does require 6-foot social distancing mandates to be followed and reserves the right to remove players from the courses. Rounds can be scheduled 10 days in advance by phone at the individual golf course between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily.


I just got laid off from my job and was making $42,000 a year. How much will I get in unemployment, for how long and how long before I get a check?

Assuming you lost your job April 1 and were previously making $42,000 a year, you would be eligible to receive about $484 a week in state benefits for up to 26 weeks. It typically takes between two and six weeks to process unemployment claims, and payment is not dispensed during the first week of eligibility. You will have to request payment every two weeks using the state department of labor and employment website.


Is Aurora City Hall open?

Not currently. The city is discussing and researching when City Hall and other city buildings and services will resume. A decision date has not been announced.


When will libraries open?

It’s still unknown. According to the city, items on hold will remain there until libraries are re-opened and fines will not be accrued during the temporary closure.


How can I get a fishing license?

Fishing licenses can be purchased at the state wildlife office’s website: cpwshop.com.


Can I go inside a bank now?

Yes. Most bank lobbies are now open or offer services by appointment.


I can’t leave my house because of health reasons. I can’t find any service that will deliver toilet paper. What can I do?

Toilet paper deliveries are now available through Amazon.com, although supplies might vary. Toilet paper also appears to be available for delivery through King Soopers.


I’m several weeks past my regular teeth cleaning schedule, are dentists doing that right now?

Yes. Call your dentist to schedule an appointment before you suffocate from your own halitosis.


Are doctors doing regular annual physicals?

Kaiser Permanente patients can still schedule in-person physicals with a doctor, or use tele-health options. Medical Center of Aurora is still allowing in-person visits, but a doctor may prefer a tele-health visit depending on the circumstances. A spokesperson for the Medical Center of Aurora said that, “bottom line, the best thing a person can do is to call their physician’s office to discuss their specific need.”


A temporarily closed sign hangs to the entrance of the Town Center at Aurora, March 24, 2020. Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

When will Town Center of Aurora mall open? Are any of those stores open?

Town Center at Aurora is closed until further notice, according to mall manager Washington Prime. The real estate group “plans to announce an official date soon.”


When can therapeutic massage businesses open?

Massage businesses around the state were allowed to reopen on May 4. Under a state health order in effect until May 26, personal masseuses can offer services as long as there are fewer than 10 people in a facility at any given time and both the masseuse and client are wearing facial coverings. Clients must be spaced at least 6 feet away from other clients.


The state and county have a lot of COVID-19 data and numbers, which ones are they using to determine whether to shut things down again?

State officials seem to be monitoring data regarding positive cases and hospitalizations most closely. Social distancing data has also been an important factor.


Where can I get a free mask if I can’t make one myself?

Making a mask is really easy and can be used with items you most likely already have around the house. To connect with groups providing and selling reusable masks, visit www.coloradomaskproject.com


Is anyone testing homeless people for COVID-19?

Yes, hospitals and homeless service providers are testing homeless people for COVID-19. If an individual tests positive, but doesn’t have a home to safely quarantine in, they might be referred to the City of Aurora’s homeless quarantine hotel. That hotel is at an undisclosed location.


Are car dealers open? Do they get in the car with you when you test drive a car?

Many car dealerships have opened their showrooms with limited staff and most have pledged to practice social distancing and clean frequently, including surfaces in cars that have service performed. Many dealerships can complete purchases online and have new vehicles home delivered. Some may honor requests for solo test drives.


Signage reading that no visitors are allowed is placed in front of the entrance to Cherry Creek Nursing Center. Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

Are nursing homes closed to visitors?

Two months ago, the executive director of the state health department issued an executive order limiting visitation to nursing homes and long-term care facilities in the state. While that order remains in place, most restrictions are issued on a facility-by-facility basis. “Facilities shall post signage clearly summarizing the essential individual visitor policy, such as vendors providing necessary supplies or services for the facility or residents, and individuals necessary for the physical and/or mental well-being of the residents,” the state health order reads.


Caution tape is wrapped around the playground, March 26, 2020, at General’s Park. As ordered by TCHD, all playgrounds, golf courses, tennis courts, basketball courts, picnic areas and similar areas are closed during the shelter-in-place order.
Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

When are city parks and playgrounds going to open?

Parks and reservoirs in the city were never closed to the public. Officials merely encouraged park goers to maintain 6 feet of distance between themselves and others. The city’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space Department is currently evaluating how to proceed with opening local playgrounds. There is currently no estimated time for reopening. However, a spokesperson for the department said that when jungle gyms do open, signage will be in place reminding people that the structures are not regularly cleaned.


Are there a lot of domestic violence problems right now?

In general, reports of domestic violence are up in Aurora compared to the same period last year. Calls for service to Aurora police related to domestic violence incidents were up between 15 and 30 percent between March 19 and April 22, according to Aurora police. However, arrests and formal reporting of such incidents were down over the same period. At Aurora’s Gateway Domestic Violence Services, staffers served triple the number of clients usually served when compared to any month in Q1 of this year, according to Executive Director James Gillespie.


I can’t pay rent. How long before I can be evicted?

Gov. Jared Polis on April 30 issued an executive order limiting most evictions in the state until May 30. Most local sheriff’s offices are not currently serving eviction orders. Depending on your living situation, you may be protected from eviction for a longer time period. Ask your landlord. Also, you may be eligible for cash assistance from the City of Aurora and Arapahoe and Adams counties.


My mortgage company had started to foreclose on my house. How long until they can start the process again?

The federal government’s moratorium on foreclosing houses secured with a federally-backed mortgage loan is set to expire May 18. Gov. Jared Polis on April 30 issued an executive order further limiting foreclosures in the state until May 30.


Cars circled the GEO Aurora Detention Center, April 3, 2020, during a car protest. Those protesting claimed one simple demand, #FreeThemAll. Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

How many people are in the GEO ICE detention center? How many have been tested and how many were positive?

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement say no detainees at the north Aurora facility have contracted the virus. Two employees tested positive for the virus in March.


How many people have been released from Arapahoe and Adams county jails?

The average daily population in the Arapahoe County Jail is down nearly 60 percent, hovering just north of 615 inmates, according to the latest data. Four people — three staffers and one inmate — have tested positive for the virus, though the inmate already had the infection when he was booked into the jail, and was released less than a day later. A total of six inmates have been tested for the virus; all other tests have come back negative. The population numbers in Adams County are also down, having dropped  roughly 40 percent from last year’s daily average of about 1,000 inmates, according to data provided last month.


Can I file for divorce now?

The short answer is yes, but it likely won’t move quickly or easily. Local courts are still largely only hearing emergency matters, some of which could come into play in divorce proceedings, such as restraining orders or an emergency request to restrict parenting time. Also, financial statements, which have to be submitted using the most current financial data, could be greatly skewed for people who are recently unemployed. Consulting a family law attorney is highly encouraged.


Can I be called for jury duty?

No. The Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court has suspended all jury trials in state courts through July 6. The Aurora Municipal Court is expected to adhere to the same guidelines.


What sports will be played next fall in high school?

This hasn’t been decided yet and largely depends on the opening of school buildings in the fall. Sports such as golf and tennis that have very limited or no physical contact and naturally allow for the spacing of competitors would have the best chance, but it’s unlikely that the Colorado High School Activities Association would bring back just those.


Stacey Bennett, left, and Drew Riedlin get everything in order before serving free breakfasts and lunches to families of Aurora Public School Students, March 17, 2020 at Dalton Elementary.
Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

When will they decide whether and when to reopen schools?

Aurora Public Schools and Cherry Creek School District officials have not said whether schools will reopen in the fall, but school experts say it’s unlikely classrooms will operate as usual. They have not announced a timeline for the decision to be made. APS and CCSD schools are closed for the rest of the current school year, which ends in both districts the week of May 18.


Will schools continue free lunch programs through the summer?

Cherry Creek Schools provides free lunch to students every summer. Spokesperson Abbe Smith said the district is working on transitioning from its free meal program during the novel coronavirus pandemic, and details still need to be hammered out. “We will definitely feed kids through our summer meals program,” she said. Aurora Public Schools will continue its pandemic food services, which give free breakfasts, lunches and dinners to students and adults, through June and likely July, said spokesperson Corey Christiansen.