Here’s what’s happening Monday with the coronavirus pandemic in the region and the U.S.:
FOUR THINGS TO KNOW TODAY
— The Thanksgiving holiday has slowed new data, but existing metrics show that the cases of COVID-19 remains high in the Aurora region. The rate of hospitalization, however, has fallen for about 8-10 days. It now hovers at about 15% of capacity among hospitals in Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties.
For complete metrics in the Aurora region, go to www.tchd.org/818/Coronavirus-COVID-19
For statewide metrics, go to covid19.colorado.gov/data/covid-19-dial-dashboard
— The rush to develop a vaccine gained steam with the news from Moderna Inc. that it would ask U.S. and European regulators to allow emergency use of its vaccine. Early results show the vaccine is more than 94 percent effective.
— The virus has thrown the NFL season into chaos yet again. The Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers contest was moved from Thanksgiving to Tuesday with more than 20 Ravens on the COVID-19 list, and the game is still in jeopardy of not being played as scheduled. The Denver Broncos started an undrafted rookie wide receiver at quarterback because of COVID-19 protocol violations.
— Tough new restrictions are taking effect across California as the state hit a new record with 7,400 coronavirus hospitalizations. Los Angeles County, home to 10 million people — imposed new rules calling for residents to stay home as much as possible.
THE NUMBERS: The long Thanksgiving weekend will create volatility in the major virus metrics early this week. The U.S. is averaging 162,000 new cases a day over the past week, and a record 93,000 people are hospitalized with the virus.
QUOTABLE: “I allowed myself to cry for the first time.” — Dr. Tal Zaks, chief medical officer for Moderna after learning about the positive results from its vaccine study.
ICYMI: Law enforcement authorities around the country are on high alert for potential scams related to the COVID-19 vaccine. They are worried about criminal organizations exploiting Americans with things like fake vaccines.
ON THE HORIZON: With the advances in vaccine development, the ball will soon be in the court of the Food and Drug Administration. Its Dec. 10 meeting could pave the way for the immediate distribution of the Pfizer vaccine.
Here’s what’s happening Tuesday with the coronavirus pandemic near and far:
— Restaurants and officials in Weld County are rebelling over Colorado requirements that restaurants curtail inside service. Gov. Jared Polis says the restaurants risk losing their licenses. A similar showdown last spring in Douglas county resulted in the closure of a restaurant.
— Across Colorado, hospital capacity continues to worry state health officials, as COVID-19 cases are still well above where they were in the spring and models indicate there may not be enough ICU beds for critical patients by the end of the year.
The state has the capacity for 1,325 ICU patients, according to the state health department. Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state epidemiologist, said at a Tuesday news conference that at the current trajectory the state would exceed that capacity by January.
Decreasing virus transmission will help, but if hospitalizations continue to grow, there’s a possibility alternative care sites will need to be activated. Polis said that could allow hospitals to turn some non-ICU beds into ICU beds.
— The promising advances with vaccine development do not mean that people can stop wearing masks and socially distancing anytime soon. That’s because it will take months for the vaccine to roll out and reach a sizable percentage of the population needed to accomplish herd immunity.
— The cascade of business restrictions shutting down indoor dining and drinking establishments is being felt by restaurant workers who are losing their jobs — again — just as the holiday season approaches.
— Holiday celebrations are moving forward at the White House despite the pandemic. The delivery of an 18-foot Christmas tree, the ceremonial presidential turkey pardon and a series of festivities and parties are all happening, even as health officials warn about the risk associated with holiday gatherings.
THE NATIONAL NUMBERS: The U.S. is averaging 172,000 new cases per day over the last week and 1,529 deaths. A record of nearly 86,000 people are hospitalized with the virus.
THE STATE NUMBERS: Total cases: 206,439 up 3,161 from Monday. New hospitalizations: 49. Total Deaths Among Cases: 2,860, 3 new ones since Monday. 3-Day Positivity Rate: 10.7%, down slightly from Monday
Here’s what’s happening on Monday with the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S:
THREE THINGS TO KNOW TODAY
— Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals. AstraZeneca is the third major drug company to report encouraging news in recent weeks as the world anxiously waits for scientific breakthroughs that will bring an end to a pandemic that has wrought economic devastation and resulted in nearly 1.4 million confirmed deaths.
— Americans are still heading to airports in large numbers to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, despite the pandemic and guidance from health officials to limit gatherings as the virus rages through the country. More than 1 million people were screened by the Transportation Safety Administration on Sunday — the most on any day since March. Travel numbers are much lower than previous Thanksgiving holidays.
— The switch to remote learning in rural New Mexico has left some students profoundly isolated — cut off from others and the grid by sheer distance. In the village of Cuba, New Mexico, population 800, the school system is sending school buses to students’ homes over an hour away to bring them assignments, meals and a little human contact. On the fringe of the Navajo Nation, many families have no electricity, let alone internet. It is yet another way in which the pandemic has exposed the gap between the haves and have-nots in the U.S.
THE NUMBERS: The U.S. is now averaging more than 1,500 new deaths per day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The seven-day rolling average for deaths was less than 1,000 two weeks ago and now is 1,510 There have been close to 1.4 million confirmed deaths globally, and the U.S. has seen the most by far: almost 257,000.
QUOTABLE: “Our goal … to make sure that we have a vaccine that was accessible everywhere, I think we’ve actually managed to do that.” — Dr. Andrew Pollard, chief investigator for the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine trial, on the news that the vaccine doesn’t have to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, making it easier to distribute, especially in developing countries.
ICYMI: A slowdown in industrial activity linked to the coronavirus pandemic has cut emissions of pollutants and heat-trapping greenhouse gases, but hasn’t reduced their record levels in the atmosphere, the United Nations weather agency said on Monday.
ON THE HORIZON: Before any vaccine is permitted in the U.S., it must be reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration, which requires study on thousands of people. Normally, the process to approve a new vaccine can take about a decade. But the federal government is using various methods to dramatically speed up the process.
AURORA | Arapahoe County residents can tune into a virtual town hall Thursday to ask questions about stiffer business restrictions handed down this week amid skyrocketing virus cases.
Officials from the county covering much of Aurora and the Tri-County Health Department will be on a public call Thursday, Nov. 19 at 6 p.m. To call in, dial 855-436-3656 or visit Arapahoe County’s Facebook page.
The topics of the night: how businesses can comply with restrictions handed down this week, and how residents can stay safe during the holidays.
Arapahoe County announced Tuesday residents will have to live under tightened restrictions. Along with Adams, Douglas, Denver and other metroplex counties, the severe wave of new coronavirus cases bumped the Aurora region into “red” territory on the state’s COVID-19 dashboard. “Red” would have ushered in new new stay-at-home orders until Governor Jared Polis tacked another level onto the dial this week.
New restrictions include:
- No indoor restaurant service.
- Bars are closed and all restaurant liquor sales ends at 8 p.m.
- Manufacturing businesses are limited to 25% capacity.
- Offices are limited to 10% capacity.
Tri-County officials have said the surge is beginning to tax local hospitals. In the three-country region including Aurora, the number of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients this week barely surpassed the first peak of the pandemic in April.
— GRANT STRINGER, Staff Writer
AURORA | Congressman Jason Crow will hold a telephone town hall Tuesday evening to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s his 12th so far over the course of the pandemic.
Crow will be joined by a representative from the Tri-County Health Department. The call begins at 5 p.m. and participants can join online at crow.house.gov/live or by calling (855)-286-0296.
— CARINA JULIG, Staff Writer
CENTENNIAL | A free COVID-19 drive-through testing center will open in Centennial Nov. 2.
Located at 13050 East Peakview Ave., Arapahoe County and Tri-County Health Department leaders say they are expecting to draw residents from all over the southern metro region to the site.
The testing center will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. Neither an ID nor health insurance are required to receive the test, but visitors are asked to pre-register to keep wait times low.
Like other testing sites around the Denver metro region, test results are expected to be ready within four days. Health officials have said throughout the pandemic accessible testing is a major piece of containing the virus, which has spiked in recent weeks.
Increasing infections in Arapahoe County have prompted more restrictions and moving the county from Safer at Home Level 1 to Level 2 on the state health department’s COVID dial dashboard.
“We are happy to be able to provide a location that will bring additional testing for Centennial and our surrounding communities. Having a testing site that is free, with no doctor’s order required and close to home or work will provide citizens with the ability to continue to manage their day-to-day lives with more certainty,” Centennial Mayor Stephanie Piko said in a statement. “I appreciate the partnership between the State of Colorado, Arapahoe County and the City of Centennial on making this happen.”
Federal CARES Act money is funding the site and MAKO Medical Laboratories is running it.
A testing site in north Aurora at the Aurora Sports Park will remain open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Nov. 5. On Nov. 9 the drive-through site will move to the Aurora Center for Acctive Adults parking lot at 30 Del Mar Circle.
That site will be closed Sundays and holidays.
— KARA MASON, Staff Writer
AURORA | As the Aurora area comes under tightened COVID-19 restrictions, Adams County officials are urging business owners to apply for a new relief grant paying $5,000 toward rent and mortgage costs.
Adams County announced the creation of a new “mini grant” Wednesday doling CARES Act dollars to businesses impacted by the increased, Stage 3 restrictions.
Those rules slash the number of people allowed in a bevy of businesses, from restaurants and barbers to gyms and offices:
- Public and private gatherings must be limited to ten or less people from no more than two households.
- Office-based businesses can only allow, at most, 25% of employees to work in-person.
- Restaurants, “houses of worship” and personal services — such as barbers, hairstylists and dog groomers — can only allow 25% of their occupancy indoors.
- Gyms must close and switch to virtual services.
Fueled by federal cash, Adams County has deployed safety net measures during the pandemic to help keep businesses afloat and people in their homes. Other “mini grants” help cover the cost of “winterizing” outdoor business spaces, buying personal protective equipment and installing contactless payment systems.
Adams County and the Tri-County Heath Department announced last week the region including much of north Aurora would move just one step from a stay-at-home order. The move was necessary because of “skyrocketing” COVID-19 cases and raising hospitalizations, officials said.
AURORA | Arapahoe County is hosting a virtual town hall Thursday evening to provide an update on COVID-19 and schools.
Officials from the Tri-County Health Department, local school districts and the AllHealth Network will provide information about school re-openings and what to expect this fall, according to a press release from Arapahoe County.
Students in Aurora Public Schools start going back to school this week after spending the first quarter online, while Cherry Creek students have been in person since the beginning of the school year.
Arapahoe County is currently monitoring a rise in COVID-19 cases, and warned in early October that a continued increase could require more restrictions to be placed on the county.
The town hall will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6. Participants can join at arapahoegov.com/townhall or by calling 855-436-3656.
AURORA | Colorado’s face covering order to combat the COVID-19 pandemic is being extended another month.
Gov. Jared Polis ordered on Sunday that Coloradans continue to wear masks when in indoor public spaces. The order originally took effect in July.
In addition to curbing the spread of the virus, Polis has credited the order with allowing some businesses, like restaurants and retails stores, to re-open and helping the economy regain some lost ground from this spring.
“We have learned that widespread mask use is a low cost and highly effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 infections by as much as 65%,” the executive order signed by Polis says. “Broad adoption of mask wearing in Colorado may have significant economic benefits by allowing the state to prevent re-closures of businesses and schools and, ultimately, return to our normal lives more quickly. A recent study from Goldman Sachs concluded that a federal mask mandate could save the U.S. economy from taking a 5% hit to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).”
39 cities and counties in Colorado already require masks be worn in public spaces.
The extension will now expire on Nov. 10.
— KARA MASON, Staff Writer
DENVER | Based on current projections, Colorado could be headed for a severe spike in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.
State epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said during a Tuesday news conference that there have been two consecutive weeks of increased transmission and hospitalization rates. Excluding paged aged 18-25, there was a 32% increase the week of Sept. 13 that has since plateaued. That could be bad news for the upcoming holiday season, where family gatherings often mean inter-generational interactions. Older people are more likely to have a more severe reaction to the infection.
There are currently 246 people hospitalized in Colorado due to the virus. Two weeks ago that number was at 170. While hospitals currently have the capacity to handle those numbers, Gov. Jared Polis said Tuesday it’s important to keep up social distancing measure and wearing masks so that all Coloradans receive the best qualify of care if they do need to be hospitalized because of the virus.
Getting tested, even if you believe your difficulty breathing is a result of poor air quality due to wildfires burning across the West, is important. Polis said a friend of his decided to take a COVID-19 test out of caution, thinking breathing difficulties were a result of Colorado’s current haze, but tested positive for the coronavirus.
That abundance of caution is something Polis is stressing, especially as President Donald Trump and several of his acquaintances tested positive for the virus last week. Trump has been heavily criticized for his response to the pandemic and how he’s handled his own illness, which most recently included removing his mask immediately upon arriving back at the White House Monday evening.
“It’s been challenging to watch,” Polis said of Trump’s response.
Trump said in a tweet over the weekend Americans should not fear COVID-19 or let it “dominate” their lives.
Polis, for months, has been telling Coloradans they shouldn’t be scared, but rather they should be cautious. However, he added, Trump has insinuated it’s OK to be reckless. That is a “wrong and divisive direction,” Polis said.
Polis added that Trump “bullies people” into doing things, like returning to school, but doesn’t provide the necessary aid or equipment to make returning to a life closer to normal possible.
Often since the beginning of the pandemic, Polis has reiterated that Colorado has had to take on the response of this pandemic on its own, without relying on the federal government.
“We are at a critical juncture,” Polis said of Colorado, urging people to keep up social distancing, limiting contacts and wearing masks in public.
If you think you may have been in contact with somebody who has COVID-19, you have contracted the virus or need a test, visit the Tri-County Health Department for a list of testing sites and resources.
— KARA MASON, Staff Writer
FEDERAL HEIGHTS | The COVID-19 testing site at Water World will stay open through the end of the year and will have extended evening hours, according to a news release from Adams County.
Located at 8801 N. Pecos St., Federal Heights, the site will now be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily through Dec. 31. The site can administer up to 1,500 tests a day, according to the county.
To visit the site, which is in the parking lot adjacent to W. 90th Ave., enter from W. 90th Ave. at approximately N. Tejon St. The Pecos entrance is currently closed, according to the release.
“Our hope is the community will take advantage of the expanded evening hours and get tested during this critical time in the fight to slow the spread of this virus,” Adams County Commissioner Emma Pinter said in the release.
There is no cost to be tested and visitors do not need an ID, social security number or insurance to get tested.
Registration is not required, but those planning to get a test are strongly encouraged to pre-register to make their visit go more quickly, the release said.
Testing results should be available within two to four days.
— CARINA JULIG, Staff Writer
AURORA | Aurora’s Sports Park testing site for COVID-19 will close next week, but another, limited location will take its place, city officials said Monday.
The City of Aurora will phase out the Sports Park site on Oct. 4 because of low demand. That spot operates seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Beginning Oct. 5, Aurorans can access free rapid COVID-19 testing from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. only on Mondays at Restoration Community Fellowship, 15660 E. Sixth Ave. The city plans to operate that site through Dec. 7.
“Because testing is so critical during this public health crisis, the city of Aurora is supporting the state’s efforts to make free testing widely available and accessible as part of a broader approach to prevent spread while allowing for a continued increase in economic activity and ensuring ample capacity at local hospitals,” city spokesperson Julie Patterson said in a statement.
A spokesperson for the state health department said last week pending there is enough testing at the state’s more than 50 community testing sites for anybody who wants a test.
The new testing site will also be funded with federal CARES Act dollars, according to Patterson.
— GRANT STRINGER, Staff Writer
AURORA | Many experts are describing the coronavirus pandemic as a mental health crisis in addition to its physical health and economic threats, leaving more people in need of services to cope with social isolation, stress and other strains.
One grant may help accessing those resources in Arapahoe and Douglas counties a little easier.
AllHealth Network and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment are partnering to create a FEMA-funded counseling service in Arapahoe and Douglas counties for those struggling with behavioral health problems because of COVID-19.
The new program, dubbed Colorado Spirit, will offer free crisis counseling and case management to connect people with other resources, according to a press release from AllHealth. Services will be offered virtually, and the grant program will run through June 2021.
According to a survey from the Colorado Health Foundation, more than half of Coloradans have experienced an increased strain on their mental health during the pandemic.
Arapahoe County is also hosting a telephone town hall at 7 p.m. on Thursday to discuss coping strategies for mental health issues brought on by COVID-19. The meeting can be accessed at arapahoegov.com/townhall.
— CARINA JULIG, Staff Writer
DENVER | Colorado’s rate of COVID-19 infections is increasing, especially among 18-25 year olds, Gov. Jared Polis said in a Tuesday news conference.
The state has had a 45% increase in COVID-19 cases this week over last week, and the overall percent positivity rate is increasing, said state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy.
Polis started the conference with a moment of silence for the 200,000 people who have died of COVID-19 in the U.S. In Colorado, 1,926 people have died from the virus.
Echoing statements from past updates, Polis said that the increase is “a warning sign for all of us,” and that Colorado needs to do better at mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing and other preventative measures to keep case numbers down.
About 65% of people in the state are currently adhering to social distancing measures, Herlihy said.
The increase in cases is most pronounced among college students, and Polis specifically named University of Colorado Boulder as a primary driver of cases. On Monday, the university announced it would go remote for two weeks to stem a surge in cases.
Though hospitalization rates for young people are very low — around 1-2% — that doesn’t mean the risk isn’t still significant, he said.
“If people are careless and go to a college party with 100 people…it’s very likely that one or two people that attended that party will be in the hospital a week or two later,” he said.
While college students mainly interact with each other, the state is concerned about spread among students trickling into the larger population, he said. Students who work in retail or food services are particularly a cause for concern.
Polis asked people to take common-sense measures against the virus, such as having three friends over instead of 30. With the arrival of fall, he noted that this is some of the state’s best outdoor weather.
“Let’s let that wonderful Colorado weather be a weapon for us against the virus,” he said.
Polis also noted that the pandemic is exacerbating existing inequities in society, and Colorado’s Native American communities have been especially hard-hit.
American Indian and Alaskan Natives have five times the hospitalization rate for COVID-19 than whites, and 40% more deaths, he said. He will be in southwest Colorado in the next few weeks to meet with tribes, he said.
The state is currently reviewing guidance recently released by the CDC regarding Halloween.
“Halloween’s probably going to look a little bit different this year but we certainly want children to be able to celebrate safely,” Herlihy said.
In response to a question about whether he has told President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence that they failed to respond adequately to the pandemic, Polis said that he has been disappointed with the lack of a national response to the virus and things there needs to be a science-based evaluation to see how the country can be better prepared in the future.
“Today is a day of mourning, a day of reflection,” Polis said. “It’s not my role as governor to engage in political punditry. I think it’s clear that America could have done better.”
— CARINA JULIG, Staff Writer
AURORA | A panel of experts will discuss how to manage your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic during an Arapahoe County telephone town hall on Thursday, Sept. 24.
“Navigating life during the pandemic can be a struggle,” a news release from Arapahoe County said. “Work, illness, kids, school, job loss—it’s easy to become overwhelmed.”
Experts from All Health Network and the Aurora Mental Health Center will answer questions and provide information on how to deal with emotions brought on by the pandemic, the release said.
The town hall will be held at 7 p.m. and can be joined by calling into 855-436-3656 or by going to arapahoegov.com/townhall.
— CARINA JULIG, Staff Writer
AURORA | The state’s Safer At Home order will be in effect for at least another 30 days, Gov. Jared Polis decided via executive order Sunday. He also amended rules for businesses that serve alcohol.
During the Safer At Home phase, Coloradans are encouraged to stay home as much as possible, practice good hygiene — like hand washing — and people 11 years and older must wear masks in public indoor places.
The temporary 10 p.m. last call for purchase of alcohol sales in restaurants is also extended by one hour under the new orders and possibly even later for counties that show low transmission of the virus, based on the state’s COVID-19 dial, which tracks each county’s success in preventing spread of the virus.
Adams County is currently at a Level 2, labeled as “concern”, having between 5% and 10% positivity rate, while Arapahoe and Douglas counties are currently at Level 1, which is labeled as “cautious.” To meet Level 1 criteria, a county must have a positivity rate below 5%, 0-75 cases per 100,000 people and no more than two COVID-19 related hospital admissions per day.
Per the governor’s new order, last call is 12 a.m. in Level 1, 11 p.m. in Level 2, and 10 p.m. in Level 3.
No counties are currently in Level 3.
Counties in the Protect Our Neighbors stage may opt out and establish a local last call time, so long as it does not exceed 2 a.m., according to the governor’s office.
Polis cut the hours of alcohol sales earlier this summer, as contact tracing showed virus transmission was particularly high among groups of people who were out drinking.
— KARA MASON, Staff Writer
DENVER | Colorado may be at risk of seeing another increase in COVID-19 cases if social distancing lets up, Gov. Jared Polis cautioned at a Tuesday afternoon news conference.
State epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy provided an update on the status of the state’s COVID-19 response. She said Colorado has seen a slight increase in cases over the past two weeks, but there has been a “very substantial increase” among college-aged individuals as well as an increase in outbreaks among that age group.
The concern is that cases among that age group could spread to older and more vulnerable populations, Herlihy said, which could lead to a much higher rate of hospitalizations for the virus.
Hospitalization rates for the virus are slowly starting to trend upwards again, which is a potential sign that Colorado is entering another growth phase of the pandemic, she said. Social distancing measures are currently being followed by about 65% of the population. If that decreases, cases will increase and more strain will be placed on the healthcare system.
Polis asked people to continue to stay vigilant about social distancing and wearing masks.
“We all are tired of the virus but the virus is not tired of us,” he said.
The state has created a new dashboard that measures COVID-19 risk in each county, similar to a fire danger dial. The metrics used are new cases, percent positivity and impact on hospitalizations.
According to the dashboard, Arapahoe County is currently at the lowest-risk level of the “safer at home” phase. The county has a 3.2% positivity rate, a 69.70 two-week cumulative incidence rate and nine days of declining or stable hospitalizations.
Polis also addressed the state’s wildfire situation at the briefing. The Pine Gulch and Grizzly Creek fires are now both over 90% contained, he said. In some ways Colorado has been “much more fortunate” than Oregon and California, because far fewer people in the state have had to evacuate.
So far 22 homes have burned down, all of which appear to be cabins or second homes, Polis said.
He cautioned that this is unlikely to be Colorado’s last serious fire season.
“With the drier and warmer climate we need to be prepared for more of these kinds of fires in future fire seasons,” he said.
— CARINA JULIG, Staff Writer
DENVER | Colorado’s mask mandate will be in place at least another 30 days.
Gov. Jared Polis extended the executive order on Saturday, saying face coverings can reduce spread of COVID-19 infections by as much as 65%.
Polis said the mandate, which was enacted in July, has allowed many Colorado businesses to re-open, such as restaurants allowing some in-person dining.
“While we have seen indications that our efforts to ‘flatten the curve’ are working, transmission of the virus continues to threaten Coloradans’ way of life and livelihoods and current data shows a recent increase in COVID infections,” the order says. “As we take steps to return Coloradans to work, we must continue to take measures to facilitate reopening the economy while protecting public health by taking steps to incorporate best practices to protect individuals from infection.”
Through the order Coloradans over the age of 11 are required to wear the non-medical grade face coverings in indoor public spaces.
More than half of Colorado counties already had a mask mandate in place when Polis made the original mandate, including Adams and Arapahoe Counties via a mandate from the Tri-County Health Department.
During a news conference on Friday, Polis sympathized with those who are tired of wearing masks in public. He said he is too.
“We look forward to the day the fire bans are ended and the mask requirements are ended and we can party all night long,” he said.
The order will now expire Oct. 12.
— KARA MASON, Staff Writer
AURORA | Arapahoe County leaders want to know more about how COVID-19 spreads through communities, so they’re partnering with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus for a study.
The COVID-19 Arapahoe SErosurveillance Study (CASES) was developed in order to understand who has been infected with COVID-19 and to learn more about the body’s immune response to the virus, according to a county announcement this week.
The study has two phases, the first of which, a study of COVID-19 antibodies in first responders, is already underway. In August, the study found that 4% of first responders in the county had been infected with COVID-19 according to antibody tests. A second round of testing will be done on first responders in the fall.
The second phase begins Sept. 14 and will study the general population of Arapahoe County by randomly testing 1,200 households for COVID-19 antibodies. Those who have been selected will be sent a postcard in the mail inviting them to participate in the study, the release said. The test will be done using a blood sample from a finger stick, and participants will be sent their results confidentially.
The Sun Bus, a mobile classroom and clinic normally used for public education about melanoma, will be traveling to different neighborhoods in the county in September and October to test people, the release said.
The study is being led by Dr. Rosemary Rochford, an immunology professor at Anschutz. Rochford has been studying how the immune system reacts to the virus and has designed a new antibody test, a news release from Arapahoe County said.
The project is coordinated by the Arapahoe County Office of Emergency Management, and is funded with money the county received from the CARES Act, the release said. Information from the study will help inform the county’s ongoing response to the pandemic.
— CARINA JULIG, Staff Writer
DENVER | Gov. Jared Polis urged Coloradans, especially young people and college students, to celebrate responsibly over Labor Day weekend, saying that the holiday is “an inflection point” for the state in its fight against COVID-19.
Colorado has been doing much better at containing the virus that some surrounding states and recently reached its lowest positivity rate so far of around 2%, Polis said at a Thursday afternoon news conference. But he cautioned that case rates will only stay low as long as safety protocols are being follow, and if people stop being vigilant “it will come roaring back.”
“All this good news could be wiped out if people are reckless and careless over a long holiday weekend,” he said.
He said he was especially disappointed in the “reckless, inexcusable” actions of some college students, especially fraternity members, who have continued to hold large parties this school year.
At the University of Colorado Boulder, five fraternities have been fined for holding large gatherings without masks or social distancing.
“I hope that young people across the state hear me loud and clear: this is not a joke,” Polis said.
He asked students not to party this weekend and instead to gather with a small group of friends or do something outdoors. He acknowledged that this school year is not what students were hoping it would be.
“I know it’s frustrating, it’s unfair, but many people are making a much higher sacrifice than we are asking of you,” he said.
Polis was joined my Mark Kennedy, president of the University of Colorado system, who echoed Polis’ requests of students.
Two college students also spoke directly to their peers at the press conference.
David Holguin, a CU Denver student and a student advisor to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, said that college students have the privilege to become changemakers in their communities, and need to start by being responsible right now.
“The things that we do today have consequences beyond ourselves,” he said.
He noted that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Coloradans of color, and asked students to remember to vote in November.
“We are the leaders of tomorrow and we must embrace the challenges of today,” Dajah Brooks said.
Park ranger Michelle Seubert shared some advice for people going outdoors over Labor Day: She asked people to have a plan before going out, make sure to bring all the equipment you need, be considerate of others who are recreating and to remember to social distance.
Polis mentioned that the state is holding a contest to design a new driver’s license, and people can submit entries at iconiccolorado.org.
He closed by once again asking Coloradans to make good choices over the holiday.
“Let this be part of Colorado’s path forward in the pandemic, not a step back,” he said.
There are currently 6,678 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Aurora, according to the Tri-County health department’s online tracker.
— CARINA JULIG, Staff Writer
AURORA | The Tri-County Health Department has hired 50 new employees to increase its contact tracing and case management capabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Wednesday news release.
“Case management and contact tracing are a vital part of the methods that we use to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said executive director Dr. John Douglas in the release.
Contact tracing is an important step in slowing the spread of the virus so that schools and businesses can stay open, Douglas said. He urged people to work with contact tracing staff if they are contacted. It means they’ve possibly been exposed to the virus.
People living in Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties will be contacted by phone if they test positive for COVID-19, the release said. The release cautioned people to beware of scammers. Contact tracers will inquire about people’s name and address, health information and who they have interacted with, but will never ask for a social security number or financial information.
As of Wednesday evening 16,645 people in the three counties have tested positive for COVID-19, and 611 people have died, according to the health department’s online dashboard. In Aurora, 6,239 people have tested positive.
— CARINA JULIG, Staff Writer
DENVER | Denver metroplex residents aren’t flopping down slides at Water World this summer, but the infamous waterpark is still in use. Now it’s home to another free COVID-19 testing center.
State leaders opened the drive-in testing site at Water World, which is located in Adams County at 8801 N. Pecos St.
Area residents worried whether they’ve contracted the virus can visit the site from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through at least September, according to an Adams County news release.
MAKO Medical will administer the tests and says it will provide results within two to four days. The site would allow for 2,500 tests per day if participants register online before visiting the nine-lane testing center.
A new COVID-19 testing center, similar to the operation at the Pepsi Center in Denver, also opened in Aurora Monday.
The free drive-up testing site is located at the Aurora Sports Park, open seven days a week.
— GRANT STRINGER, Staff Writer
WESTMINSTER | Two new COVID-19 testing locations have been added in Adams County, one in Westminster and another in Commerce City.
The two new centers are both free, offer rapid tests, and don’t require any registration for Adams and Jefferson County residents.
The rapid tests show results in about 15 minutes. Residents don’t have to be showing symptoms of the virus to receive the test.
“As we continue to identify and implement initiatives to assist residents across the county during this pandemic, we are grateful for partners like the City of Westminster as we collaborate to serve our communities,” Adams County Commissioner Chaz Tedesco said in a news release. “This partnership will provide necessary testing for those in our community who need it the most but may not have access due to lack of insurance.”
Times and locations for the testing centers:
The MAC Recreation Center
3295 W. 72nd Ave., Westminster
Thursdays, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., Aug. 6, 13, 20, 27
Former Adams County Human Services Building
7190 Colorado Blvd., Commerce City
Fridays, 2 – 7 p.m., Aug. 7, 14, 21, 28 (additional dates may be added to this location)
The sites are expected to be running through the end of November. Updates can be found on the Response & Recovery website.
AURORA | If you’ve been curious about “that cough” you had in March, Children’s Hospital Colorado is offering you a chance to get some answers while donating blood at the same time.
The north Aurora hospital is enlisting the help of metroplex residents to boost dwindling blood supplies in exchange for a free COVID-19 antibody test.
“Due to the impact of COVID-19, there is a dire blood and platelet shortage,” a hospital spokesperson wrote in an email.
Officials are asking interested donors to make an appointment by calling 720-777-5398. Interested parties will have to undergo a health screening before donating blood in chairs spaced 6 feet apart, according to a news release.
The antibody tests will be processed at the Children’s lab on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
— QUINCY SNOWDON, Staff Writer
AURORA | Officials are closing an Aurora motor vehicle office for two days after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.
The Arapahoe County office at 490 S. Chambers Road will close through July 17, and is normally closed weekends, officials from Arapahoe County said in a release.
The employee is quarantining and other employees at the office “are encouraged to get tested,” county officials said in a release.
“We are closing the Aurora Motor Vehicle Office out of an abundance of caution for our customers and our employees,” said Clerk and Recorder Joan Lopez in a statement. “We will continue to monitor the situation and work closely with Tri-County Health to ensure we are doing everything possible to keep everyone safe. We ask for patience and understanding during this time and understand this closure comes at a time when customers have had limited access to services due to COVID.”
Officials said most transactions can be done online mydmv.colorado.gov. Renewal kiosks are also available throughout the region. For locations, go to comvexpress.com/.
APS, Cherry Creek announce in-person graduation dates, rules
AURORA | Aurora Public Schools and the Cherry Creek School District have put out their plans for in-person high school graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020, both devised with help from the Tri-County Health Department.
Aurora Public Schools will utilize Aurora Public Schools Stadium located at Hinkley High School for all of its graduation ceremonies and will run two per day from July 20-23.
Pickens Tech graduation is first at 8 a.m. July 20, with Gateway in the 7 p.m. slot on the same day. The July 21 schedule includes Hinkley at 8 a.m. and William Smith at 7 p.m., while Aurora Central is set for its graduation at 8 a.m. July 22 with Aurora West College Prep at 7 p.m. and the July 23 schedule begins with Rangeview at 8 a.m. and ends with Vista PEAK at 7 p.m.
APS graduates can bring one or two in-person guests, who must have a ticket, while the ceremony will also be live-streamed. All in attendance must wear masks and graduates will be seated six feet apart in observance of social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Graduates will remain at their seats and stand when their names are announced. Diplomas will be handed out at respective schools in the first week of July.
Cherry Creek Schools will utilize Stutler Bowl on the campus of Cherry Creek High School to conduct its commencements, which will take place from July 27-Aug. 1.
Ceremonies will all begin at 8 a.m. on their respective days and will all be live-streamed, but graduates will be allowed to attend and bring two guests in person. A mask or face covering is required and social distancing guidelines will be followed. In a statement, the district promised more details to parents at each specific school about its ceremony.
Grandview’s ceremony on July 27 is first, followed by Smoky Hill (July 28), Overland (July 29), Cherry Creek (July 30), Eaglecrest (July 31) and Cherokee Trail (Aug. 1).
In addition to the six high schools, Cherry Creek Elevation and Endeavor Academy will also have graduation ceremonies. Elevation’s is set for noon July 27 at Fremont Learning Center with Endeavor’s at 11 a.m. July 28 at Stutler Bowl.
— COURTNEY OAKES, Staff Writer
AURORA | The theme for summer 2020 will be personal responsibility, as state leaders and health officials are closely watching whether COVID-19 cases will sharply increase like they have in neighboring states like Arizona.
So far they haven’t, and person-to-person spread remains low, health officials say.
“You want to act like everybody you encounter has coronavirus, because they might,” Gov. Jared Polis said during a news conference Wednesday.
Polis, again, advised everybody to adhere to social distancing guidelines, wearing masks and lots of hand washing. That message is particularly spirited for Colorado’s high-traffic tourism areas.
The hospitality industry has been particularly hard hit by economic fallout from the virus. Practicing personal responsibility now, Polis said, will allow those businesses to rebound more quickly.
“We don’t want setbacks that will scare tourists off further,” he said.
For Coloradans who are ready and able to begin venturing out, the state has launched a website calculating risks of everyday activities. Camping and hiking are rated lower, but come with considerations like finding less crowded areas. Breweries, fitness classes and “singing in groups” are among the activities that make the “higher” risk list.
If you must sing, the state advises, do it “in the shower, on video chat, or outdoors while maintaining distance.”
AURORA | Students in a Denver charter school near the Aurora border are cranking out protective masks for occupants of an undisclosed hotel-turned-quarantine space mainly for homeless residents impacted by COVID-19.
Seniors and underclassmen at the New America School’s Lowry Campus have already made about 120 masks in one week. The school said in a press release it plans to donate the masks to the Aurora Emergency Respite Center, the city-run quarantine hotel for homeless and housing-insecure people.
Currently, about 40 homeless people are staying in private hotel rooms rented by the City of Aurora either because they tested positive with COVID-19 and were discharged from an area hospital or are at risk of succumbing to the virus if exposed in a shelter.
The hotel has 122 rooms. Residents can keep to themselves in their room and receive food and services from Comitis Crisis Center staff, who are running the hotel operation.
Shelley McKittrick, the city’s director of homelessness programming, has declined to say where the hotel is for fear of costing the hotel business and putting residents at risk.
The Denver charter school said students are planning to make and donate more masks to help limit viral spread inside the quarantine hotel.
“I make these masks because I found it useful right now,” said senior Guomalo Diallo in the press release. He said “sewing is something I like, it’s like a culture for me, it’s something I like and I did it, I hope it will be useful.”
The wheels on the bus, will cost you again
DENVER | Life in the Denver metroplex is approximating normality, although the pandemic is far from over.
Part of the return to public life? Paying for a bus again.
Regional Transportation District buses stopped collecting payments April 5 as part of social distancing efforts on public transit options. But no longer — starting July 1, RTD says riders will be on the hook for fares once again.
“With COVID-19 restrictions lifting and people starting to return to their physical workplaces and taking more trips, it’s time to resume normal operations,” RTD said in a press release.
During the pandemic, a ride on the bus started by entering through the back door, instead of the front, to reduce close interactions between people.
Now, you’ll walk in through the front door, per usual. But RTD is recommending you pay for fares ahead of time via an app instead of physically popping change in the slot.
It’s all in the name of reducing exposure to the novel coronavirus.
RTD says its riders can buy tickets ahead of time through its mobile ticketing service, online, as well as Uber and Transit.
–GRANT STRINGER, Staff Writer
AURORA | Curbside service has made its way into nearly all aspects of life amid the COVID-19 crisis. That now includes elections.
Arapahoe County will have a curbside ballot pickup service from June 22 through June 30, which is election day. Voters can request a replacement ballot be mailed prior to June 22. Election officials say voters should call the clerk and recorder’s office if they don’t receive the ballot by June 16.
Any voter needing a replacement ballot in Arapahoe County can call the election division to schedule the pick-up at one of six polling centers offering the service and an election judge will bring the ballot to your car when you arrive.
Ballots are being mailed to Colorado voters for the primary election this week. County officials say it should take about one week for the ballots to arrive.
Unaffiliated voters will receive a Democrat ballot and a Republican ballot, but should only return one.
The Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder Elections Division can be reached at 303-795-4511 to request a replacement ballot or to schedule a curbside pickup after June 22.
DENVER | Hotels are seeing guests trickle back into their rooms, flights are returning to Denver and travelers are itching to get to Colorado campsites.
As COVID-19 cases continue to decrease in Colorado, but are seeing a resurgence in surrounding states, Gov. Jared Polis is calling on communities that cater to visitors to remain vigilant in taking precautionary actions against the virus.
That means staying six feet apart, wearing masks and adding safety barriers if able.
Sure, those travelers might bring the new coronavirus when they’re traveling, Polis admitted during a news conference on Tuesday, but “it’s already here.”
Not taking social distancing guidelines seriously is what will really lead to a spike in Colorado cases, he warned.
Conferences, like the ones that take place downtown and at Aurora’s Gaylord Rockies, likely won’t see events until the fall, Polis said. He spoke with a group of hotel owners on the phone last week.
“I’m confident as people are ready to return, Colorado will be ready to accommodate them,” he told reporters.
DENVER | The art installations in Jeppesen Terminal are nothing short of — we’ll say, unique
Denver International Airport is offering the public a chance to be a part of the often talked about pieces that are on display throughout, by participating in the virtual-focused exhibit, “Colorado From a Distance.”
The airport is looking for photographers to submit images showing positivity during this trying time of encouraged social distancing. Whether that be interpretations of the new normal in our daily lives, time spent with family or celebrations of special occasions where getting physically close is not as easy.
This juried exhibit hopes to show the creative ways we have stayed connected during these trying times and photographers of all experience levels are encouraged to enter this free competition. Entrants must be Colorado residents, the file size can not exceed 5MB and the deadline for entry is 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 24, 2020. Approximately 50 images will be accepted into the exhibit — to learn more and find the entry form, entrants can go to www.flydenver.com/about/art_culture/virtual_programming.
AURORA | The time for many to rejoice in Arapahoe County is here, as Colorado’s Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors phase will allow for the opening of churches, gyms, playgrounds and pools.
Social distancing, frequent cleaning and all the now long-standing practices to avoid the spread of COVID-19 remain in place, but guidance for the reopening of several types of venues came from an announcement by Gov. Jared Polis Thursday.
With the weather growing warmer, opening pools has been on a lot of people’s minds and outdoor pools now can open to the public at 50 percent capacity or up to 50 people, whichever is fewer. Pool activity is encouraged to be primarily for lap swimming, but open swimming can be OK with “efforts to reduce in-pool interactions” between people not in the same households. Indoor pools, however, have a limit of 25% capacity or 50 people, whichever comes first.
Pools had been open in more limited capacity for training for the past week.
Indoor gyms and sports facilities, recreation centers and bowling alleys can at up to 25% capacity or 50 people, whichever comes first, while the use of shared equipment is strong discouraged. Limited use of locker rooms, showers, etc. is recommended.
Playgrounds may be open, but only for up to 10 people at a time, while outdoor sports facilities such as tennis courts, basketball courts, pickle ball courts, etc. may have up to 25 people at a time. Also, organized youth or adult recreational sports leagues (of up to 25 players) is now permitted.
Places of worship may choose to reopen with restrictions, while the state still recommends providing services online. Indoors, 50% capacity or no more than 50 people should meet in a room with social distancing observed between household groups. Additional, shorter services are recommended as well.
Restrictions have also loosened on a wide variety of outdoor recreation, which has been encouraged by Polis for physical and mental health and with the ability to socially distance.
AURORA | The skies above the Aurora Municipal Center — and the region — will remain dim on July 4th, city officials announced Monday.
The City of Aurora has canceled its annual Independence Day fireworks event slated for early next month in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Another summer event placed on the chopping block by COVID-19 restrictions is the Adams County Stars & Stripes festival, a county spokesperson said Monday.
The Independence Day event typically draws revelers into the summer sun July 3 at Riverdale Regional Park in Brighton. This year, the park won’t have the crowds, fireworks, bands, beers and food vendors, county spokesperson Christa Bruning said in a press release.
Adams County officials said limitations on public gatherings won’t allow for the crowds flocking to the fair. Bruning said more than 12,000 people attended the celebration of U.S. independence last year.
“We did not take this decision to cancel our annual Stars & Stripes event lightly, County Manager Raymond Gonzales said in the statement. “However, safety is our utmost concern, and after many discussions, we have decided to forgo this year’s event out of an abundance of caution.”
The county officials said they are “already planning Adams County’s premiere Independence Day celebration for next year.”
The fireworks events are just the latest summer event nixed from upcoming calendars due to the coronavirus pandemic. The annual Buskers, Brews and BBQ event planned for June 13 has also been canceled, as has the Colorado Remembers event scheduled for Aug. 1.
Two weeks ago, county officials canceled the Arapahoe County Fair, which was originally planned to take place at the Arapahoe County fairgrounds in Far East Aurora the weekend of July 23.
Last week, Aurora fire officials enacted an early-stage burn ban in the city, which precludes the legal sale of fireworks in city limits through July 4. While the burn ban is in place, all fireworks are illegal in Aurora.
AURORA | If there was ever a question of whether libraries are a necessity, the COVID-19 pandemic has responded with a resounding “yes.”
More than two months after shutting their doors, most Aurora Public Library branches are inching toward re-opening. This past week many locations started curbside and contactless checkouts.
“There were more than 6,000 holds in the queue when we closed, so we just asked people to be patient through the closure,” said Aurora Libraries Director Midori Clark. “We had a lot of fun last week calling these people and asking them if they still want their items. The response was overwhelming. They were so happy.”
The Aurora Public Library branches offering curbside pickup are Central, Hoffman Heights, Martin Luther King Jr, Mission Viejo and Tallyn’s Reach.
While library doors have been shut since March 14, library staff have been anything but idle in serving the community. The first Monday after closing libraries, a storytime hour was shifted to Facebook Live. It was so popular that the recording had to be taken down, Clark said.
In just one afternoon the library exceeded its copyright agreement for “Leonardo the Terrible Monster” by Mo Willems. The library never thought it’d get 1,000 views, let alone in one day.
“To have 1,000 at one story time is impossible in our physical space and so it’s record breaking,” Clark said.
The virtual storytimes have become a hit. Meanwhile, the library’s sewing lab, which teaches residents the hands-on hobby, quickly shifted its focus to sewing cloth masks for city workers and first responders.
“They were making hundreds of masks at a time you really couldn’t find them,” Clark said. Volunteers provided much of the material, thread and other supplies needed to make the masks.
The pandemic has also highlighted community needs.
“There is a digital divide and this crisis has made us more aware of that,” Clark said. She said it’s normal to see a few cars linger in Aurora library parking lots just to pick up the internet signal. “Even if you have a phone, if you don’t have a data plan it’s worthless.”
Increasingly, as technology has evolved, so have libraries, mostly to offer online resources, but also basic internet access for people who otherwise might not have any access at all. About 81% of libraries across the country leave on public wifi when the building is closed, according to the American Library Association. About 12% expanded that or added that service during the pandemic, a recent survey found.
Some libraries have even started checking out wifi hotspots or devices. While Aurora doesn’t currently offer that, it’s going to be of greater importance moving forward, Clark said.
Until the libraries open completely, Clark said staff are keeping busy with curbside. Some patrons have called asking for a librarian to put together a surprise pack of books, which they are thrilled to do.
Since offering curbside last week, Clark said nearly 650 Aurorans have checked out more than 2,000 items.
“It’s just a great morale boost and that’s what the best thing about curbside has been, just hearing the reaction of the people who have missed the library so much and how grateful they are for us to be open again,” she said.
For more information about curbside pickup at Aurora libraries, visit AuroraGov.org/LibraryCurbsidePickup.
— KARA MASON, Staff Writer
Colorado’s unemployment rate jumps to 11.3% in April
DENVER | Colorado’s unemployment rate surged to a record 11.3% in April as the state lost over 323,000 jobs because of the economic shutdown in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the state labor department said Friday.
The unemployment rate is the highest for Colorado since it began keeping comparable records in 1976. The previous record high unemployment rate for the state was 8.9% which held from September to December 2010, the department said. Nationally, the unemployment rate increased in April to 14.7%, the highest since similar records began in 1948.
According to a survey of businesses, 311,400 non-farm jobs were lost in the private sector and 12,100 jobs were cut in government in Colorado last month. Some of the largest job losses were in the leisure and hospitality, education and health services, trade, transportation and utilities, professional and business services and construction sectors, the department said.
For most people, the 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. The vast majority of people recover.
— THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
AURORA | State health officials believe there are three cases of a rare syndrome connected COVID-19 in children in the state.
Three presumed cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, known as MIS-C, have been forwarded on to the Centers for Disease Control, according to state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy.
The syndrome is much like Kawasaki Disease, doctors say. Those symptoms “include fever, rash, swelling of the hands and feet, irritation and redness of the whites of the eyes, swollen lymph glands in the neck, and irritation and inflammation of the mouth, lips, and throat,” according to the CDC.
While rare, there are only about 100 cases of MIS-C in the U.S. so far, Herlihy said parents should contact their child’s physician if they exhibit any Kawasaki-like symptoms, have a prolonged fever or are having abdominal pain.
MIS-C could have long-lasting effects if not treated early, doctors say.
Children’s Hospital Colorado is treating the three Colorado patients, according to Dr. Samuel Dominguez, who specializes in pediatric infectious disease at the north Aurora facility.
Children with Kawasaki Disease are mostly toddler-aged, but MIS-C patients tend to be older than that, according to the duo of doctors who gave updates with Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday.
COVID-19 cases in children have been mostly mild and generally haven’t required hospitalization. Even so, doctors said parents should keep an eye out for MIS-C symptoms because they could occur weeks after the COVID-19 virus.
— KARA MASON, StaffWriter
AURORA | People living along the East Colfax corridor needing housing assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic may qualify for $500 “mini-grants” from The Fax Partnership.
“We know many families in the East Colfax community may really be struggling; and we hope these grants will help provide a bit of support at a time of great need,” said Monica Martinez, executive director at The Fax, in a statement.
The corridor runs along East Colfax Avenue from Colorado Boulevard in Denver into northwest Aurora, which has seen some of the highest COVID-19 rates in the city.
The grants from The Fax have been made available by a $30,000 from the Colorado Health Foundation.
To apply for the aid, residents should complete an online survey, which is available in English, Spanish, Oromo, and Swahili, or call 720-459-0591 to receive a physical copy of the survey.
The surveys “assess the broader community regarding income, housing, and financial literacy,” according to The Fax. Martinez said the surveys would also help the organization identify which services are needed, such as housing and utility assistance and food access.
The grant survey will be open through May 31.
For more information about The Fax Partnership, visit www.thefaxdenver.com.
— KARA MASON, Staff Writer
AURORA | Despite facing a more than $20 million decline in revenue from the COVID-19 pandemic, city council members have decided against asking voters to keep excess property tax revenues.
Staff estimate that the city could keep about $3.3 million per year under the now-defunct “de-Brucing” proposal. That’s about $12 a year that will not be returned to taxpayers owning a home valued at about $250,000, although that amount may have differed depending on taxes paid.
Most council members worried about bringing the measure to Aurora voters as many are facing economic hardships of their own.
Staff said it typically costs about $150,000 to run a ballot question, and some members worried that it’d be wasted money this election year.
The money would have been used to backfill lost general fund revenues, according to city documents. That amount equates to the annual salary of 44 full-time employees, the annual operating cost of two fire stations for a year, or about half of the annual operating costs for all library facilities in the city.
— KARA MASON, Staff Writer
DENVER | A libertarian think tank said Monday it will start gathering signatures for a ballot initiative to cut income taxes with the blessing of state free-market advocates.
If successful, the signature-gathering drive will land a proposal on the November ballot to cut the state’s flat income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 4.55 percent. Voters would then approve or deny the tax plan.
Jon Caldara of the Denver-based Independence Institute said in an email the tax cut, dubbed Initiative No. 306, would “get Colorado’s economy back to its former strength, by putting money back into the pockets of those who earned it.”
High-income earners would benefit most from the tax cut, according to a legislative council staff report.
An individual earning $250,000 would owe the state $11,375 in income taxes — or $200 less, annually. A Coloradan earning $50,000 annually would pay $2,275, or $40 less than the current tax.
Caldara said the tax cut would help spur economic recovery, allowing earners to inject their money back into the economy instead of government.
The state legislature staff report said the economic cost or benefit would depend on the state of the economy but estimated big cuts to government revenue at a time when lawmakers say the state’s fiscal outlook is grim.
Under the plan, the state government would lose more than $4 million in the next two years. This fiscal year, the state budgeted about $32.5 billion in spending to fund schools, health care, universities, jails and other functions.
Lawmakers expect to hand down cuts to education and other services this month. Already, the state legislature projected revenue losses above $3 billion because of plummeting sales tax and other revenues as the novel coronavirus pandemic plunges the economy into a deep recession or depression.
Caldara said state legislative analysts use incomplete economic models, and that the tax cut could eventually bring more revenue into state government coffers.
In a press release, free-market organizations lauded the tax cut plan as a way to keep much-needed income in households.
“The question is simple: who needs your money most right now — you, or the government?” said Jesse Mallory, state director of Americans for Prosperity, the political network founded by industrial titans David and Charles Koch. “Colorado voters should have that choice in November.”
If enough signatures are collected, voters will consider the tax cut measure and other tax overhaul proposals — including a progressive tax plan also billed as a general tax cut — when voting in November.
-GRANT STRINGER, Staff Writer
AURORA | When a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes available — which is not expected for several months at the soonest — it’ll likely only be for Colorado’s most vulnerable to the virus.
Gov. Jared Polis said during a news briefing on Friday that he and health officials are in early talks about what vaccine distribution would look like across the state when one is finally distributed.
The demand in Colorado will be higher than what the state is provided with, he said, highlighting that’s currently the focus of talks right now.
Previously Polis has taken a personal choice position on vaccines, even telling the Sentinel last legislative session that he would be open to local governments making their own decisions on mandating vaccines.
He didn’t say whether his position has evolved on the matter over the course of the pandemic, which has claimed nearly 1,100 lives in Colorado. More than 20,000 people in the state have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
In addition to a vaccine, contact tracing and significantly ramped up testing have been the talking points of returning to a more normal way of life.
Polis said he expects the state to test between 5,000 and 10,000 people per day for the rest of May. The ideal number of tests each day is 10,000 tests.
AURORA | Arapahoe County is set to slowly emerge from its prolonged COVID-19 chrysalis Monday, opening many county buildings that have been closed to the public since March.
Courthouses, human services payment kiosks, and the assessor’s office are just a few of the entities slated to open Monday May 18. Services provided by the Arapahoe County clerk and recorder, treasurer and sheriff’s office will also open, though nearly all services will be appointment-only. Anyone seeking to make an appointment can do so by visiting ArapahoeGov.com/COVID19.
Those seeking to remit child support payments can do so on a walk-up basis at the CentrePoint Plaza building in Aurora. The sheriff’s office will be taking appointments for new concealed handgun permits and fingerprinting, according to a news release. Driver’s license and passport service typically offered in the county administration building in Littleton remain suspended until further notice.
Both patrons and staffers will be required to wear masks in all county buildings until further notice, and social distancing markings will adorn floors and queue lines. Buildings will operate at 50-percent staff capacity for the foreseeable future.
“If officials at a facility or office determine that a space’s capacity is getting too constrained to practice safe social distancing, they have the authority to limit further visits or move people to waiting areas until the number of patrons drops to an acceptable level,” county spokesman Luc Hatlestad wrote in a news release.
Courthouses across Arapahoe County are slated to hear more cases beginning Monday, though strict social distancing protocols will remain in effect. All jury trials in the state remain postponed through July.
AURORA | The new location for an Aurora marijuana dispensary will become the site of a cornucopia offering hedonistic pleasures — cheap joints, burgers — while unveiling public art and a charitable donation Saturday.
Dispensary chain The Green Solution will unveil its new Aurora location, 10195 E. Montview Blvd., 2 p.m. May 16. It’s less than a mile from the bud shop’s current Aurora spot at 1450 Havana St.
On Saturday, a stoner festival with a dash of social responsibility will descend on the new location — all with the necessary social distancing rules, according to a press release.
Local artist Pat Milbery will unveil a mural on the new building before the chain dispensary’s brass cut the ribbon and announce a donation to homeless service provider Aurora Warms the Night.
Then, customers in the vicinity can help themselves to free cheeseburgers from Denver food truck Burgerchief and deals on pre-roll joints, swag bags and coupons.
The building and area will be thoroughly disinfected, and all employees will be wearing personal protective equipment. The dispensary asks that customers eschew direct contact with staff while loading up on goodies.
-GRANT STRINGER, Staff Writer
Arapahoe County buildings remained closed
AURORA | Arapahoe County buildings will still remain closed even as stay-at-home orders have lifted and some businesses are reopening.
A news update from the county says safety measures are currently being put in place. Those include “retrofitting public points of contact with Plexiglas, rearranging public waiting areas and staggering employee schedules to ensure social distancing, posting safety guidelines signage at each building, deep cleaning ‘high contact’ areas.”
Details on county buildings reopening are expected next week.
— KARA MASON, Staff Writer
AURORA | Aurora’s newest COVID-19 testing spot is Friday at Overland High School.
Declining rate of COVID-19 hospitalization is good news for Aurora region, officials say
AURORA | Despite only seeing a plateau of COVID-19 cases throughout the extended stay-at-home order for Adams and Arapahoe counties — not a decline — health officials are readying a transition to the state “safer-at-home” model.
The stay-at-home extension, which came with exceptions, expires at midnight on May 8 and will allow many non-critical businesses to reopen their doors with some restrictions.
Dr. John Douglas, executive director of Tri-County Health Department, said at a board of health meeting Wednesday that “cases aren’t really declining” across the tri-county region, which includes Douglas, Arapahoe and Adams counties.
Those numbers could be remaining stable because of more available testing, he said. According to the department, testing has increased by 109 percent in Adams County and 86 percent in Arapahoe County.
A better indicator of how the virus is spreading may be hospitalizations, he said. Those are declining in each of the three counties.
Douglas County, which was not included in the department’s public health order to extend stay-at-home, has seen a slight uptick in cases, Dr. Douglas said. That could also be due to testing capability. Douglas County has the highest proportion in testing of the three counties.
Hospitalization trends in Douglas County are similar to those in Adams and Arapahoe counties.
“We want to thank our entire community for the unprecedented effort made by so many to enhance our social distancing and allow us to make our communities safer during the COVID-19 epidemic: this has clearly involved social, psychological, and economic hardship for many. While COVID-19 will continue to be with us for the foreseeable future, our hospitals now have sufficient capacity and medical equipment and we have the support systems in place to deliver the best healthcare we can if a surge should take place.” Dr. Douglas said in a statement this week. “I am grateful for the sacrifices that our community has made to slow the spread of COVID-19 and we must remain vigilant to continue that trend and keep our communities safe while we gradually re-open our businesses.”
As Dr. Douglas has been assessing the steps to allowing more businesses to re-open, even if in limited capacity, he’s been weighing the public health impact if they remain closed.
“We have suffered economically, psychologically, and socially,” he said during a news conference with Aurora leaders on Thursday, highlighting that more and more people are seeking mental health services during this crisis. “I’m more worried about chronic and behavioral illness that have sort of been going under the radar screen.”
— KARA MASON, Staff Writer
AURORA | The city of Aurora will reopen its municipal golf courses Wednesday, nearly six weeks after they were closed due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
The city closed Aurora Hills G.C., Meadow Hills G.C., Murphy Creek G.C., Saddle Rock G.C. and Springhill G.C. and all golf facilities on March 20 and they stayed shuttered for 47 days in total, though courses were maintained by minimal personnel to be ready for play.
Aurora Hills, Meadow Hills and Saddle Rock are scheduled to open Wednesday, followed by Springhill on Friday. Murphy Creek is not yet ready for play and remains closed.
Changes have definitely taken place, as rounds will be walking only (no carts) and tee times must be booked by calling the golf courses individually. Aurora has long had an online option to book tee times, but a new system is not yet working. Golf shops also remain closed to the public.
Social distancing (6-feet) is required during play and masks are encouraged, while the city asks that anyone awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test or showing any signs of a fever or respiratory ailment stay off the courses. Violators will be asked to leave with no refunds (full City of Aurora golf COVID-19 policies, here).
The city of Denver closed its courses before Aurora in March and reopened on April 22.
Course contact information: Aurora Hills G.C. (303-739-1550), Meadow Hills G.C. (303-326-8450), Saddle Rock G.C. (303-326-8460), Springhill G.C. (303-739-6854), Murphy Creek G.C. (303-739-1560).
— Courtney Oakes, Sports Editor
Arts-based charter school delays opening a year due to pandemic
AURORA | A north Aurora charter school tailored for Latinx and black students won’t open in the fall as expected because of “unique” logistical challenges to education posed by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Visions Performing Arts College Prep was slated to open in fall 2020 and provide arts-based educations for area students. Now, the school said in a statement, the school will open in fall 2021 to serve 200 students, half in sixth grade and half in ninth grade. Prospective students will have to delay transferring to the charter school and begin trainings in theater, creative writing, audio engineering and other disciplines.
“The pandemic created an extremely unique hardship and amplified the challenges of opening,” said school co-founder and executive director Auset Maryam Ali. “Our founding team, board and the CSI board support this decision with the wisdom that this will ensure sustainability for VPAC for years to come. While this decision was hard emotionally, we are beyond confident that this is the best strategic move for the longevity of VPAC.”
The school is authorized by the state’s charter school monitoring wing, the Charter School Institute.
The school will replace Vision Performing Arts Company, an arts nonprofit that works in Aurora and nearby Denver Public Schools to provide workshops for dance, theater and spoken word poetry.
Ali has been deeply involved in Aurora’s arts scene, having served on the City of Aurora Cultural Affairs Commission and managed her nonprofit for about 15 years.
–GRANT STRINGER, Staff Writer
Flyover to honor healthcare workers begins at Buckley Wednesday afternoon
AURORA | The Colorado skies will be filled Wednesday afternoon with another tribute to healthcare workers fighting the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Colorado National Guard plans to fly F-16 Fighting Falcon planes over several Colorado cities and towns between 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. as part of Operation American Resolve, which is intended to honor those in the battle against the coronavirus.
The planes of the 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, will take off from Aurora’s Buckley Air Force Base and head east to Sterling, then redirect west to go over the Fort Collins area, head into the mountains as far as Aspen, then south down the I-25 corridor to Colorado Springs before making their return to Aurora.
“We are really excited to show our appreciation for those men and women who are risking their lives every day in the front lines of the War on COVID-19,” U.S. Air Force Col. Micah Fesler, commander, 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, said in a press release. “So many of our community members, Coloradans, and fellow Americans have experienced overwhelming hardship as a result of this invisible enemy and we hope that the sound of freedom will inspire a sense of community and optimism.”
The planes are scheduled to reach Colorado Springs at approximately 5:33 p.m., then should be visible on the I-25 corridor on their way to Buckley.
On April 18, the Air Force Thunderbirds made a similar tribute run to healthcare workers in addition to performing a flyover for the graduation at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
— COURTNEY OAKES, Staff Writer
AURORA | The COVID-19 infection rate at the Veteran’s Community Living Center at Fitzsimons in Aurora increased over the weekend, after the Colorado National Guard conducted a mass testing at the facility last week.
Three residents at the facility, run by the Colorado Department of Human Services, have died. In total, nine staff members and 23 residents tested positive.
That was up from 16 residents and two staff members before the National Guard testing.
“Our thoughts are with the families who have lost loved ones to this virus, as well as our residents and staff who are fighting this virus, and we hope all experience quick recoveries,” human services executive director Michelle Barnes said in a statement. “In times like these, we are thankful for our staff and team that continue to show up every day and provide the best care to our residents.”
— KARA MASON, Staff Writer
AURORA | Arapahoe County residents wondering how and when they may be able to access certain services will have a chance to have their questions answered this Thursday during a telephone town hall.
County officials will take questions from residents at 7 p.m. May 7. Participants seeking to attend are instructed to call 855-436-3656, watch the event live on Facebook, or utilize the stream on the county website.
Aurora’s two most populous counties, Arapahoe and Adams, are slated to ease into more relaxed distancing restrictions, known as the so-called “safer at home” phase of Gov. Jared Polis’ longterm plan to combat the spread of COVID-19, at midnight May 8. Douglas County entered into the new stage late last month, citing reduced case numbers. The decision to splinter from directives given by the Tri-County Health Department spurred a kerfuffle among Aurora politicos last month.
There have been nearly 5,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the three-county area the Tri-County Health Department oversees, according to the most recent statistics. More than 2,000 of those cases fall within Aurora’s municipal boundaries.
— QUINCY SNOWDON, Staff Writer
No bull, CALF seeds raise cash for online order and a local pick-up
AURORA | The Colorado Agricultural Leadership Foundation (aka CALF) has a wide variety of seeds for vegetables, herbs and flowers available for a Mother’s Day gift or just to dig into spring.
Thousands of seeds — including a huge offering of tomato plants — ranging in price from $4 to $10 are available for purchase online at www.thecalf.org. Orders must be received by noon on May 8 to be ready for pickup the next day at the organization’s Lowell Ranch location: 2330 I-25 in Castle Rock.
Proceeds support a variety of non-profit businesses.
CALF’s mission is to connect people of all ages to agriculture in a variety of ways.
— COURTNEY OAKES, Staff Writer
For Cinco de Mayo, city boosters to celebrate online
AURORA | Aurora officials aren’t letting a pandemic get in the way of annual Cinco de Mayo celebrations.
Mayor Mike Coffman, Ward I City Councilwoman Crystal Murillo and other Aurora boosters will be streaming on Facebook Live Tuesday to celebrate Mexican, Latinx and Mexican-American culture.
City spokeswoman Alicia Santos encouraged Aurorans to get online and visit www.facebook.com/AuroraGov at noon Tuesday to join the stream, celebrate culture and also stay informed on the 2020 Census.
Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican Army’s temporary defeat of French imperial forces on May 5, 1862.
Many Americans not of Mexican heritage celebrate the day each year, in part thanks to campaigns from beer and wine companies to honor the imperial defeat with drinking.
Almost one-third of Aurora’s near 380,000 residents identified as Hispanic or Latino last year, according to City estimates.
- GRANT STRINGER, Staff Writer
Aurora mall launching curated online shopping experience
The Town Center at Aurora is still shuttered, but Aurorans still pining for scented candles and waffle makers can now shop online for these and other items normally found in mall storefronts.
Mall owner Washington Prime debuted a curated online shopping experience last week to provide “an outlet for retail therapy and supporting businesses in the age of social distancing,” according to a mall press release.
Mall manager Don Massey has hand-picked a list of Aurora mall items.
As of Monday, the products included a sombrero, medical socks, a Herschel-brand duffle bag, a Disney Mickey Mouse-shaped waffle maker and a “summery scented candle” from Bath & Body Works. Each week, the list will change.
Peruse and buy online at https://towncenterataurora.com/well-picked-goods.
–GRANT STRINGER, Staff Writer
AURORA | Through May, Stanley Beer Hall is doling up 1,000 meals a day for Aurorans needing food as part of a metro-wide program to donate food and employ out-of-work restaurant hands.
The Stanley Marketplace haunt said Wednesday 13 of its employees are back in business, working with four employees of Aurora-based CME Catering. Since April 23, the team has doled out 1,000 meals a day which are then distributed by Aurora mainstay organizations including the African Leadership Group, Colorado Muslims Community Center, Dayton Street Opportunity Center and Friends of St. Andrew.
It’s a collaboration born of the Colorado Restaurant Response. In March, when restaurants shuttered or switched to pick-up orders only, food service workers became some of the first with reduced hours or no work at all. The Response network launched shortly after to employ restaurant staffers to prepare food donations.
According to a Wednesday press release, four Denver restaurants working in the organization are serving up 2,000 meals a day for distribution.
Aurora-area food banks were struggling in mid-April with volunteer shortages, but food supplies were still in abundance, organizations told the Sentinel.
Stanley Beer Hall is currently closed for regular food services because of the pandemic, according to a message on its voicemail. Other Stanley businesses are open for curbside pick-up. Learn more at http://stanleymarketplace.com/stanley-to-go-curbside-pickup-delivery-program/
AURORA | Cherry Creek Schools Superintendent Scott Siegfried sent home a letter to district parents April 27 that addressed the timeline of the remainder of the school year, when students can retrieve personal items, and floating the possibility of ‘in-person’ graduation ceremonies.
The district will continue through the end of the school year with remote learning and all district school buildings and facilities will remain closed through June 30 according to Siegfried.
The last day of the school year for seniors in high school is May 8, while all other students in the district will conclude on May 19. A two-week checkout process will allow students to return to buildings briefly — and observing social distancing — to collect items left behind in lockers and to return things that must be returned (seniors, May 11; elementary school May 13-14; middle school May 15, 18-19; preschool May 18-19; high school grades 9-11 May 20-22).
CCSD currently has plans for a “limited, in-person” graduation ceremony, which is tentatively set for the end of July with more details to come. The district said such a gathering would be fully dependent on health department approval and with strict adherence to social distancing mandates.
Siegfried closed his note saying: “I also want to express my deep gratitude to all of our teachers and staff, as well as parents and students for rising to this occasion and exhibiting grace and positivity during this ongoing crisis.”
— COURTNEY OAKES, Staff Writer
AURORA | Regis Jesuit High School notified parents on Friday that the remainder of the school year will be held online.
On April 3, Aurora’s two largest school districts — Aurora Public Schools and Cherry Creek Schools — were among 14 metro area public school districts to form a joint agreement to close buildings and cancel activities and turn to remote instruction to finish the school year.
Regis Jesuit, a private school, waited longer to make a determination. The school went to online learning March 23 after it returned from its scheduled spring break, but it wasn’t until last week that the possibilities of safely returning to campus for what amounted to the final two weeks of the year became impossible.
“Despite how desperately we desire to gather together again, our best opportunity today to ensure the safety of our community and continuity of learning for our students is to complete the school year online,” the school’s statement to parents read.
The school said its nurses stayed in contact with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to ascertain what would be necessary for students to return to campus, but couldn’t find a way to ensure that even an “extraordinary commitment of resources, both human and financial” would make it safely and logistically possible.
Students may be allowed to return to campus to recover belongings in the coming weeks.
Online learning for Regis Jesuit continues through May 8 for seniors and for May 15 for juniors, sophomores and freshmen. Prom (May 18) and graduation (May 30) have not been canceled yet and the school will make an announcement on both by May 4.
The Colorado High School Activities Association has suspended the spring prep sports season until April 30 at least, so Regis Jesuit is waiting for “further guidance” on that front.
— COURTNEY OAKES, Staff Writer
Fund launched for black women-owned businesses
A Denver racial justice organization advocating for black women has launched a donation fund for businesses in Aurora and beyond owned by black women, and is calling for support.
The fund, called “Support Black Womxn Owned Businesses,” was started by Soul 2 Soul Sisters, a group of activists focused on faith, reproductive rights, ending racism and voting. Visit the fund website here.
The growing list of businesses includes Konjo Ethiopian Food, in Aurora near the intersection of South Peoria Street and East Dartmouth Avenue, Remembrance Wellness and Yoga in Denver and Young Aspiring Americans for Social and Political Activism, an activist group regularly working with Aurora Public Schools students.
“Join Soul 2 Soul Sisters in supporting hard-working moms, inspiring entrepreneurs, and lady bosses who inspire our communities and make the world go ‘round,” the fund website reads. “Please donate today to support Black Womxn-owned businesses! 100 percent of your donation will go toward assisting local Black Womxn-owned businesses.”
The website says 100 percent of donations will go donors’ business of choice.
— GRANT STRINGER, Staff Writer
National Guard converting Denver convention center to emergency medical wing
DENVER | About 50 Colorado National Guard soldiers are now helping convert the Colorado Convention Center into a 2000-bed medical shelter.
Gov. Jared Polis had already mobilized about National Guard soldiers, including soldiers from Aurora’s Buckley Air Force Base, to help cull the novel coronavirus pandemic among Denver’s homeless population.
Now, soldiers are assisting the State Emergency Operations Center and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to convert the Denver convention center into a medical shelter, according to a National Guard news release. The space would be used if Denver runs out of hospital beds.
Polis said last week he hoped the converted space wouldn’t be necessary, and state health officials said hospitals are so far within their capacities to treat sick patients, KDVR reported.
The National Guard is also helping convert The Ranch Events Complex in Loveland.
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commanding general and 54th U.S. Army chief of engineers, is overseeing the transitions. He’s being transported between the two sites by Black Hawk helicopter, according to the news release.
Colorado’s homeless population is considered especially vulnerable to the novel coronavirus and its effects because of challenges to social distancing and pre-existing health conditions.
— GRANT STRINGER, Staff Writer
Congressman Jason Crow to host fourth town hall
AURORA | Once again Aurora Congressman Jason Crow is hosting a town hall related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The town hall begins at 6:30 p.m. Constituents can call into the town hall by dialing 855-286-0296 or visiting https://crow.house.gov/live.
Local State Senator Jeff Bridges and state Reps. Meg Froelich and Tom Sullivan will also be on the call with Dr. John Douglas of Tri-County Health Department.
This is Crow’s fourth town hall regarding the pandemic.
— KARA MASON, Staff Writer
AURORA | An Aurora hotel is the latest to offer free and discounted services to area first responders and healthcare staffers.
Police officers, fire fighters and healthcare workers can now stay for free or cheap at the Aurora-Parker Fairfield Inn & Suites, a Marriott brand hotel managed by Hawkeye Hotels. The hotel management chain, owning hotels across the U.S., is slashing room costs in other cities as well and aims to become a resource hub for organizations in need of space.
“Of the many brave men and women fighting COVID-19 on the frontlines, some have voiced the need for additional accommodations or alternative places to stay,” Hawkeye Hotels spokeswoman Allison Ordman said in a press release.
Ordman urged organizations in need of rooms to contact Hawkeye’s team at [email protected]
Elsewhere, Hilton hotels pledged to donate 1 million rooms nationwide for healthcare personnel unable to go home for fear of infecting their loved ones. Nurses, EMTs, paramedics and doctors are eligible. Marriott hotels is also pledging to donate $10 million worth of hotel stays to frontline doctors and nurses.
— GRANT STRINGER, Staff Writer