Colorado marks first COVID-19 death; Aurora area logs flood of shutdowns, changes

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AURORA | Colorado health officials said Friday an elderly woman with underlying health conditions has died from coronavirus.

The woman in her 80s lived alone in the Colorado Springs area, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Her death is the first reported in the state related to the virus.

A statement released by the health department did not include any additional information.

“While we were expecting this day, it doesn’t make it any less difficult to hear and share this news,” said Gov. Jared Polis, who announced measures Friday to grow the ranks of doctors, nurses and other professionals in anticipation of an increasing coronavirus caseload straining the state’s health care system.

As of Friday, Colorado had 77 cases of the coronavirus.

Polis said state officials will expedite the licensing of health-care professionals who live in Colorado and already have licenses in other states. State officials are also asking retired doctors and nurses and those who left the field to consider returning to help with the outbreak.

The Colorado National Guard has been activated and Guard medics are being trained, Polis said. Medical students are being asked to help with testing and clinical work.

An increase in health professionals will be needed as the number of coronavirus cases grows exponentially, and as health professionals treating those patients become infected themselves, Polis said.

“We are in the middle of one of the greatest public health disasters of our lifetime,” he said. “It’s critical for us to take it seriously.”

Polis called for the cancellation of events with groups of 250 or more people, unless organizers can guarantee participants are spaced 6 feet from one another.

He also called for an increase in testing, while saying the state’s 1,500 collected tests to date outpaces the national rate.

The state is re-opening its drive-thru COVID-19 testing site on Saturday, but at the Denver Coliseum instead of the Lowry lab site.

The location has been moved for safety and logistical reasons, according to the state health department. Like at the Lowry site, the testing center will be able to serve the first 100 to 150 people in line.

After Saturday, the agency plans to move the drive-thru testing to other locations across the state “in an effort to detect cases early, identify community spread if it’s there, and launch targeted public health responses.” Those locations will be posted as they become available. The coliseum is at 4600 Humboldt St. The testing site is open from 10 a.m. until 2 pm.

Aurora declares state of emergency; numerous facilities closed indefinitely

Aurora City Manager Jim Twombly declared a state of emergency on Friday in response to a growing number of COVID-19 cases across the state.

“This declaration allows the city to expedite additional emergency resources to support the city’s Office of Emergency Management and gives the city flexibility to procure additional essential resource, if needed,” city officials wrote, announcing the declaration.

Both Aurora and Cherry Creek school districts have closed for at least two weeks and will announce definite plans at a later date.

The emergency declaration comes with a slate of closed facilities and events:

Effective March 14 through March 31, the following facilities will be closed, or until further notice:

•All city recreation centers and indoor pools

•All city libraries

•Aurora History Museum

•Aurora Fox Arts Center

•The People’s Building

•Bicentennial Arts Center

Effective March 14 through April 30, the following facilities will be closed, or until further notice:

•Aurora Center for Active Adults

•Morning Star Adult Day Program

•Therapeutic Recreation Program

All city-organized public meetings and events will also be canceled.

Despite those closures and cancelations, city council meetings are still expected to continue, as are meetings for the civil service commission, planing and zoning commission, and board of adjustments and appeals meetings.

City offices and outdoor recreation spaces will remain open until further notice.

Aurora Police say they’ll respond only to ‘priority’ calls

AURORA | The Aurora Police Department became the latest local agency to take precautions against COVID-19 Friday with an announcement that officers will only respond to situations in which a life is believed to be in danger or a crime is actively occurring.

Police in the state’s third-largest city are encouraging residents to report suspected crimes using the online reporting system linked here. Motor vehicle accidents can be reported here.

The reporting protocol has been implemented indefinitely, police announced via Twitter.

Officials said the decision was made to limit the amount of physical contact officers have with residents in effort to prevent the spread of disease.

“We are taking these measures in an abundance of caution for your safety as well as the safety of our officers,” police officials wrote on Twitter. “Police officers frequently are in contact with many citizens, and we want to minimize the potential of our daily interactions from causing an exposure risk to you. We recognize this may cause some inconvenience to you, but do appreciate your patience and understanding during this unprecedented time.”

Police said people who feel that their life may be in danger should continue to call 911. However, if dispatchers determine the situation is not, in fact, life-threatening, callers may be directed to report the incident online or by phone.

Residents can report non-emergency issues to law enforcement by calling 303-627-3100.

“We are minimizing the risk we may bring,” police wrote on Twitter. “You are still getting police services, just in a more remote fashion in non-emer(gency) incidents only.”

Denver police also introduced a similar protocol Friday.

Denver Public Schools planned to close Monday for three weeks, and the public celebration of Mass has been canceled at all Catholic churches in Colorado. Meanwhile, state lawmakers, now in the middle of a 120-day legislative session, were preparing to ask the state Supreme Court whether the state constitution allows them to recess and reconvene at a later date.

Lawmakers are also fast-tracking legislation that would allow political parties to delay and remotely conduct assemblies and conventions, as the parties prepare to nominate candidates for office this spring and summer.

Colorado canceled its high school basketball tournaments, and the Air Force Academy said it has begun dismissing its cadets amid the coronavirus spread.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.