Denver expands pandemic aid to homeless; Aurora area virus cases climb to 1,347

DENVER | Denver is opening a large, temporary homeless shelter and making about 300 hotel rooms available to homeless people who need to be isolated because of the coronavirus, moves the mayor said Tuesday are essential to protecting the whole community.

The push to increase aid to homeless metro-area residents comes as statewide deaths attributed to COVID-19 climbed to 179.

Officials at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported Tuesday that there are now 5,429 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Colorado COVID-19 summary for April 7

5,429 cases
1,079 hospitalized
54 counties
28,094 people tested
179 deaths
44 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities

Tri-County Health Department, overseeing Aurora and its counties, Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas, said there are now 1,347 confirmed cases in the region, 453 of them in Aurora. Deaths in the region climbed to 39.

About 250 members of the Colorado National Guard are taking over staffing at the city’s existing homeless shelters, allowing the city to open an additional shelter for 600 men at the National Western Complex on Thursday, Mayor Michael Hancock said.

The new shelter, staffed by the Denver Rescue Mission and doctors from a homeless health clinic, will provide about 50 square feet (4.65 square meters) for every person. It will also make it easier for people staying at the other shelters to practice social distancing which has not previously been feasible, officials said.

Aurora officials announced last week they would rent an entire 150-room hotel to accommodate people experiencing homelessness affected by the pandemic crisis, including those infected.

The city currently has 120 hotel rooms available for homeless people who have tested positive for COVID-19, are awaiting test results or are more vulnerable to the disease. The city reached a deal to add 151 rooms Monday which still must be approved by City Council. On Monday night, 97 of the rooms were occupied. The city also has 48-bed supplemental shelter for anyone with flu or cold symptoms, Hancock said.

The site of the new shelter is the home of Denver’s annual stock show and rodeo, which has been used for temporary housing in the past, including for National Guard members working at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

The city is also hoping to open another shelter for up to 300 women at the Denver Coliseum.

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.

In other news:

— The city of Brighton apologized Tuesday to a man who said police handcuffed him and detained him for about 10 minutes at a park where he had been playing tee-ball with his wife and 6-year-old daughter. He was accused of violating social distancing guidelines. Matt Mooney, 33, told KDVR-TV that he refused to provide identification to the officers because he was not breaking any law. In its public apology, the small city near Denver said officers were called to disperse a group of about 12 people playing softball in the park, which officers wrongly believed had been closed, because of the state’s ban on group gatherings. The city said it is sorting through different accounts of what happened at the park but said it is “evident that there was an overreach” in how Mooney was treated.