Polis extends stay-home order until April 26, implores Coloradans to avoid travel

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AURORA | Gov. Jared Polis on Monday night asked Coloradans to stay holed up a while longer by extending the state’s stay-at-home order until April 26.

In a televised address broadcast to the entire state, Polis implored residents to avoid non-essential travel for three more weeks in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19.

“Staying at home is our best chance – our only realistic chance – to avoid a catastrophic loss of life,” Polis said.

Colorado’s initial stay-at-home order took effect 6 a.m. March 26. It was originally set to expire April 11.

Polis’ announcement came hours after Denver Mayor Michael Hancock extended that city’s order until April 30. The federal government has also urged people to stay home until the end of the month.

Polis said the order could be curtailed if viral transmissions show improvement, or conversely extended if “the numbers of dead and dying continue to pile up.”

On Friday, Polis pre-empted federal guidelines by several hours, urging state residents to wear cloth masks covering their mouths and noses whenever they leave their homes.

Polis indicated data are showing promising trends in Colorado, with the number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in the state now doubling every six or seven days. At the end of last month, cases were doubling every 36 hours.

At least 150 people had died as a result of the virus as of April 6, according to the state health department. Officials have tallied more than 5,100 positive cases in the state, with 652 of those based in Arapahoe County, where the majority of Aurora residents reside. Only Denver County currently has more confirmed cases.

Earlier on Monday, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation released a more optimistic forecast for COVID-related deaths in Colorado, though several state health officials disagreed with the predictions.

“We are still at the beginning of the epidemic,” Dr. Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, said during a virtual news conference Monday.

She and other officials declined to predict a peak in cases, saying it could come mid-May or any time during the summer.

Meanwhile, state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy estimated Colorado has achieved a 45% social distancing compliance rate following the March 26 statewide stay-at-home order. The estimate is based on real-time data that includes information gleaned from traffic patterns and cellphone locations. The full effect of the order can’t yet be gauged, but she estimated 1,200 cases have been prevented.

At 60% social distancing, the need for intensive care unit beds will surpass what’s available in mid-May, she said, but enough ICU beds will be available if Colorado achieves a social distancing rate of 70% to 80%.

The governor lamented the economic hemorrhaging prompted by the sweeping orders, but  invoked patriotic duty before imploring Centennial State residents to stay put for a few more weeks.

“We need to keep up the good work for a while longer,” he said. ” … Right now we need to dig deep into our souls to muster the resolve, the courage, the fortitude to carry on.”

Monday statewide COVID-19 summary

5,172 cases
994 hospitalized
54 counties
26,875 people tested**
150 deaths
41 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities