DENVER | Colorado Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency across the state on Tuesday as 17 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in multiple counties.
Two apparent contractions of the virus are in Arapahoe County. The latest being a 50-year-old man in serious condition.
“He has a recent history of travel in the U.S. and is currently in a hospital, in isolation with serious symptoms,” according to a statement by Tri-County Health spokesman Gary Sky.
“Our thoughts are with the patient and his family during this time,” said John M. Douglas, Jr., MD, Executive Director of Tri-County Health Department. “As per standard procedures, our disease control experts are making sure his contacts are identified and quarantined if exposure is thought to be substantial. We want to remind everyone that it’s important to stay home if you are sick, and stay at least six feet away from anyone who might be sick in order to prevent the spread of germs.”
Polis said more positive cases are expected throughout the state, especially as testing capacity becomes greater.
“We’re going to get through this together, but the actions we take in the next few days and weeks will really determine the trajectory of Coronavirus in Colorado,” Polis said at a news conference Tuesday.
Three cases were confirmed just before Polis made the declaration, one in Arapahoe County. Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman said on Facebook that the base commander at Buckley Air Force Base notified him that “the family of an airman is now being quarantined in their home after the wife was tested locally and is believed to have the coronavirus (presumptive) but they are still waiting confirmation from the Center for Disease Control.”
The family recently visited India for vacation. Because the family’s children stayed at the base’s daycare center, it has been closed and is “being scrubbed down,” according to Coffman.
The state has completed nearly 300 COVID-19 tests, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. 284 have returned negative for the virus.
Polis said making the declaration will give the state access to more resources and legal flexibility in preventing the spread of COVID-19. So far, there has been an increased effort to increase access to testing for anybody who might be exhibiting flu-like symptoms, since COVID-19 and the flu share similar symptoms like headache and coughing.
Polis and the state’s department of insurance has also directed health insurance companies to waive all fees and costs for testing and the state health department will create a drive-thru for COVID-19 testing.
“We don’t want red tape to get in the way of people getting tests or the treatment that they need,” Polis said. “That’s why I’m proud to announce that the department of public health and environment will be opening up a drive-up lab at our facility in Lowry to test anyone who has a note from their doctor stating that they need testing.”
Polis stressed the requirement of a doctor’s order to utilize the drive-thru lab, which will only be available at the Lowry facility.
That testing is set to begin Wednesday.
A CDPHE spokesperson told the Sentinel Monday the state isn’t having trouble acquiring the testing kits from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state health department had 900 kits in possession Monday and said it would receive 700 more today.
Local school districts say they are prepared for possible infections of Aurora youth.
Cherry Creek School District Superintendent Scott Siegfried said Monday night he’ll make possible school closure decisions based on the best available information.
So far, the more than 50,000-student school district has only culled out-of-state and international travel for sport and field trips. District staff will do their best to separate sick students and staff from school communities to reduce infections, and are also maintaining regular communication with Tri-County Health to monitor infections, staff said.
In the coming days Polis said the state will be issuing guidelines to schools and nursing homes on how best to protect communities from spread of the virus.
“It’s important for me to say that declaring a state of emergency does not mean that Colorado isn’t open for business or recreation or tourism. We are. Nor should this declaration cause more anxiety or panic. In fact, quite the opposite,” Polis said. “We hope that these actions provide reassurance that we are aware of the risk and taking every reasonable step that we can to contain the spread of the virus and protect our most vulnerable.”