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Update: The latest on COVID-19 in Colorado

Update: The latest on COVID-19 in Colorado

We’re wrapping up the daily Update as part of our transition away from a daily news site. For a good look at the latest numbers, please check out The Denver Post’s dashboard.

This story was originally published on March 5 and will be updated daily. For earlier updates during the month of April, visit this page. For updates from March, when COVID-19 began to first spread through Colorado, visit this page.

May 15, 3:05 p.m. update:

During a press conference at the state Capitol on Friday, Gov. Jared Polis sought to quell the notion that his health department might be inflating the number of COVID-19 deaths.

The Montezuma County Coroner George Deavers has told 9News that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment changed the cause of death on a May 4 certificate to COVID-19 when the man died of alcohol poisoning. The man had COVID-19, Deavers told 9News, but didn’t die from it.

Polis acknowledged the incident and at least one other incident where a death certificate was inaccurately changed to include a cause of death of COVID-19. Polis said no one behind a desk should be “second-guessing” the findings of a coroner.

“They need to report to the people of Colorado how many people died of COVID-19,” Polis said. “People are not very interested in, nor should they be, how many people died with COVID-19.”

On Thursday, state Rep. Mark Baisley, a Republican from Roxborough Park, requested an investigation and criminal charges against Jill Hunsaker Ryan, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, for allegedly falsifying death certificates to inflate COVID-19 deaths. Baisley brought the request to George Brauchler, the Republican district attorney for the 18th Judicial District.

Responding to a question about an inquiry to bring criminal charges against Hunsaker Ryan, Polis said criminal charges would be “completely inappropriate.”

Health officials hosted a call with reporters Friday afternoon to answer questions about the COVID-19 death data. As The Colorado Sun reported:“… officials with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment revealed during a call with reporters that that number does not represent the number of people who have died due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.The death figure CDPHE has been providing for weeks is more accurately described as the number of people with COVID-19 who have died — for any reason.”

Though data is still lagging, the clarification lowers the state’s official death toll from 1,150 as of Thursday to 878 as of May 9.

Separately, a parolee has been accused of murdering a 21-year-old woman last weekend after his early release from prison on April 15 as part of the Department of Corrections pandemic response. The man has been eligible for parole since 2017 was set for mandatory release in August.

Polis signed an executive order in March giving the Department of Corrections more power to release inmates earlier to intensive supervision and special needs parole. Polis responded to the allegations by saying, “Nobody should be released simply because of COVID-19. … No prisoner who is a danger to society should be released early in any situation and of course nobody on that parole board thought that this person was going to do what they allegedly did.”

“I’m glad they didn’t release him in 2017 when he first came up for parole,” he added.

There were about 200 homicides in Colorado last year, according to data from the Division of Criminal Justice.

Polis was asked whether he is still “pro-choice” on vaccinations, a position that has sabotaged efforts by Democratic lawmakers to boost vaccinations rates in Colorado by making it more difficult for parents to seek exemptions. He did not directly answer the question and instead said there will be too few COVID-19 vaccinations to meet demand at first.

“The limited supply will mean that we likely need to prioritize Coloradans who are most at risk for the limited number of vaccinations when they become available,” he said.

Polis asked Coloradans to observe a moment of silence at 7 p.m. Friday evening to mourn those who have died from COVID-19.

“Every person we’ve lost in this pandemic has a story and a community of loved ones mourning,” he said.

May 14, 4:30 p.m. update:

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through May 13 and does not reflect cases since then.

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results. According to CDPHE, “Labs and facilities who report results in the state’s Electronic Reporting System report all results (including negatives). A handful of smaller labs and facilities fax their results, and in those cases, only positive results are reported.”

As of May 13, 645 deaths have been linked to nursing homes or other senior care facilities.

May 14, 1:40 p.m. update:

More than 31,000 Coloradans filed for unemployment, including independent contractors, last week, a decrease of about 10,000 over the previous week.

Over the past two months more than 451,000 Coloradans have filed for unemployment, more than every claim filed between 2017 and 2019, which amounted to 322,000.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) is paying record levels of benefits — an average of $90-100 million a week, according to Cher Roybal Haavind, deputy director of CDLE. In February, before the outbreak of COVID-19, the department averaged $7 million in benefits paid a week, Roybal Haavind said.

CDLE expects the state’s unemployment trust fund, which pays out benefits, to hit zero in June or early July. But the department has never failed to pay out benefits, she said, and will borrow from the federal government when the fund runs dry. The state can also reinstate charges on businesses who lay off employees or charge businesses higher premiums that pay into the fund.

In other news, the Colorado Crisis Hotline received the most calls it has had in its history between February and April of 2020.

Robert Werthwein, director of the Office of Behavioral Health, said in a call with the press that most of the calls relate to heightened stress and anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The calls are also lasting 2-4 minutes longer than average — 11-13 minutes, he said. March 2020 had the most calls since the hotline began in 2012, with a total of 21,338 calls — 57% more than March 2019.

At Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Pediatric Mental Health Institute, telehealth calls have gone from 100 a week to 6,000, according to Jason Williams, director of operations for the institute. The hospital has shifted many of its appointments into the virtual sphere, Williams said, but the psychiatric inpatient unit has been full as well.

Gov. Jared Polis recently created the COVID-19 Special Assignment Committee within the Behavioral Health Task Force to assess the impact of the disease has had on behavioral health services.

If you or someone you know is experiencing heightened stress and anxiety, or another mental health problem that is interfering with life, you can reach the Colorado Crisis Hotline at 1-844-493-8255. Or you can text “TALK” to 38255.

May 14, 7:56 a.m. update:

In all, there are 817 positive or presumed positive cases of COVID-19 in Colorado’s jails, prisons and halfway houses, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The state has confirmed 443 positive cases in the Sterling prison, where the state says two inmates have died of COVID-19. Three other prisons, including the CoreCivic-run Crowley prison, have confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to the Department of Corrections.

There are now 183 cases in the downtown Denver jail, according to CDPHE.

May 13, 6:05 p.m. update:

More than 11% of Colorado renters were unable to pay rent for May on time, according to a survey from the Colorado Apartment Association.

The association surveyed 84 apartment management companies with a total of 137,719 apartment homes. That’s just a slice of the 2.05 million Coloradans that rent, according to the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project.

On-time payments went up more than 5% compared to April in Colorado, when about 16% of renters did not pay their landlords by April 6, according to the association. Nationally, May also saw more on-time payments — 20% of renters missed rent by May 6 compared to 22% by April 6, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council.

Rent collection for both months is about 1-2% lower than it was in 2019, according to CAA.

“It is normal for rent delinquency rates to be highest at the beginning of the month and decrease as more residents pay rent throughout the month,” Mark Williams, executive vice president of the Colorado Apartment Association, said in a statement. “During an average month, rent delinquency rates are between 5% and 6% after the first week, but decrease to 1% or 2% by the month’s conclusion.”

Ean Thomas Tafoya, co-chair of the Colorado Latino Forum, wrote in an email to The Colorado Independent that CAA doesn’t speak for all Coloradans.

“There are estimates that unemployment will reach over 20% and will most certainly be high for Black and Latinx communities,” Tafoya wrote. “The CAA narrative to the contrary does nothing more than delay a process desired by many when what is actually needed is for them to rise in solidarity with the people to cancel rent and mortgages and work to house those experiencing homelessness immediately.”

May 13, 5:22 p.m. update:

Gov. Jared Polis and Sen. Cory Gardner joined President Donald Trump at the White House on Wednesday for a meeting during which the president said mail-in voting, a much-lauded electoral process used in Colorado, is subject to “tremendous corruption” and “cheating.”

“I’m against it,” Trump said. “We’re not gonna lose elections because of that.”

Neither Polis nor Gardner said anything to the president in response. During a call with reporters afterward, Polis, who supports the policy, said he didn’t want to debate the president. “People shouldn’t need to fear a disease just to be able to vote,” he told reporters.

Trump also criticized the press for not reporting the number of COVID-19 tests distributed. During the meeting in a conference room, a prop was placed between Polis and the president stating the number of gloves, masks, face shields and gowns delivered to Colorado. “I said, ‘wait,’” Polis told reporters after the meeting. Polis said the fine print on the prop said the figures included deliveries from the federal government and public-private partnerships.

May 13, 4:40 p.m. update:

As of Wednesday, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) has completed 175 investigations into workers collecting unemployment who have refused to return to work because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The vast majority of the investigations — 166 — found that the workers do not have to return to work and can continue collecting unemployment benefits, according to Cher Roybal Haavind, deputy executive director of CDLE. Most of the time, Roybal Haavind said, the workers have been ruled to be vulnerable to COVID-19 or live with a vulnerable person, but CDLE also investigates the conditions of the workplace and if the worker has children to care for.

“In the cases of vulnerable populations, there might be no conditions, at present, that would be safe for them to go back to work and assume that they would not be at higher risk for COVID-19,” Jeff Fitzgerald, director of CDLE’s unemployment division, said.

More than 465 workers have been reported for refusing to work by their employers since April 24, according to Roybal Haavind. Additionally, other workers have notified the department that they feel unsafe returning to work when collecting benefits, which CDLE officials estimate currently account for 20-30% of their total investigations.

Workers on unemployment can’t refuse going back to work if they are given the option to telework, even if they have to take care of children because of the pandemic, Fitzgerald said.

May 13, 4:20 p.m. update:

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through May 12 and does not reflect cases since then.

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

May 12, 4:10 p.m. update:

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through May 11 and does not reflect cases since then.

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

May 12, 3:15 p.m. update:

Colorado lawmakers and leaders of four other western states requested $1 trillion from federal officials in direct, flexible funds to prop up state and local governments facing revenue shortages because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Without additional flexible aid from the federal government, our state will be forced to make the deepest budget cuts we have ever seen,” Colorado House Speaker Rep. KC Becker, a Democrat from Boulder, said in a statement. “These cuts would hurt vulnerable populations and further impact our already underfunded schools and institutions of higher education, which still haven’t recovered from the last recession.”

In a letter to congressional leaders, lawmakers from member states of the Western States Pact, which includes Colorado, California, Oregon, Nevada and Washington, urged a congressional stimulus bill that would “preserve core government services.”

“Though even this amount will not replace the decline in revenue that we forecast, it will make a meaningful difference in our ability to make-up for COVID-19 revenue losses,” the letter said.

House Democrats unveiled a $3 trillion stimulus bill on Tuesday that includes $1 trillion for state and local governments. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said the legislation was a “liberal wish list” that doesn’t stand a chance of passing, according to reporting by The Washington Post.

May 12, 11:10 a.m update:

Attorney General Phil Weiser and 20 other attorneys general sent a letter to President Trump on Tuesday urging action to address the spread of COVID-19 in meatpacking plants.

More than 12,500 meatpacking workers nationwide have tested positive for the coronavirus and at least 53 have died, according to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. In Colorado, one of the largest outbreaks of COVID-19 occurred at the JBS meatpacking plant in Greeley, with at least 280 cases and 7 deaths. At least 101 other cases and one death are tied to meatpacking plants around the state.

“We need mandatory and enforceable health and safety measures to protect employees at meat and poultry processing facilities. As we have witnessed in Colorado, COVID-19 outbreaks at these facilities threaten to result in wider community spread and put more lives and our food supply at risk,” Weiser said in a statement released by his office.

President Trump issued an executive order on April 28 directing the Secretary of Agriculture under the Defense Production Act to ensure that meat processing plants remain operational using federal safety guidance.

Weiser and the attorneys general, in their letter, argued that the executive order benefits the meat processing industry at the expense of workers’ health and safety. The federal safety guidance should be strengthened and changed to mandatory safety requirements that facilities must follow to remain open, the attorneys general said.

“Without adequate and enforceable mandates to protect worker safety, your Executive Order may perpetuate this spread of illness and death,” the letter said.

The attorneys general recommend the requirements for meatpacking plants include:

May 11, 4:05 p.m. update:

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through May 10 and does not reflect cases since then.

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

May 11, 3:30 p.m. update:

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is suspending the license of the C&C Coffee and Kitchen in Castle Rock indefinitely after the restaurant opened on Mother’s Day in defiance of the governor’s public health orders, Gov. Jared Polis announced on Monday.

During a press conference with reporters at the state Capitol, Polis said he was disappointed after watching the videos of the packed restaurant online. He said he was thinking about all the moms and grandmothers whose lives were put at an increased risk of dying from the virus as a result. He choked up when he mentioned his mom, whom he said he did not take out to lunch on Mother’s Day. He said he loves her far too much to put her life at risk by visiting a busy restaurant operating illegally.

“We’re walking a tightrope between protecting all of our health and of course trying to grow our economy. It’s hard enough to walk without folks shaking the rope because of their own ideology or anti-scientific views which they choose over the lives of our brothers and sisters,” Polis said.

He added, “If the state didn’t act and more businesses followed suit, it’s a near guarantee that people would lose their lives.”

Polis also announced camping can resume in the state’s parks starting on Tuesday, unless county orders prohibit it. Camping can only be done through reservation, and Polis said campers should minimize their interactions with others.

“Fill up your automobile in your local area, get the supplies you need from stores in your local area — including food — and then yes you can go hike or you can go camp and return home,” Polis said.

He said he doesn’t want campers infecting local communities that have reduced infections or bringing the virus back to their homes from their trips.

Restaurants should expect a decision on whether they can gradually reopen by May 25, the governor said. May 25 is about one month after the safer-at-home order took effect, which is the amount of time needed for social distancing effectiveness to show up in the data, Polis said. The reason is that it can take up to two weeks for an infected person to be recorded in the state’s database because of the incubation period of the virus and testing logistics, Polis said. And he said he wants to see how the virus is spreading after two or three cycles of infection.

Polis said he expects to have the data to decide if summer camps can open on May 25, as well.

“Always subject to change and always subject to phase-ins,” Polis said of the timelines.

May 11, 1:45 p.m. update:

The Tri-County Health Department ordered the closure of C&C Breakfast & Korean Kitchen in Castle Rock on Monday afternoon. The restaurant opens Mother’s Day in defiance of the governor’s public health orders.

“If the restaurant refuses to follow Governor Jared Polis’ public health order, further legal action will be taken that could include revocation of the restaurant’s license,” the health department said in a statement.

May 10 5:10 p.m. update:

C&C Coffee and Kitchen in Castle Rock opened for business on Sunday in violation of Gov. Jared Polis’s executive orders designed to manage the spread of COVID-19.

In a video taken by Colorado Community Media’s Nick Puckett, the restaurant appears to be completely full, with a line stretching out of the door.

Happy Mother’s Day from C& C in Castle Rock, where the owner said this is almost double a normal Mother’s Day. pic.twitter.com/cPSzjmAfAg

— Nick Puckett (@nick__puckett) May 10, 2020

C&C owner April Arellano wrote on Facebook that “I will go out of business if I don’t do something.” House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, who has called on Douglas County to severe ties with the local health department over its COVID-19-related public health orders, posted a photo on Facebook of him posing with Arellano at the restaurant on Sunday.

Under the state’s safer-at-home orders, restaurants can’t offer dine-in service and Polis has said businesses that violate the orders face their licenses being revoked.

“These restaurants are not only breaking the law, they are endangering the lives of their staff, customers, and community,” said Polis’s deputy press secretary Shelby Wieman in a statement to The Denver Post.

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through May 9 and does not reflect cases since then.

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

May 10, 11:21 a.m. update:

Lawmakers have extended their recess until May 26 in order “to give additional time for preparations including safety protocols, to work through appropriate legislation, and to seek greater clarity on potential Congressional action that could significantly impact our state budget,” according to a news release from House and Senate Democrats.

The original plan was to return to the Capitol on May 18.

The Joint Budget Committee this week has been going through each state department’s budget and making cuts. The extra week will give budget writers more time to backfill a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall caused by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 response.

“Last week our Joint Budget Committee had to begin the heart-wrenching process of rewriting Colorado’s budget after COVID-19 created a more than $3 billion revenue shortfall,” said Senate President Leroy Garcia, a Democrat from Pueblo, in a statement. “With so much at risk and our desired return date fast approaching, we determined that it would benefit all Coloradans if we gave our budgetary and legislative process a bit more breathing room. Though facing our dire fiscal situation has been a painful task, we are committed to protecting our most critical institutions and vulnerable populations as best as we possibly can. We look forward to continuing to fight for our communities in the Capitol when we all return on May 26.”

May 9, 5:07 p.m. update:

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through May 8 and does not reflect cases since then.

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

May 8, 5:15 p.m. update:

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through May 7 and does not reflect cases since then.

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

May 8, 3:00 p.m. update:

Gov. Jared Polis answered questions from the media on Friday in a virtual press conference, following a request for Coloradans to wear masks whenever they are in public during the safer-at-home order.

Here are a few of the highlights.

Update: The latest on COVID-19 in Colorado

JBS, in conjunction with the state, originally planned to test every worker at the plant, but broke that promise and instead opted to shut down to disinfect. Polis said the state set up a testing site for workers and community members in Greeley less than a mile away from the plant. The site tested more than 1,000 people, he said. The plant employs 6,000 people.

“If the company is interested in more testing, we’d be happy to work with them to get the testing they need,” Polis said.

The governor, answering another question about JBS, added “if they need to be closed again, we are confident that we have the tools to be able to do that.”

May 8, 11:15 a.m. update:

Criminal justice advocates are calling on Gov. Jared Polis to help release thousands of inmates by ordering commutations and parole reforms. The goal is to allow for at least single-cell occupancy in the state’s prisons, according to a May 8 letter from ACLU Colorado and others.

“Colorado just abolished the death penalty. We cannot keep elderly and medically vulnerable Coloradans incarcerated in prisons that are likely to become their death traps,” the letter states.

Colorado’s prison population has dropped to the lowest level in decades. But the process for releasing inmates during the pandemic has been slow. And some with underlying health issues are not being considered for early release, advocates say.

The parole reforms include suspending a requirement that people have to have an approved parole plan prior to review by the parole board and to allow people who require victim notifications to be eligible for early release.

The letter also calls on the Polis administration to implement more widespread testing in the state’s prisons.

Another reason to release inmates, according to the letter, is the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people of color, who are overrepresented in the state’s prison system. Here’s a breakdown (inmate population (Colorado population)):

White: 45.8% (87%)Black: 17.5% (4.6%)Latino: 32% (21.7%)Native American: 3.5% (1.6%)

“In prison, as in the broader community, people of color will suffer the most from COVID-19. Black people account for less than 4% of Colorado’s population and yet, account for 7.6% of all COVID-19 cases and 7% of all deaths. Colorado’s Latinx population is similarly disproportionately impacted. Latinx people represent just over 21% of Colorado’s population, but account for 35% of COVID-19 cases. Because of historic and systemic racism in our criminal legal system and historic disinvestment in communities of color, Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people are dramatically overrepresented in prisons. Thus, infections, serious illness, and deaths among incarcerated people will inevitably fall most heavily upon incarcerated people of color, who are also disproportionately represented among vulnerable populations with diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, and other conditions with COVID-19 comorbidity,” the letter states.

May 7, 6:30 p.m. update

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through May 6 and does not reflect cases since then.

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

May 7 3:35 p.m. update:

Coloradans are experiencing a heightened level of stress, anxiety and emotional distress because of the pandemic, a phenomenon mental health care providers say they are trying to separate from clinical mental problems.

It’s normal to feel those heightened negative emotions right now, Brad Sjostrom, manager of West Pines Behavioral Health, said in a virtual town hall with mental health care providers and Democratic lawmakers on Thursday. No one has been through something like the pandemic, he said. Just because someone is anxious right now, doesn’t mean they will go on to develop a mental health condition, he said.

But, “if we feel overwhelmed to the point that we’re not functioning, it’s good to seek mental help,” Sjostrom said.

As a collective crisis, the pandemic requires people to lean on each other, Vincent Atchity, CEO of Mental Health Colorado, said. The more that everyone can form personal networks of friends and family to speak to, the more providers can be freed up to address serious mental health needs.

Mental health care providers have switched many services to telehealth, a transition that has been positive, Sjostrom said. The transition was made possible through executive orders from Gov. Jared Polis and relaxation of other federal and state telehealth regulations. Telehealth is not a catch-all, Sjostrom and other providers said, but it does allow providers to extend their reach.

“For those who want to do in-person treatment, it will be available at some point,” Sjostrom said.

For more on how telehealth has impacted substance abuse disorder treatment in Colorado, read our story here.

Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet of Aurora and Rep. Jonathan Singer of Boulder represented the Colorado House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee on the video call. Singer said the Colorado legislature recognizes the possible benefits of telehealth in treating mental health needs. Polis’s executive orders relaxing telehealth regulations will provide an “excellent template” when the legislature reconvenes on May 18, Singer said.

May 7, 1:00 p.m. update:

More than 41,000 more Coloradans filed for unemployment last week, the lowest weekly total in the past six weeks.

In all, more than 419,000 claims have been filed over the past six weeks, and more than 33 million unemployment claims have been filed nationally.

Colorado paid out more than $84 million in benefits last week. Compare that to the height of the great recession — between 2009 and 2010 — where an average of $19 million in benefits were paid out by the state weekly. Coloradans have also received more than $407 million from the federal government in $600 weekly payments on top of their regular benefits and the new benefits for independent contractors since April 20, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE).

CDLE broke down the industries with the most workers filing for unemployment. There is a two-week lag. Here is the most recent data from the week ending on April 18.

Top 5 industries with highest claims:

Accommodation and Food Services: 5,283

Retail Trade: 5,092

Healthcare and Social Service*: 3,775

Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services**: 1,907

Arts, Entertainment and Recreation: 1,819

*According to CDLE, most of the claims from workers in healthcare and social services come from daycares and physician and dentist offices.

**Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services include temporary help services, telemarketing centers and janitorial and landscaping services.

May 7, 11:55 p.m. update:

The state is planning to keep its two alternative care sites on standby into the fall in case there is a second wave of COVID-19 hospitalizations that exceeds hospital capacity, according to Kevin Klein, the director for the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

“Our target is to have them ready to go if we need them,” Klein told reporters on Thursday. “We’re planning for the worst, hoping for the best.”

He said the state plans to have a 200-bed alternative care site at The Ranch in Loveland ready by June 11 and the 250-bed site at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver ready by June 4. The Denver site was initially planned to have 2,000 beds.

These dates could be pushed out again.

“What we don’t want to do is put any additional costs in by staffing those facilities. We will keep looking at what the data tell us and what our hospital capacity is,” Klein said.

The other alternative sites — St. Anthony’s North 84th Avenue Facility in Westminster, St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo and Western Slope Memory Care in Grand Junction — should all be ready in late June or early July, according to health officials.

Klein said state models predict there may be a second wave of COVID-19 cases peaking in the fall.

May 6, 4:35 p.m. update

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through May 5 and does not reflect cases since then.

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

May 6, 12:40 p.m. update:

At least 8 meatpacking plant workers have died of COVID-19 in Colorado, the Department of Public Health and Environment confirmed Wednesday.

At the JBS beef plant in Greeley at least 280 workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19, state data show, making it the state’s largest confirmed COVID-19 outbreak location. On Wednesday, the state confirmed the seventh death at the plant related to the disease. At least 60 workers at the Cargill Meat Solutions plant in Fort Morgan have also tested positive for COVID-19. One of those workers has died, according to state health officials.

May 5, 4:50 p.m. update:

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through May 4 and does not reflect cases since then.

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

May 5, 3:00 p.m. update:

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and officials confirmed that the city’s businesses will be able to operate under largely the same guidelines as the statewide safer-at-home orders starting Saturday.

“We are in a good place to take the next step,” Bob McDonald, executive director of Denver’s public health department, said at a press conference.

Retail and commercial businesses will be able to open at 50% customer and employee capacity, Hancock said. At salons, tattoo parlors and barbers, business must be conducted by appointment only and with a capacity of 50% or fewer than 10 customers, whichever amount is less.

Playgrounds, recreation centers and basketball courts will still be closed, along with dine-in service at restaurants and bars. Hancock said the city can’t offer a timeframe when bars and restaurants can start to open up.

McDonald acknowledged that the city is still seeing new infections of the coronavirus, but more importantly, he noted, the hospitalization rate is currently as low as it was at the beginning of the outbreak.

Denver is training 45 contact tracers to track the spread of infections, which will help the city start to gradually open. The city also launched a mobile testing unit on Tuesday, and is planning on launching six more, McDonald said. The mobile tests will be free.

Denver’s mandatory mask requirement starts on Wednesday, which officials say will be enforced. The city is asking area businesses to help enforce the order, but asks that businesses don’t get into confrontations with customers, according to Kristin Bronson, Denver city attorney.

May 4, 4:45 p.m. update:

On Sunday, protesters formed caravans in the neighborhoods around the homes of John Fabbricatore, acting field director for the ICE Denver office, and Johnny Choate, warden of the GEO Group-run ICE detention center in Aurora.

The protesters demanded that ICE free all of the detainees at the Aurora facility. As of April 24, five workers at the facility tested positive for the coronavirus and no detainees have tested positive. ICE released eight medically vulnerable detainees on April 15.

Some of the exchanges on Sunday were recorded and shared to the Abolish ICE Facebook page here. The page’s administrators accused counterprotesters of stealing signs, damaging their vehicles and assaulting activists during the protest.

This is the second time in less than a year anti-ICE activists have protested in front of Choate’s home. On Sept. 19, 2019, activists, police and counter-protesters clashed outside of the warden’s home resulting in three arrests.

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through May 3 and does not reflect cases since then.

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

***The total amount of outbreaks reported is less than the number reported on April 29. CDPHE’s website doesn’t provide a reason for the drop.

May 4, 2:45 p.m. update:

Some businesses on Monday can begin reopening with a 50% in-person workforce. And on Friday, counties across the state will be lifting stay-at-home orders. As a result, many Coloradans will be able to return to work. But what about those who fear for their health going to work?

A reporter asked Gov. Jared Polis about this on Monday during a press briefing at the state Capitol. He replied, “Nobody can be compelled to go to work. That’s a very important statement to make.” He added that there are benefits under the federal CARES Act available to workers who are unemployed.

Colorado is an “employment-at-will” state, meaning employers can fire employees without reason or notice.

Separately, the governor announced a state map of testing locations. Here’s a link.

May 4 10:30 a.m. update:

Democratic lawmakers have abandoned their effort to set up a new health insurance plan known as the “Colorado Option,” similar to public option plans that are tightly regulated by the government, in part due to the complications of getting public input during the pandemic.

“This is simply not possible right now. A successful Colorado Option needs the input of our frontline workers & right now they need to focus on taking care of patients & themselves. I know this is the right policy to address the rising cost of care & lack of insurance choice,” tweeted Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Democrat from Vail who was sponsoring the bill.

Lawmakers will be in a pinch when they reconvene on May 18, struggling to find money in a state budget crippled by the economic fallout of the pandemic at a time when they say government assistance is needed most. Over the past five weeks, more than 358,489 Coloradans have filed for unemployment, according to the Department of Labor and Employment. Rep. Dillon Roberts, who was also sponsoring the bill, tweeted Monday, “A pandemic that causes thousands to lose employer-based health coverage clearly illustrates the need for a Colorado Option.”

Lawmakers last week also dropped a bill to set up a paid family and medical leave program in Colorado. This year marks the sixth attempt at passing such a program.

The Joint Budget Committee is meeting today to begin working on the state budget, which faces a multi-billion shortfall due to a drop in revenue from personal income and sales taxes. Five of the six JBC members were wearing face masks while meeting except for Rep. Kim Ransom, a Republican from Littleton.

May 3, 5:20 p.m. update:

On April 30, after traveling to work in New York City during to COVID-19 pandemic on the medical emergency front lines, Aurora paramedic Paul Cary died at the age of 66. He was flown to the Denver International Airport on Sunday and escorted to the Olinger Hampden Funeral Home & Cemetery.

Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement, “Paul Cary served his community, and his country, heroically, and I am incredibly saddened by his passing. During a time of great need, he selflessly volunteered to travel thousands of miles from his home to help others. He risked his own health and safety, and stepped up to do what he could. This is a difficult time for so many Coloradans, and so many Americans. I can never express just how grateful I am for people like Paul, and all our emergency responders who are on the front lines of this virus. Paul dedicated his life to the service of others, and he will be greatly missed.”

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through May 2 and does not reflect cases since then.

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

***The total amount of outbreaks reported is less than the number reported on April 29. CDPHE’s website doesn’t provide a reason for the drop.

May 2, 6:15 p.m. update:

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through May 1 and does not reflect cases since then.

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

***The total amount of outbreaks reported is less than the number reported on April 29. CDPHE’s website doesn’t provide a reason for the drop.

May 1, 9 p.m. update:

An 86-year-old male prison inmate died at the Sterling Regional Medical Center on Friday after experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, the Department of Corrections (DOC) said. DOC said he was tested for COVID-19 while at the hospital and the official cause of death will come from the coroner’s office.

DOC said the inmate had been housed on the east side of the Sterling Correctional Facility, a prison where 241 inmates and 11 employees have had lab-confirmed COVID-19.

DOC said it will not be releasing his name at this time.

May 1, 5:20 p.m. update:

The City and County of Denver will be issuing an order requiring residents to wear face coverings on May 6, according to city officials.

Denver residents must wear a face covering when they are in or in-line at a retail or critical business, receiving any healthcare services or using public transportation. Workers in retail, commercial or other critical businesses must also wear a mask if their work requires them to come in contact with people or food. The order includes rideshare, taxi and other transportation drivers who must also wear masks when driving.

A face covering is not required if it would harm a person’s health or if a worker is in a private office. The coverings can be made of any type of porous material that covers the nose and mouth, as long as they don’t have one-way plastic valves. According to the Denver’s public health department, plastic valves allow droplets to be released into the air from breathing.

Violators could face a fine of up to $999 under the May 6 order, which will continue “until further notice.”

For more clarification, state officials say Gov. Jared Polis’ decision to cut Colorado’s Medicaid program by $183 million on Thursday was offset by earlier federal funding.

Portions of the federal coronavirus stimulus bills gave the Colorado Medicaid program $182 million to offset new enrollment costs to the program, according to Kim Bimestefer, executive director of the Colorado Department of Healthcare Policy and Financing (HCPF), which oversees the state’s Medicaid program. There won’t be any changes to benefits or services until the next budget year, Bimestefer said, because the state won’t need to pay for the costs from new enrollment until the new budget year starts in July.

HCPF estimates that Medicaid will see more than 437,000 new enrollees to the state’s public health insurance programs because of COVID-19, and projects the federal government will add another $100 million in funding next year for the department, Bimestefer said.

The state government’s budget will have an estimated $3.2 billion shortfall next year, and the department doesn’t yet have accurate projections on the cost of those new enrollees.

To cover any possible funding shortfalls, Bimestefer said HCPF has set up a plan to prioritize cuts next year, starting with those with the least impact on low-income enrollees.HCPF will also be pushing for more telehealth options in the future to cut costs, she said.

May 1, 4:05 p.m. update:

Here are some of the latest numbers on COVID-19 in Colorado from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. According to CDPHE, this summary only includes data through April 29 and does not reflect cases since then.

*According to CDPHE: “Positive cases include people who tested positive, as well as cases where epidemiological investigation has determined that there is a high likelihood that an untested individual has COVID-19 due to their symptoms and close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.”

**The total number of people tested may not include all negative results.

***The total amount of outbreaks reported is less than the number from April 29. CDPHE’s website doesn’t provide a reason for the drop.

May 1, 9 a.m. update:

Gov. Jared Polis joined most states across the U.S. in placing a moratorium on evictions for renters late Thursday night.

The order says no person “shall remove or exclude a tenant from a premises or enter a premises to remove or exclude personal property of a tenant from the premises” or “execute or enforce a writ of restitution, possession judgment, or order.” This means sheriffs will not be allowed to serve a court-ordered evictions.

Landlords are also prohibited from charging late fees or penalties for any breach of the terms of a lease or rental agreement due to nonpayment, the order states.

The order expires in 30 days.

The executive order came as part of a series issued at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday. In one order, Polis immediately suspended state spending for the remainder of the fiscal year, cutting $229 million from this year’s budget. The order did not mandate any furloughs or layoffs, according to the Office of State Planning and Budgeting. The majority of the cuts — $183 million — come from Medicaid services.

Another order directs the executive director of the Health Care Policy and Financing Department to increase payments to nursing facilities and other provider-owned residential settings. Deaths at nursing homes and long-term care facilities account for about half of the COVID-19 deaths in Colorado.

Yet another order allows Colorado’s health care providers to widely use telehealth services for another month, including phone and video calls. The state originally relaxed regulations to allow telehealth to be billed to Medicaid and private insurance in most situations.

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