In the latest indication of how COVID-19 has changed life in Colorado as we knew it, Governor Jared Polis has extended restaurant and bar closings through the end of April, except for delivery and take-out service. He's also included hair and nail salons, as well as tattoo and massage parlors, in a shutdown edict that previously impacted facilities such as gyms, and called for a hiatus on all surgeries considered elective or non-essential.
"As a state, we are looking at all possible solutions to ensure we are protecting the health and safety of Coloradans and minimizing the duration of the crisis," Polis said in announcing the new closures. "This is a coordinated effort with all state agencies and community partners to utilize every resource available during this difficult time to reduce the severity and duration of the crisis. Together, we will get through this."
The surgery mandate, put in place in order "to preserve important medical equipment, like personal protective equipment and ventilators, needed to combat COVID-19," according to the governor's office, will be in effect from March 23 to April 14. Rural hospitals and facilities designated as "critical access" are excepted. Procedures include all voluntary or elective surgeries (ones able to be delayed "without risk to the current or future health of the patient"), be they medical, dental or veterinary.
Polis's original order closing bars, restaurants, theaters, gymnasiums and casinos was issued on March 16. It's now been extended through April 30 and includes a slew of additional businesses.
The language of the document defines the previously impacted enterprises — restaurants, bars, brewpubs, casinos, cigar-tobacco bars, distillery pubs, gymnasiums — and adds horse tracks, off-track betting parlors and purveyors of so-called "nonessential personal services," defined as "services and products that are not necessary to maintain an individual's health or safety, or the sanitation or essential operation of a business or residence. Nonessential personal services include, but are not limited to hair or nail salons, spas, or tattoo or massage parlors."
The restrictions don't apply to the following:
1. Places of public accommodation that offer food and beverage not for on-premises consumption, including grocery stores, markets, convenience stores, pharmacies, drug stores, and food pantries, other than those portions of the place of public accommodation subject to [other] requirements;
2. Room service in hotels;
3. Health care facilities, residential care facilities, congregate care facilities, and juvenile justice facilities;
4. Crisis shelters or similar institutions;
5. Airport concessionaires;
6. Institutions of higher education offering dining hall services located in or adjacent to campus dormitories that are accessed through student, staff, faculty, or campus associated identification, as well as grab and go food services within these institutions, while exercising social distancing measures of at least six feet between individuals;
7. Fitness centers and nonessential personal services included in residential facilities, such as hotels, apartment or condominium complexes or similar housing arrangements, that are limited to use only by hotel guests or residents of the housing who are following social distancing requirements of at least 6 feet between individuals, and the hotel or property managers are performing frequent environmental cleaning; and
8. Any emergency facilities necessary for the response to these events.
Note that there's no reference to restricting operations at liquor stores or marijuana dispensaries.
A key clause follows a reference to the order's April 30 expiration: "unless otherwise extended in writing by the Executive Director." Failure to comply with the order makes individuals subject to penalties, including "a fine of up to One Thousand dollars and imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year."
In other actions, Polis updated an executive order related to in-person activities "regarding elections and operations in the Secretary of State’s Office," as outlined in the following excerpts:
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I hereby direct that the Secretary of State may suspend any requirement for in-person filings of forms, statements, applications or any other documents with the Secretary of State’s office as set forth in [Colorado statutes], and direct the Secretary of State to promulgate and issue emergency rules as needed to accept filings by electronic delivery, postal mail, facsimile or by any other means in a manner and form as determined by the Secretary of State.
I hereby direct that the Secretary of State may suspend the issuance of certificates or apostilles to the Secretary of State that attest to the authenticity of a notarial act performed by a commissioned notary public...and direct the Secretary of State to promulgate and issue emergency rules as needed to accept filings by electronic delivery, postal mail, facsimile or by any other means in a manner and form as determined by the Secretary of State.
I hereby suspend requirements...that specify the time, place, or manner that the Title Board must conduct its business, and direct the Secretary of State to issue guidance outlining the time, place, and manner in which Title Board hearings will be conducted, and direct the Secretary of State to promulgate and issue emergency rules as needed concerning the process and timing for the Secretary of State’s delivery of the title.I
I hereby suspend the requirement...that representatives from the county clerks’ offices or other designated election official physically deliver and return ballots to group residential facilities and direct county clerks and designated election officials to register voters and deliver ballots to group residential facilities by mail, electronic delivery, or by other means that do not require physical entry to the facility. I further direct the Secretary of State to promulgate and issue emergency rules as needed to accomplish this directive.J
I hereby suspend any requirement that a county canvass board meet in person to conduct its duties...and direct county clerks or designated election officials to convene a meeting of the canvass board and conduct the duties of the canvass board remotely using any technology available. I further direct the Secretary of State to promulgate and issue emergency rules as needed to accomplish this directive.
Meanwhile, the Division of Insurance and Connect for Health Colorado announced an emergency regulation establishing a special enrollment period for uninsured Coloradans who want to get covered; it runs through April 3, and coverage will begin on the first of the month no matter when an individual enrolls within that window.
A statement from Connect for Health Colorado CEO Kevin Patterson reads: "We're ready to do our part to help protect the health and well-being of as many Coloradans as possible. It is our mission to increase access to health insurance, and I am pleased we can make it easier for people to get the coverage they need at this critical time. I encourage all uninsured Coloradans, especially those who are newly uninsured, to enroll now by reaching out to Connect for Health Colorado."
As of 4 p.m. March 19, the Colorado Department of Public Health was reporting 277 positive tests for COVID-19 among 2,952 individuals analyzed. Of those, 38 were hospitalized, and four people have died from the virus, including an elderly resident of Crowley County whose passing was confirmed yesterday.