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Polis COVID-19 Update: We May Be at Tipping Point for Spread in Denver

Governor Jared Polis provided a COVID-19 update during a March 11 press conference.
Governor Jared Polis provided a COVID-19 update during a March 11 press conference.
Westword file photo

During a press conference that got under way shortly after 5 p.m. on March 11, Governor Jared Polis provided an update about the impact of the COVID-19 virus in the state. And while he didn't ban large gatherings and events, as has happened in places such as Seattle, he made it clear that he expects the number of positive cases to rise in Colorado, partly because of the likelihood that the virus will begin to spread within the Denver community and beyond.

"At this point, we can confirm community spread in the high country of Colorado," Polis said. "We're still investigating and have not confirmed community spread in Denver, but we're treating it as if that's actually happening." He added that despite actions to slow the transmission of the virus, public-health officials have told him that "we are likely on the verge of a tipping point, where we will see more community spread."

Polis's comments hardly represented the only news related to COVID-19 today. The identification of sixteen new presumptive-positive diagnoses essentially doubled Colorado's previous total; it stands at 33 as of this writing, not counting an indeterminate case being treated in the same manner as the others. An employee at Denver International Airport (not an airline employee) was among those who have joined these ranks.

In the meantime, an unknown number of Denver firefighters are self-quarantining after responding to a call involving an individual in the presumptive positive group; Cory Elementary School was closed after a parent tested positive for the virus; University of Colorado campuses in Boulder and Denver announced that all classes will be taught remotely beginning next Monday, although the campuses will remain open; and the World Health Organization officially dubbed the outbreak a pandemic, likely spurring another Dow Jones Industrial Average loss of nearly 6 percent.

According to Polis, state officials have been preparing for the current scenario for months. "We continue to know what we knew before and what we'll know tomorrow — that this is going to get worse before it gets better," he maintained. He added that he may not hold daily press conferences about the virus, but he'll continue to emphasize transparency and trust, which he called "absolutely critical."

Earlier today, approximately 160 individuals were tested for COVID-19 at a drive-up center established at Lowry, and Polis looked forward to learning the results, since they will give experts a better sense about how aggressively the virus is moving through the population in the metro area. "It appears the virus will be disproportionately hitting our resort and mountain communities first," he confirmed. As a result, he advised resort communities to suggest that travelers over sixty or with chronic health issues "avoid unnecessary travel to high-country areas with outbreaks," in part because medical facilities in such places are already at significant stress levels.

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Guidance has also been provided to government offices, senior facilities and all schools throughout the state in terms of best practices, Polis said. The latter are directed to close for at least 72 hours if someone in the scholastic community tests positive so that crews can do deep cleaning and administrators can discuss possible further steps.

"There are more difficult days ahead," the governor warned, and while he understands that many of those whose lives may be disrupted will feel frustration, he added, "We need you to be part of working with us to do everything we can at the state level to respond to this virus and reduce the trajectory of its spread.... The most important person who can stop the spread of this virus is you. This is really a test of our Colorado character."

Here's a release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment about the most recent presumptive positive COVID-19 cases:

CDPHE confirms 6 additional new presumptive positive cases in Colorado

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) confirmed six new presumptive positive cases in Pitkin County, based on test results received this afternoon. That brings the total number of presumptive positive cases to 33, with one indeterminate case that public health is treating as a presumptive positive. The state lab has completed test results on approximately 300 people in Colorado since testing started on February 28.

All six individuals are part of a social circle of people who had contact with a woman who was visiting Aspen and returned home to Australia, where she tested positive for COVID-19 last week. All six of these new cases are Australians visiting Pitkin County.

Case 1:
Gender: Female
Age: 60s
County: Pitkin
Exposure: Contact with infected individual

Case 2:
Gender: Male
Age: 60s
County: Pitkin
Exposure: Contact with infected individual

Case 3:
Gender: Male
Age: 60s
County: Pitkin
Exposure: Contact with infected individual

Case 4:
Gender: Male
Age: 60s
County: Pitkin
Exposure: Contact with infected individual

Case 5:
Gender: Male
Age: 70s
County: Pitkin
Exposure: Contact with infected individual

Case 6:
Gender: Male
Age: 60s
County: Pitkin
Exposure: Contact with infected individual

To ensure expedience on reporting presumptive positive cases, the state will provide overall testing statistics as soon as we are able on the website

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