COVID-19 Update: Good Signs Amid Fears of Denver Riots Spike

Four consecutive nights of rioting in downtown Denver following peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd have managed the seemingly impossible: They temporarily pushed Colorado's response to COVID-19 into the background. But the two stories are actually intertwined in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

Even as new data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reveals positive developments related to the pandemic, officials are concerned that the lack of social distancing and scattershot mask use by both non-violent demonstrators and vandals seemingly more interested in wreaking havoc than racial justice could reverse the progress being made against the novel coronavirus.

The CDPHE's latest report, updated at 4 p.m. on May 31, shows just one death of someone with COVID-19 on both May 28 and 29. However, the virus isn't listed as the cause of death in either passing — though it could have been a contributing factor.

Meanwhile, hospitalizations continue to decline. Here are the numbers of Coloradans with positive COVID-19 diagnoses who were being treated in a medical center from May 24 to May 31:
May 24: 409
May 25: 397
May 26: 367
May 27: 362
May 28: 335
May 29: 321
May 30: 308
May 31: 297
These totals don't include hospitalizations involving so-called PUIs — persons under investigation for COVID-19 infections. Those numbers have trended downward, but in a more jagged fashion:
May 24: 129
May 25: 163
May 26: 140
May 27: 122
May 28: 129
May 29: 101
May 30: 113
May 31: 117
Could the crowds that have congregated downtown to protest George Floyd's death and/or randomly break shit cause these numbers to climb again? A recent study of cell-phone data related to April's Operation Gridlock protest at the State Capitol — an event with even less social distancing and mask use — showed participants subsequently traveling across Colorado and even to neighboring states, to which they might have brought COVID-19. That's one reason that Mayor Michael Hancock has urged demonstrators to get tested for the novel coronavirus.

On May 28, meanwhile, Colorado Governor Jared Polis issued several executive orders related to COVID-19, including one limiting evictions, foreclosures and public-utility disconnections, and expediting the processing of unemployment insurance claims. And over the weekend, Polis released two more. The first extends the suspension of some filing requirements on taxable property, while the second allows food trucks to operate in rest areas.The order allowing to-go and delivery liquor sales at restaurants was also extended
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

Latest Stories