COVID-19 definitely didn't take the weekend off in Colorado. The federal government officially granted the state major disaster status; some of the most popular bus services to mountain towns, which have been particularly hard hit by the virus, were suspended; and Governor Jared Polis implied strongly during a March 29 appearance on CNN that his stay-at-home order is likely to be extended despite President Donald Trump's "beautiful vision" of an Easter return to near-normal — one even Trump subsequently stopped promoting.
Meanwhile, the latest COVID-19 statistics from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment report that the death toll in the state is just shy of fifty, nearly doubling over the past three days.
The major disaster designation was announced on the evening of Saturday, March 28. Polis had requested it in a letter sent to the feds on March 25, and its need was seconded the next day in a missive signed by a bipartisan group of Colorado's elected representatives. Polis, who had already noted that the state is among those with the highest presence of the novel coronavirus per capita, explained the importance of this development in a statement:
"Colorado is now eligible to receive additional federal resources to help address the global epidemic impacting our state, the nation and the world," Polis said. "This declaration ensures that Colorado can be on a level playing field with other states that already have this status, like New York and Washington, when it comes to federal disaster funding and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance."
He added: "Now more than ever, it’s important that Coloradans stay home whenever possible. I thank the members of Colorado’s federal delegation who advocated for this funding to recognize the seriousness of this public-health crisis unfolding hour by hour in our state. We are forging new and innovating partnerships daily with the federal government and the private sector to minimize the health threat and the economic threat of the virus."
During a press conference on March 27, Polis had criticized the recent throngs of folks heading to popular mountain areas, characterizing such trips as "really dumb." To make these visits more difficult, the Colorado Department of Transportation announced on March 28 that it was suspending Bustang and Outrider bus service effective the next day and continuing through at least April 11 — the current end date for Polis's stay-at-home order.
"We must do everything we can right now to limit the spread of COVID-19,” CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew stated. "Minimizing travel between communities is one important piece of our fight against this virus, and so we are suspending our intercity bus service. Please stay at home whenever possible and comply with the governor’s stay-at-home order in full."
Colorado's mountain communities were specifically referenced during Polis's CNN interviews. Wolf Blitzer asked him about the situation in Aspen, which the broadcaster said was one of the places he most enjoyed visiting in "your beautiful state." Polis replied that while infection rates in Pitkin County, which includes Aspen, weren't quite as high as those in Eagle County, home of Vail (another favorite Blitzer spot), they remained worrisome there and in Summit County as well. That made sense, the governor continued, because the ski areas in Colorado attract visitors from all over the world, including Europe, where the impact of COVID-19 has been particularly brutal. As a result, newly infected people brought the virus to places such as metro Denver, where it is now spreading through the community.
Responding to Blitzer's question about the stay-at-home order, Polis mentioned that its April 11 expiration date is subject to daily evaluations of data, and he would let the science, and not Trump's Easter suggestion, determine whether it needs to be prolonged.
This weekend, meanwhile, Trump ordered social distancing to remain in place on a federal level until at least April 30, but he predicted "great things" by June 1.
The latest COVID-19 figures from the CDPHE, updated at 4 p.m. on March 29, resonate even more strongly when juxtaposed with those from March 26, as seen below.
March 26 cases (including positives and presumptive positives): 1,430
March 29 cases (including positives and presumptive positives): 2,307
March 26 hospitalizations: 184
March 29 hospitalizations: 326
March 26 total tests: 10,122
March 29 total tests: 14,470
March 26 deaths: 24
March 29 deaths: 47
Cases of COVID-19 have been reported in 46 of Colorado's 64 counties at this point, and it strikes individuals of all ages. As of the most recent stats, 1 percent of the cases involve children age nine and under, and 2.12 percent for those between ten and nineteen. The 20-29 demographic is the youngest for which hospitalizations have been required; nine of 334 people who tested positive required admission to a medical facility. The youngest people to have died in Colorado were two between the ages of 40 and 49, with three deaths in the 50-59 range, five deaths in the 60-69 span, fifteen deaths from 70 to 79, and 22 deaths of people age eighty and above.
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