Coronavirus

Five New COVID Health Orders Coloradans Must Follow

Governor Jared Polis and Colorado lead epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy at a recent press conference.
Governor Jared Polis and Colorado lead epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy at a recent press conference. colorado.gov
During an October 28 press conference about the ongoing fight against COVID-19 in Colorado, Governor Jared Polis warned that new public health-related actions would likely be coming soon if the recent spike in case counts and hospitalizations connected to the disease didn't begin to drop, and drop quickly.

Any reduction didn't come fast enough, because on October 31, Polis announced two new executive orders, including one related to patient transfers intended to prevent certain health-care facilities from becoming overwhelmed. At the same time, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shared details about amendments, extensions or implementation related to three public-health orders — among them a near-ban on cosmetic surgery that's intended to free up beds for the growing number of people sick with the virus.

In the executive order pertaining to hospital transfers, Polis authorizes the CDPHE "to determine whether a hospital or freestanding emergency department is at, or reasonably anticipated to reach, capacity." At that point, the department is authorized to take the following actions:
• Direct the hospital or freestanding emergency department to cease admitting patients and direct any persons thereafter seeking treatment to another hospital or facility designated by CDPHE;
• Direct the transfer of patients from the hospital or freestanding emergency department to another hospital, skilled nursing facility, dormitory, alternative care facility, or other facility designated by CDPHE. CDPHE may direct the transfer of patients without first obtaining the patient’s written or informed consent to such a
transfer; and
• Direct a hospital, skilled nursing facility, or other facility to accept patients transferred from a hospital or freestanding emergency department pursuant to this Executive Order.
Polis also amended and extended his executive order pertaining to disaster recovery with this: "I hereby activate the disaster response and recovery aspects of applicable State, local, and interjurisdictional disaster emergency plans, which includes the crisis standards of care approved...on April 5, 2020, as amended."

To be clear, Polis hasn't put crisis standards of care back in place — but the order allows him to do so should he deem the action necessary.

"Furthermore," the order continues, "I authorize the employment and use of any forces to which such plans apply, and for use or distribution of any supplies, equipment, and materials, and facilities assembled, stockpiled, or arranged to be made available under the Act or other applicable law."

Polis also directed the Colorado Division of Insurance to "promulgate emergency regulations to reduce the administrative burdens associated with discharging, transferring and caring for patients by temporarily suspending those utilization review requirements necessary to protect insured patients" due to "severe staffing shortages facing hospitals related to COVID-19 and other emergency hospitalizations and an associated decrease in intensive care unit capacity."

The state health department's moves include an extension of Public Health Order 20-38. Among other things, the document states that "face coverings are required for unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated patients, residents and visitors, and medical grade face masks are required for unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated staff" in homeless shelters, prisons, jails, community corrections programs and facilities, and emergency medical and other healthcare settings. Schools are also ordered to "report all COVID-19 cases and outbreaks to public health, and work with their local public health agencies and CDPHE, as applicable, regarding COVID-19 case investigations, which includes following all quarantine, isolation, investigation and any other disease mitigation strategies deemed necessary by the public health agency."

Getting an upgrade as well is Public Health Order 21-01, which focuses on vaccinations. Here are four key items from it:
• Individuals seeking COVID-19 vaccines are not required to make an appointment and COVID-19 vaccine providers shall, as vaccine supply permits, allow walk up access to vaccines at all COVID-19 vaccination clinics.
•  COVID-19 vaccine providers shall, as vaccine supply permits, accept any individual seeking a second COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of whether the vaccine provider administered the first shot.
•  COVID-19 vaccine providers shall, as vaccine supply permits, accept any individual seeking an additional or booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of whether the vaccine provider administered the primary vaccine series.
• COVID-19 vaccine providers shall provide vaccine to any individual who self-attests that they meet the eligibility criteria for a COVID-19 vaccine, including any additional or booster COVID-19 dose, authorized by the FDA and recommended by the CDC.
Finally, Public Health Order 21-02 "aims to give hospitals greater capacity to serve Coloradans during the pandemic," the CDPHE stated. A key passage: "Effective immediately, all licensed hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers that are owned by hospitals, and outpatient surgery units and outpatient surgery centers...that perform medical voluntary or elective surgeries and procedures and are owned by hospitals...shall immediately cease the performance of cosmetic procedures which if delayed for up to six months will not cause harm to life, limb or function."

The barrage of edicts indicates how seriously Colorado officials take the worsening COVID-19 data in the state. Click to read the executive order about hospital transfers and the disaster recovery amendment, as well as the eighth amended public-health order 20-38, the vaccine-data-reporting order and the order concerning hospital capacity.
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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