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KUNC is here to keep you up-to-date on the news about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and answer your questions about Colorado's response to its spread in our state.

Archived Live Blog: Coronavirus In Colorado, Week Of March 23

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Most recent timestamps are at the top. For more information and answers to frequently asked questions, see our resources page here. For previous weeks' live blogs, click here.

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Sunday, 3/29/2020 at 11:22 am

Gov. Polis announced last night that Colorado’s request to declare Major Disaster Status was approved by President Trump.

The declaration frees up federal dollars and support for the state, local and tribal governments, and certain nonprofits, like food assistance and medical care programs.

“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,” Polis said.

In his original request, Polis asked the president for “unprecedented support for Colorado” to help make up for the equally “unprecedented” closures and cancellations across the state. He also noted particular concern about citizen’s behavioral health during this time.

The state now has one of the highest per-capita rates of COVID-19 cases with more than 2,000 confirmed.

Colorado joins nearly 20 other states with the declaration, including Louisiana, California and Texas. According to FEMA, those states have each received more than $31 million in assistance. The agency has yet to confirm dollar amounts for Colorado and several other Major Disaster states, including New York and Washington.

The last time Colorado received a Major Disaster Declaration was in 2015 for severe storms, tornadoes, flooding, landslides, and mudslides that affected 15 counties during a six week period. The state received $26 million in assistance.

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Saturday, 3/28/2020 at 6:31 p.m.

The state now has more than 2,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and likely many more unconfirmed.

New data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment out Saturday shows about 13% of confirmed cases have led to hospitalization. 

A total of 44 people have died since the beginning of the outbreak in Colorado, mostly in their 70s and 80s.

It's unclear how many have recovered. 

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Friday, 3/27/2020 at 2:20 p.m.

Colorado State University is heading up statewide testing of uncertified personal protective equipment, or PPEs.

Beginning with the N95 mask, the university will provide recommendations to the state’s COVID Innovation Response Team on the suitability of PPE items for large-scale production and distribution to healthcare workers. 

Priority will be on testing PPEs that either meet – or are close to meeting – existing federal requirements, as well as items that can be rapidly mass-produced.

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Friday, 3/27/2020 at 1:00 p.m.

The number of people applying for unemployment assistance in Colorado has jumped sharply due to impacts of COVID-19 on businesses.

More than 45,000 people filed claims with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment since Monday – more than double last week’s applications.

The office hired 90 new staff members just to deal with the surge in cases amid the pandemic. It also implemented a last-name-driven filing schedule to stabilize its overwhelmed online system.

Residents going on unemployment receive about half of their average weekly wages from the past year. The federal government’s new stimulus package is also set to boost the size of unemployment checks starting as soon as next month.

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Thursday, 3/26/2020 at 12:06 p.m.

Governor Polis is calling for increased safety measures at grocery store chains in the state. He sent letters to the Presidents of Albertsons Companies, which owns Safeway, and The Kroger Co., which owns King Soopers and City Market. Polis encouraged the companies to provide protective covering for employees, establish designated time periods for higher-risk individuals to shop, and create entrance and exit controls to meet proper social distancing recommendations.

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Wednesday, 3/25/2020 at 4:40 p.m.

Gov. Jared Polis issued a statewide "stay at home" order as Colorado's number of positive COVID-19 cases surpassed 1,000 today.

The order is a temporary law that requires residents to stay at home starting March 26 at 6 a.m. The order means Coloradans must stay at home except to conduct "necessary business," such as getting groceries or medicine.

Polis said the step was necessary to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

"Many thousands are undiagnosed in our state," Polis said. "Staying home will reduce the spread of the virus and save lives."

The order will stay in effect at least through April 11.

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Wednesday, 3/25/2020 at 11:50 a.m.

Public transit agencies along the Front Range are scaling back their services amid the COVID-19 pandemic and decreasing ridership. Greeley-Evans Transit announced it will suspend all bus routes starting today. Officials said the decision was made to protect the community and city staff. Riders can still call and request a ride through a hotline on the agencies' website.

The Regional Transportation District has also approved a plan to reduce service in the Denver metro area. The agency says ridership has fallen by 70% over the past two weeks. The new schedule starts next month and will mirror the agency's weekend service levels.

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Wednesday, 3/25/2020 at 11:40 a.m.

A Greeley-based plastics company has joined a statewide effort to fill the gaps in personal protective equipment, or PPE, for medical workers.

Genesis Plastics will start making face shields. The prototype has two parts - a halo worn around the forehead, and a thin piece of transparent plastic that covers the face.

The company can mass-produce the second part, but will partner with local 3D printing companies to manufacture the same amount of halos.

"We can produce from a manufacturing standpoint, when we're up and running, 5 to 6,000 face shields an hour," said Jake Comer, the company's head of sales.

Medical staff wear the shields to keep sick patients from coughing into their eyes, nose and mouth. The outbreak has led to severe shortages of medical equipment around the world. Colorado recently received about one day's worth of medical supplies from a national stockpile of personal protective equipment.

Read more reporting from KUNC's Luke Runyon on this story →

Tuesday, 3/24/2020 at 7:00 p.m.

Larimer County's public health department is holding a personal protective equipment (PPE) drive tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They are asking for people to donate unused supplies and equipment to multiple locations throughout the county to help health care workers and first responders.

What's needed:

  • Sterile and non-sterile gloves - latex-free preferred
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Bleach bottles or sprays 
  • Bleach wipes 
  • Isopropyl alcohol 
  • Eye protection and goggles 
  • Clear face shields
  • Masks - tie, earloop
  • Respirator masks - N95, N99, P100, all sizes; extra filters are also needed
  • PAPR respirators - 3M or MaxAir, unused; hoods, filters, batteries, chargers, tubes to go with these units are also needed
  • Disposable gowns
  • Shoe covers
  • Biohazard bags

Drop-off locations:

For more details, visit Larimer County's website here →

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Tuesday, 3/24/2020 at 5:30 p.m.

Colorado families can use their smartphones to find free food distribution sites while schools are closed due to the coronavirus.

No Kid Hungry recently launched a texting hotline to let parents and caregivers statewide know where to locate meals in their neighborhoods. They can text the word "Food" or "Comida" to 877-877 to find the nearest site.

More than 40% of Colorado kids receive free or reduced-price meals at school. The governor has closed all K-12 schools until at least April 17.

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Tuesday, 3/24/2020 at 3:45 p.m.

The Fort Collins Music eXperiment, or FoCoMX, has been postponed.

The annual music festival featuring more than 300 Colorado artists at 30 venues was originally scheduled for April. The new dates are September 4 and 5.

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Tuesday, 3/24/2020 at 12:05 p.m.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser called on all courts to postpone their criminal trials during the coronavirus pandemic. Weiser says holding a trial right now is too risky for jurors, witnesses and other staff who would be forced into a courtroom.

"I urge Colorado's courts to recognize that, with the need to protect all trial participants from the deadly COVID-19 virus, trials should be rescheduled, and the speedy trial deadline should be recalculated under both of these statutory exceptions," Weiser said.

While defendants in criminal cases have a right to speedy trials, Weiser said prosecutors and defense attorneys should agree to extend those deadlines because of the public health emergency. If they cannot, he said courts themselves should use their power to postpone them. The Colorado Supreme Court has already ordered a pause to jury trials for non-criminal cases.

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Tuesday, 3/24/2020 at 10:15 a.m.

Colorado State University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital has loaned one of its three long-term ventilators to Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins. Professor Tim Hackett says it's compatible with the hospital's existing stock.

"It is a human ventilator and it's one that's brand new. And if it can be there for somebody who's sick who for lack of a ventilator wouldn't survive, that's all the reason in the world to do it," Hacket said.

On Sunday, Gov. Polis said the state needs 7,000 ventilators to be prepared for the height of the COVID-19 outbreak. Hackett says 11 additional long-term ventilators are at veterinary hospitals around the state and could be used for humans. CSU also donated two cases of surgical masks to a hospital in Denver.

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Monday, 3/23/2020 at 6:50 p.m.

The city of Boulder has issued a stay-at-home order. Like Denver's, it is effective tomorrow at 5 p.m. and will remain in place until April 10. Boulder officials say the order may be extended as needed.

"Voluntary measures are not enough, and we must enact a stay at home order for everything but the most essential activities if we are to flatten the curve and stop the social spread of COVID-19," said Jane Brautigam, Boulder's city manager, in a statement.

Read the emergency order from the city of Boulder here →

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Monday, 3/23/2020 at 6:02 p.m.

Background checks for gun sales in Colorado are way up — 25,468 in the last week compared to 7,773 during the same time frame last year.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation says the average turnaround time is now four calendar days, which is approaching the limit of the federally mandated window of three business days. After three business days, a licensed dealer can choose to sell the firearm even if the background check hasn't cleared.

Read more reporting on the uptick in gun sales from Guns & America here →

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Monday, 3/23/2020 at 5:30 p.m.

Denver has updated its stay-at-home order after large lines formed at liquor stores around the city this afternoon:

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Monday, 3/23/2020 at 3:45 p.m.

Denver has issued a stay-at-home order effective Tuesday at 5 p.m. through April 10. Mayor Michael Hancock says essential trips to the grocery store and pharmacies are allowed, as is being outdoors if people are practicing good physical distancing.

Read the entire public health order from the city of Denver here →

"We're the densest area in the State, and right now we have the highest number of positive cases in the State," said Hancock. "Because of that, we need to take extra steps to secure the public health and safety of our community."

Similar orders were implemented last week in San Miguel County.

Gov. Jared Polis is supportive of these efforts, but on Sunday, stopped short of implementing a stay at home order for the state, saying they cannot be enforced.

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Monday, 3/23/2020 at 12:50 p.m.

The Weld Food Bank reports a sharp decline in both volunteers and food donations, while demand for services continues to climb. Development officer Stephanie Gausch says demand for services has climbed.

"It is somewhat of a perfect storm," said development officer Stephanie Gausch. "We are asking the community for our two top needs. Which are financial donations and then the volunteer hours."

Our Center Director Marc Cowell described a similar decline at its Longmont food bank.

"You know, you think about it, you get it; the shelves are empty, so one, the grocery stores don't have anything extra, and two, everyone sees the shelves are empty so they're not as quick to take stuff off of their shelves and bring it in," said Cowell.

At the Larimer Foodbank, demand remains steady, but volunteers and supplies are scarce.

All three facilities will remain open for as long as possible. But they have shifted to drive-through food distribution.

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Monday, 3/23/2020 at 12:30 p.m.

Fort Collins has suspended fares for all its public transit routes to help ease economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The suspension includes the MAX, the city's bus service. It also includes the FLEX regional route from Fort Collins to Loveland, Longmont and Boulder.

Routes are still running as normal, but the city is encouraging riders to keep at least six feet of distance from other passengers to avoid virus transmission.

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Click here for previous live blogs →

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