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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.

Latest Updates: Inflammatory Syndrome Linked To Coronavirus In Children

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KUNC's newsroom is here to keep you informed with the latest news and updates about the coronavirus in Colorado.

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

Last updated Wednesday, 5/20/2020 at 4:21 p.m.

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Inflammatory Syndrome Linked To Coronavirus In Children

State health officials are investigating three possible cases of a new illness in children that appears to be caused by the coronavirus.

Doctors at Children's Hospital Colorado say a fever and severe abdominal pain are the most common symptoms of multi-system inflammatory syndrome — and that it can appear weeks after a child is exposed to the virus. Gov. Jared Polis says the illness is rare, but the state is taking the risk seriously.

"The syndrome is seldom fatal. It often requires clinical intervention, and it can cause lasting heart damage as well," Polis said.

Polis does not expect the illness to affect plans to reopen schools in the fall. Citing privacy concerns, the state did not provide any details about the three cases of the syndrome it is investigating. Health officials did say parents should call a doctor if their child has red eyes, lips or rashes in addition to the other symptoms.

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State Attorney General Pushes To Legalize Banking For Marijuana Businesses

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser is calling on Congress to legalize banking for the marijuana industry amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to Congress, Weiser and 34 other state attorneys general requested lawmakers include relief for pot shops and growers in their next COVID-19 relief package. The cash-intensive businesses have struggled for years with limited access to professional banking services.

Weiser said the transition away from cash would also help law enforcement, workers and customers reduce potential exposure to the virus.

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20% Of Weld County Jail Inmates Are Medically Vulnerable

Around 20% of inmates in the Weld County Jail fall into the "medically vulnerable" category. That’s according to documents filed in U.S. District Court on Monday.

These 89 inmates are at a high risk of severe illness if they contract COVID-19. This information, filed in court documents on Monday, follows a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and an order from a federal judge. In response, Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams had hundreds of jail inmates screened, looking at age and health conditions like chronic lung disease and severe obesity.

Even with this information, Reams says having these inmates socially distance, as the court order suggests, would be difficult because jails aren't designed that way.

"Especially when they have to use common areas such as tables, bathrooms, sinks and water fountains. It's extraordinarily difficult in a jail," Reams said.

As for next steps, Reams says the jail is trying to give vulnerable inmates their own cell or group them with others in that category.

Since the coronavirus outbreak began, 12 inmates at the Weld County Jail have tested positive. State data shows that one has died. These cases are part of a much larger outbreak at correctional facilities in the state, where over 750 inmates have tested positive.

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Polis Announces Spending Plan For $1.6 Billion Federal Aid Package

Gov. Polis has announced how he plans to spend almost $1.6 billion in federal aid during the coronavirus pandemic.

Polis will send about $1 billion from the CARES Act to K-12 schools and colleges and universities. The money can cover new distance learning programs and other needs that have come up during the pandemic.

The spending plan also includes $275 million for local governments, some of which have had to lay off workers. Republican lawmakers are criticizing Polis for spending the money, saying the legislature should decide where it should go, not the governor.

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Polis Encouraging Cities To Open Up Outdoor Dining Options

Gov. Polis will let restaurants know next week when they can start to reopen. But he says there will still be limits on how many people can dine indoors during the coronavirus pandemic. So he's encouraging cities to allow restaurants to open new outdoor dining areas and serve alcohol in parking lots, streets and sidewalks.

"That's really the only way with the spacing we're going to have a thriving restaurant environment for the coming months," Polis said. "Thankfully Colorado has wonderful summer weather. Nine out of 10 days in summer is terrific for outdoor dining."

Polis says the state plans to waive any regulations it can to promote the creation of the new outdoor dining areas.

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Eighth JBS Employee Dies Of COVID-19

An eighth worker at the Greeley meatpacking facility JBS has died of complications from COVID-19. Tin Aye had worked at the plant for more than a decade, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which represents thousands of JBS workers.

316 employees there have tested positive for the coronavirus so far, making it one of the largest outbreaks in the state. The union continues to call for voluntary workplace safety guidance for the meatpacking industry be turned into enforceable rules.

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1,215 Coloradans Died With Coronavirus, But Only 878 Died Because Of It

Colorado reworked the way it reports Coronavirus deaths. The state hopes to clarify the difference between those who have died because of COVID-19 and those who died from other causes, but had the virus in their systems. 

The difference is primarily about what is the reported cause of death on the person’s death certificate. These determinations are made by a physician.

Until Friday, the state reported one death number that combined both categories. That number still is being used, which was at 1,215 as of Sunday afternoon.

But now, the data also show that only 878 of those deaths were reported as a direct result of the novel coronavirus. 

Colorado’s Department of Health and the Environment said including the number of people who died with (and not just because of) the virus is “required by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and is crucial for public health surveillance, as it provides more information about disease transmission and can help identify risk factors among all deaths across populations.”

“Every single death is tragic, regardless of the circumstances,” Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer at CDPHE, said in a press release Friday. “We know this virus can be deadly and can complicate other serious medical conditions and hasten death. As public health practitioners, we need to look at data that helps us understand disease transmission and protect people.”

Republican State Representative Mark Baisley alleged this week that CDPHE was “falsely inflating the number of deaths due to COVID-19,” in a letter to George Brauchler, Republican district attorney for the 18th Judicial District. He requested an investigation into the department’s Executive Director, Jill Hunsacker Ryan for falsifying death certificates.

Baisley cites an April 17 letter from a senior care center in Centennial, which alleged that CDPHE overruled it’s attending physicians’ listed cause of death for some of its residents to label them as COVID-19 deaths, according to 9News.

In its statement Friday, CDPHE said its COVID-19 death data was reported according to CDC guidelines and is separate from death certificates used in the state’s official death records. It also emphasized that the state does not “unilaterally” alter death records or question a physician’s diagnosis.

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