Colorado Gov. Jared Polis declares state of emergency over coronavirus
Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency Tuesday as Colorado gears up to fight the growing outbreak in this country of the new coronavirus that already has caused havoc around the globe.
The governor also announced three new cases in Colorado, in Eagle, Arapahoe and Gunnison counties.
A third case of coronavirus in Eagle County has been confirmed Tuesday as the number of cases in Colorado reached at least 15.
The patient is an Eagle County man in his 30s and an investigation is underway. The case is presumptive positive, which means test results haven’t yet been confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Polis said he directed the state to pursue financial measures to help employees in the health, food and nursing home industries, as well as state workers, to stay home if they get sick — rather than expose others to the virus because they’re worried about losing their jobs.
In addition, Polis said he’s seeking more testing capacity to rapidly identify and isolate cases of the virus. Private diagnostics firm LabCorp is now performing coronavirus tests that will complement state and federal testing, he said.
“Our top priority is protecting public health and our vulnerable populations which is why we are taking swift bold action,” Polis said. “Our administration’s response will be guided by the science and lessons learned from the countries and states that this virus arrived in first. We will continue to be proactive and working around the clock to protect public health and safety with an eye towards preventing the need for more drastic measures that result in social disruption.”
The state is also opening a drive-through testing clinic in east Denver on Wednesday, and more locations are coming. Users need a doctor’s order, Polis said.
The emergency declaration “does not mean Colorado isn’t open for business. We are,” Polis said.
About the local cases
The three presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Eagle County are:
- A female visitor to the county in her 50s. Health officials say she was exposed during international travel. “The patient was not hospitalized and is recovering in isolation. The patient is working with public health officials in the ongoing investigation to identify people that may have had close exposure,” Eagle County health officials said in a news release.
- A female county resident in her 70s who has no known contact with an infected person, but does have a recent history of travel in U.S. “The patient had mild symptoms, was not hospitalized and is recovering in isolation. The patient is working with public health officials in the ongoing investigation to identify people that may have had close contact with her,” Eagle County health officials said in a news release.
- A male in his 30s. The patient’s primary residence is unknown, as well as his travel history and when the infection was detected.
To ensure local resources are able to focus their time and attention on current and future case investigations, all additional cases in Eagle County will be reported through the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment website. Local officials will continue to share important community safety information at http://www.ECEmergency.org.
Those with questions about COVID-19 can call the CO HELP Hotline at 1-877-462-2911.
Polis said he’s spoken with Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to stress the need for “exponentially” greater testing in Colorado.
The governor directed the state Department of Labor and Employment to explore paid sick leave, unemployment insurance or wage replacement for those in the affected industries. He also asked the business community to voluntarily offer sick leave to limit the spread of the virus and avoid significant economic disruptions.
State employees in quarantine or isolation can work from home and, if ill, use paid sick leave, Polis said.
He also directed the Department of Revenue to allow drivers 65 and older — part of populations most at risk — to renew their licenses online rather than in person at Department of Motor Vehicle Offices. Seniors usually must renew their licenses in person to have their eyesight tested.
Officials say a person in suburban Douglas County visited a DMV office last week before testing positive. The county says the risk of infection for clients at the office and for workers there is low.
Guidance for schools and nursing homes is forthcoming, Polis said.
On Monday, Polis said Colorado will require health insurers it regulates to fully cover testing, under certain conditions, for the coronavirus.
The Associated Press contributed reporting from Denver.
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