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The latest around Colorado
- King Soopers confirms 1 employee in Colorado tested positive for coronavirus. The company didn't release the location of the store.
-Governor Jared Polis issued an executive order Saturday temporarily closing all Colorado ski resorts because of the spreading coronavirus. Read more here.
- With the number of coronavirus cases rising daily in Colorado, many of the state's ski resorts decided Saturday to close....Read more here.
-King Soopers stores will open later and close earlier starting Sunday. Read more here.
- The Pac-12 conference released a statement Saturday saying all conference and non-conference sports for the remainder of the academic year would be canceled, including conference championships.
"This decision follows both the Pac-12's earlier decision to suspend all sports until further notice, and the decision by the NCAA to cancel the Division I men's and women's 2020 NCAA basketball tournaments as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships," the statement said.
- The Pepsi Center, Paramount Theater, DICK's Sporting Goods Park and the 1STBANK Center will not host events for the next 30 days, Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE) announced Saturday.
"KSE’s goal and expectation is that all impacted events at the KSE venues will be rescheduled," the company said in a statement.
- Many Colorado Springs-area businesses scrambling and others reeling. Restaurants, hotels, manufacturers and the like are attempting to employ strategies they hope will allow them to conduct business as usual during the most unusual of times. More here.
- The Great Wolf Lodge in Colorado Springs announced Friday that the resort will be closed effective immediately until April 2. More here.
- The City of Colorado Springs' quarterly Americans with Disabilities Act forum scheduled for March 17 will be hosted via Webex teleconference in lieu of the public meeting at the City Administration Building, a city news release said Saturday.
Participants can join the meeting by calling 1-415-655-0003 and entering the access code 807 122 855.
- Colorado's first death from COVID-19 was an El Paso County woman in her 80s, the state health department said Friday. The woman had underlying health issues, a department statement said. A statement from UCHealth said the woman died Friday at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central. The hospital received confirmation that the woman tested positive for COVID-19 after she died, the statement said. More here.
- UCHealth opened a drive-up coronavirus sample collection site in Colorado Springs. The drive-thru at South Parkside Drive and Kidskare Point, one block east of Memorial Park, will test those with referral from a provider weekedays from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. More here.
- Colorado's cases increased to 77 and Gov. Jared Polis recommended cancellations of large gatherings of over 250 people. More here.
- Colorado issues order limiting visits to nursing homes, assisted-living facilities to protect elderly. More here.
- The city of Colorado Springs suspended some parks and recreation services Friday including all of its organized youth and adult recreation programs, activities at three community centers and programs at the Sertich Ice Center. The Deerfield Hills, Hillside and Meadows Park community centers will suspend all programming starting March 16, resuming March 30, including food distribution programs, according to a news release. Sertich Ice Center is suspending public programming starting from March 16 through April 6. The center will be closed for routine building maintenance from March 30 through April 5. Private reservations at the community centers and ice center will be honored during the closures. Event organizers can continue to hold events of less than 250 attendees at the City Auditorium at their discretion, according to a news release. Youth and adult programming is scheduled to resume April 6.
- The Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs has canceled all Masses at churches throughout the diocese, effective Saturday, Bishop Michael Sheridan announced Friday. Services will be suspended "until further notice, in order to prevent the further spread of coronavirus," he said in a letter. “In response to Governor Jared Polis’ directive that gatherings of more than 250 people should be avoided, I have decided that no Masses are to be celebrated beginning the weekend of March 14-15,” Sheridan said. “While I regret this drastic action, I believe it is necessary to protect the health and safety of all in our diocese.”
- Despite fears over COVID-19, the courts in El Paso and Teller counties are proceeding as usual with all scheduled matters, including jury trials, according to an announcement Friday by the 4th Judicial District. More here.
- Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers spoke with The Gazette afternoon in a wide-ranging interview on how the city is weathering coronavirus.
- Five employees of Arapahoe Basin ski area are in quarantine while one is scheduled to be tested for coronavirus Friday.
- Frontier Airlines said Friday that the company "significantly amplified our cleaning protocols and stepped up our 'heavy cleans' to highly sanitize our aircraft using sanitizer deemed by the EPA to be effective against coronavirus."
"Our main cabin air is a mix of fresh air drawn from outside and air that has been passed through an air filtration system that features HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters capable of capturing respiratory virus particles at more than 99.9% efficiency (similar to those used in hospital environments)."
- Pueblo school districts 60 and 70 will close Monday. Students and staff are currently expected to return on March 30.
- District 11 will provide one bagged meal per day for children 0-18 from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the following sites:
- Doherty High School
- Russell Middle School
- Mitchell High School
- Swigert Middle School
- The Roy J. Wasson Academic Campus
- North Middle School
- Mann Middle School
- Coronado High School
- West Elementary School
The district is "developing tools to help students guide their own learning with the content they are currently learning in their classes," the letter stated. "During this unexpected closure, our D11 students may reach out for guidance, help and even confirmation that they are on the right track with their work. Teachers are encouraged to provide assistance when able during what would normally be a school day, so long as it does not somehow create hardship."
- Eagle, Garfield and Pitkin counties issued a public health order in the wake of the spread of COVID-19 which will prohibit events involving 50 or more people.
- Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will not offer drive-up testing for the rest of Friday because of inclement weather.
"Cold temperatures can reduce the effectiveness of personal protective equipment that protect testing staff from being exposed to the virus and passing it on to others," CDPHE said in a statement.
- The Space Symposium — the world's largest space show — has been postponed. The gathering is the biggest convention and trade show held annually in Colorado Springs, drawing 14,000 participants from around the world to The Broadmoor. This year's symposium was set to begin March 30.
- The Air Force Academy will begin an "orderly dismissal" of a large segment of cadets, the school announced Friday. It made the "conservative" decision in order to protect the base's residents and and maximize the chances of graduating the senior class on time, according to a news release.
The deciding factors were recommendations from public health officials and the inability to "social distance" 4,000 cadets, the release added.
A source tells The Gazette that the school's plan is to send all lower three classes home on spring break a week early, cancel classes next week, and spread remaining cadets (seniors) out into single rooms in order to execute "social distancing." The Gazette has so far been unable to confirm this. An email to the academy with additional questions was not immediately responded to.
- The Colorado Springs Philharmonic has canceled its two Celtic Spirit performances for Friday and Saturday.
- Care and Share Foodbank for Southern Colorado is facing challenges on both the revenue and expense sides from the coronavirus outbreak. The Colorado Springs-based nonprofit has canceled its Recipe for Hope fundraiser that was scheduled for March 19 at The Broadmoor and was expected to draw 1,300 people and raise $500,000 in donations, said Care and Share CEO Lynne Telford.
At the same time, Care and Share is buying more food in anticipation more people will need help as a result of losing their jobs at businesses most hurt by the outbreak.
“This is our one big (fundraising) event and we will probably end up cancelling our Pueblo event on April 19 as well,” Telford said. “At the same time, we are expecting more need if people are being told to stay home. I think a lot of people will be hurting from that. We haven’t seen the increased need yet, but we have ordered more food so we are ready. We expect additional need because a lot of events are being canceled, so we expect to see the impact very soon. However, we can’t get all of the food we want because there is so much competition from other food banks. And what if our own staff get sick. We also need volunteers, and what if they get sick.”
The fundraiser generated about 6% of Care and Share’s revenue. Telford said the organization is sending out emails to those who had sent in RSVPs for the Recipe for Hope luncheon is hopes of recouping some of the donation losses from the cancellation.
- The state's drive-up testing site in Lowry will operate with limited capacity on Friday in order to minimize wait times and ensure the safety of lab and health care workers, according to a Thursday press release from the state health department. The lab will operate from noon-2 p.m. and only service the first 100-150 vehicles.
The department urged potentially symptomatic individuals to call or message their doctor for guidance on where to get tested and emphasized that private labs like Labcorp and Qwest can now conduct testing. Read more here.
• In a joint letter Thursday, all Pikes Peak-area school districts announced that they will close beginning Monday to allow schools, district facilities and buses to undergo a deep cleaning with hospital-grade disinfectants. Affected districts include 11, 20, 14, 12, 200, 8, JT60, 2, 28, 38, Pikes Peak BOCES and the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. The goal is for students to return Monday, March 30, but the situation will be reassessed toward the end of what has become an extended spring break.
• A University of Colorado at Colorado Springs student met the criteria to be screened for the coronavirus and is awaiting results of the test, campus spokesman Jared Verner said Thursday. The student, who has not been identified by age or grade, is self-isolating, he said. Verner would not say whether the student lives in a dorm on campus or off campus.
Meanwhile, the campus of more than 12,000 students is winding down in anticipation of spring break. The last day of classes is March 20, and after the hiatus, teaching will be modified to online only.
• A UCCS statement Thursday announced that all large athletic events will be canceled through April 6 and all large arts events through April 30 "to increase social distancing and reduce the transmission of COVID-19."
The events will be rescheduled if possible, the statement said, and any tickets purchased will be refunded.
The cancellation included all home and away athletic games and the national Indoor Track and Field Championship this weekend in Alabama.
• The U.S. Air Force Academy will shut its doors to visitors beginning Friday at 5 p.m. as a precautionary measure against the virus, a statement said Thursday.
"There are no reported cases of COVID-19 on the academy; however, USAFA leadership will continue to evaluate the situation and take risk-based measures to safeguard our base community as well as our visitors," the academy statement said.
Wednesday, the academy closed its athletic events to spectators.
• The Colorado Department of Health and Environment issued guidelines for emergency school or child care closure Thursday.
Among the state-ordered criteria for schools is a 72-hour closure for a single case of COVID-19 in a student or staff member. The closure would be for cleaning and social distancing.
Three confirmed cases within a 30-day period would require a 14-day closure.
• First United Methodist Church, 420 N. Nevada Ave., canceled Sunday services, as well as choir participation, according to a letter sent to congregants Thursday. Clergy will lead a worship service at 11 a.m. for live broadcast and livestream the service. The church building will be open during the week, and smaller events will be held. The Church of Latter-day Saints announced Thursday that it was suspending gatherings at churches worldwide.
• Pikes Peak region governments are working to prevent coronavirus spread — ramping up cleaning of public spaces and planning for the possible closure of public buildings, while at the same time facing unknown economic repercussions.
Mayor John Suthers said it was impossible to know how much the city might suffer economically because of the virus but officials planned to keep promoting the city as a summer tourism destination.
“We don’t want the city of Colorado Springs to shut down, circumstances do not call for that,” he said.
The city and county will receive federal assistance to help respond to the virus, including a portion of $9.8 million the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has designated for Colorado. But Suthers couldn't say during a news conference Thursday how much federal assistance the city might receive.
• The El Pomar Foundation announced Wednesday that $1 million would be allocated to a Colorado Assistance Fund to support communities affected by the coronavirus.
The funds will be used to give immediate aid to "nonprofit organizations or government entities supporting access to appropriate health care and meeting basic human needs such as food access, rent and utilities assistance, and emergency services for individuals and communities impacted by the virus," a foundation news release said.
The last time the El Pomar Foundation created an emergency assistance fund was during the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, the statement said.
Clean Public Spaces
• Mountain Metropolitan Transit is cleaning its buses and other vehicles every day with hospital-grade disinfectants, said Vicki McCann a spokeswoman for the city's transit division. Staff members are wiping down seats, steering wheels, handles, buckles, pull cords and other high-touch areas, she said.
The city of Colorado Springs is placing new hand sanitation dispensers at city facilities, such as community centers. Employees are being trained on actions to help prevent the spread of the disease, said Jamie Fabos, a spokeswoman for the city.
El Paso County has increased the potency of cleaning products and increased the frequency of cleaning at highly trafficked buildings, such as the Citizens Service Center, El Paso County Combined Courts and Centennial Hall, said Ryan Parsell, a spokesman for the county.
• El Paso County Public Health is preparing to open a mobile clinic to treat those with coronavirus if necessary, said Dr. Robin Johnson, medical director for the department.
County officials are planning to help slow the spread of coronavirus should an infected person visit a highly trafficked public office, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, by determining how those spaces would be partially or fully closed for cleaning, county Commissioner Mark Waller said.
Shutting down a building, such as the El Paso County Combined Courts, would have major ripple effects that officials are planning for, even though Wednesday they didn't foresee a need for those closures, he said.
“Those are things we need to be thinking about and planning for,” Waller said.
• County commissioners unanimously approved a measure Thursday to allow employees to take sick leave that they have not yet earned to help ensure the illness isn’t spread, Parsell said. Employees will be allowed to take 80 hours of sick leave once they have exhausted all of their existing paid time off, he said.
“The No. 1 most important thing that someone can do is to not come to work (if they're sick),” Commissioner Stan VanderWerf said on Wednesday.
The city is preparing to allow employees to work from home and allowing them to hold conference calls instead of in-person meetings, Fabos said.
• The Colorado Department of Corrections is barring visits to inmates in the state’s prison in a measure to cut down on the risk of COVID-19 transmissions.
So far, there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus, and prison officials say they are trying to keep it that way.
“Anytime we make these types of changes to operations, we are acutely aware of the impact it has on those who work and live in our facilities as well as their loved ones, and we do our best to lessen the impact as much as possible,” prisons chief Dean Williams said in a statement.
The agency is looking into providing video visits and expanding the amount of phone time to help inmates stay connected. Visits with lawyers are permitted but will be “noncontact visits.”
Colorado prisons house roughly 20,000 inmates, according to a 2018 report by the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice.
• The El Paso County jail is not limiting visitors to the facility, but will provide guidance on preventive measures for inmates, workers and volunteers, said Sgt. Deborah Mynatt, a spokeswoman for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.
Those who feel sick were told not to visit the jail, Mynatt said. If a significant number of jail staff becomes sick with the virus, the jail will initiate “an emergency-manning contingency plan” until they can return to work, she said.
Jail staff will monitor and isolate inmates showing symptoms in the medical unit and if necessary, quarantine them throughout the facility, Mynatt said. Depending on the severity of symptoms, an inmate will be treated at the medical facility or at a hospital, she said.
At the El Paso County jail, staff are cleaning door handles, phones and other areas handled by inmates and staff more frequently, Mynatt said.
Pikes Peak Region Events
• The St. Patrick’s Day Parade was cancelled Thursday to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus among the expected 20,000 to 25,000 attendees Saturday.
“We don’t want someone picking it up from down there and laying it at our feet. We are going to take a hit, but we have to,” event organizer John O’Donnell said. The associated Saturday morning St. Patrick’s Day Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral has also been canceled.
O’Donnell said he hopes to hold a Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day Parade in September.
Mayor John Suthers said the decision was made out of an abundance of caution, not because of a heightened public health risk and residents should not panic. He encouraged healthy people to go about their daily lives and continue to support small businesses.
“The downtown merchants are going to get hit hard. This is a big event for them,” he said.
• The Space Symposium has suffered a blow with travel restrictions ordered by the White House in response to coronavirus.
A ban that begins Friday cuts out a slew of European nations that planned to send delegations to the annual space gathering, set to begin March 30 at The Broadmoor.
Cancellation of the symposium would be a big blow economically to the Pikes Peak region. It draws more than 14,000 attendees and packs The Broadmoor while filling up hotels around the Pikes Peak region.
• Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College canceled some theater shows and museum events.
The FAC will cancel or postpone all large events until at least April 17. Staff hopes to resume performances after that date, in which case tickets can be transferred to the new dates. If this isn't possible or patrons can't attend the new date, refunds will be offered.
• Ent Center for the Arts at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs has canceled or postponed all performances scheduled through April 30, including "An Iliad," which was scheduled to open Thursday; "Hair," the UCCS student production also scheduled to open Thursday; Spanish Harlem Orchestra's concert on March 20; Meow Meow on April 17; and "Passion Play," set to open April 23.
• Aspen Snowmass ski resort officials announced Thursday that ski slopes would remain open.
In a press conference Wednesday, Gov. Jared Polis said the high country was the “tipping point” of community spread in Colorado and urged older people and those with underlying health issues to stay away.
Snowmass reiterated the governor's call in its letter to guests. “But skiing is our passion, as it is with most of you,” the message went on, “so at this time we plan to keep the lifts operating through the spring.”
Resort officials said they were “working diligently to minimize risks and address concerns of guests, employees, partners and the community.” That included removing restaurant seats to increase spacing. Gondola cabins, officials said, were being disinfected daily, and only related parties or singles were being loaded.
In an email to The Gazette, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment said outdoor activities were among “casual activities” with a lower risk of transmission.
• President Donald Trump has canceled a planned trip to Denver on Friday to attend a high-dollar fundraiser with U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, the White House said Wednesday night.
"Out of an abundance of caution from the coronavirus outbreak, the president has decided to cancel his upcoming events in Colorado and Nevada," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement, following the president's televised address to the nation about the growing pandemic.
The Friday fundraising luncheon, with ticket prices topping out at $100,000 per couple, would have been Trump's second campaign visit to Colorado in just over three weeks.