Denver officials announced a citywide lockdown Monday as coronavirus cases increased by 129 in Colorado — bringing the state total to 720.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said he does not expect the city in El Paso County will see a stay-at-home order unless the state issues one or he receives new direction from the El Paso County Health Department.
“I understand and appreciate the decision that Mayor (Michael) Hancock has made. … We are not going to go that direction today,” Suthers said.
The “stay at home” measure, announced by Hancock on Monday afternoon and cheered by Gov. Jared Polis, will keep most city residents home from 5 p.m. Tuesday through April 10, with exceptions for work deemed essential, medical visits and necessary shopping.
“This isn’t a recommendation anymore. People need to stay at home,” Hancock said. “We will enforce when and where necessary.”
If El Paso County Public Health determines community spread of the coronavirus through business activities could be stopped by issuing a stay-at-home order, such a step might be taken, Suthers said. Any order in Colorado Springs would likely exempt grocery stores, pharmacies, health care facilities, construction and other essential businesses, similar to the orders in other states and cities, he said.
“Our orders wouldn’t be more restrictive than the ones you have seen,” Suthers said.
Across the city, most businesses have already taken the right preventative measures, he said. “The vast majority of people who can work at home are working at home,” he said.
Suthers also announced Monday the city would not charge for parking in downtown and Old Colorado City through April 30 to help support restaurants hurt by the governor’s order banning dining in at bars and restaurants. Many restaurants are offering curb-side pickup service after having to close dine-in service.
Councilman Bill Murray said he thought the city should be taking more preventative steps, such as issuing a stay-at-home order to help slow the spread of the illness and ensure hospitals aren’t burdened with more patients than they can care for. He doesn’t want to see hospitals run out of beds in intensive care units or life-saving ventilators because enough preventative steps were not taken.
“We are going to cost people their lives,” he said.
Just how the Denver order will be enforced is unclear — officials have never instituted a citywide quarantine in Colorado’s most populous municipality.
Hancock initially also ordered liquor stores and dispensaries in Denver closed as of Tuesday evening, but amended the order to exempt those that maintain “extreme physical distancing.” He also exempted construction operations and projects.
Polis, who has declined to issue a similar statewide order, praised Hancock’s move in a Monday statement.
“I’m strongly in support of these local efforts, and it’s extremely important that just as our state is acting boldly and urgently, that our county health departments are also taking strong actions guided by science, data, and the real-life situation on the ground, including taking into account local factors like population density and concentration of coronavirus cases, to best contain the spread of the virus,” the governor said.
While Denver was preparing to shut down, Colorado Springs officials worked to coax residents outdoors, issuing news releases that parks would stay open as long as people kept their distance from each other amid, a practice known as “social distancing” with at least six feet of space kept between people.
“We are committed to keeping parks, trails and open spaces accessible, as long as it is responsible to do so,” city parks director Karen Palus said in a news release Monday. “In order to do this, we need the public’s help. We all need to do our part to use these areas in a way that respects each other and public health guidance.”
Colorado Politics reporter Alayna Alvarez contributed to this report, as well as Gazette reporter/editor Tom Roeder and Gazette reporters Leslie James and Chhun Sun.