Gov. Jared Polis said at a briefing Tuesday that the Colorado's number of new coronavirus cases and deaths were moving in a downward trend, encouraging statewide limited reopenings just one month after the state's stay-at-home order lifted. 

As of Tuesday afternoon, nearly 25,000 Coloradans have tested positive for the coronavirus since the disease was first detected in the state, Polis said. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 1,114 Coloradans have died directly of COVID-19.

For the first time since the pandemic began, there are fewer than 400 Coloradans hospitalized with the coronavirus as of Tuesday, he said. Data from the state health department showed there were 367 hospitalizations.

"The trends look good in terms of new cases," Polis said. Elected state and public health officials are anticipating new modeling data to show the impact of the transition from the stay-at-home order to the safer-at-home phase the governor unrolled last month. 

"It's still dangerous," Polis said. "The virus is still here. ... There's losses ahead, there's losses behind us. The risk is lower than it was a month ago, but the risk is still higher than it normally is during normal times." 

So far, Coloradans have done a good job at doing their part to suppress the spread of the virus, Polis said. 

"The out-of-control exponential growth of the virus stopped, and we need to keep that up," he said. "Coloradans contract this virus every day and we lose people every day, but that exponential growth has been leveled out. That's a challenge on us to continue acting responsibly and smartly to keep that from expanding rapidly again."

Up to 6,000 Coloradans are being tested each day for the coronavirus, Polis said. The state expects to have the capacity to run 8,500 tests per day by the end of May, a goal the governor pledged last month. 

Polis said Tuesday the state has an "increasing ability" to protect the elderly and those deemed the most vulnerable to the coronavirus by continuing to limit visitation, screening for symptoms, performing targeted testing and partnering with local organizations to maximize asymptomatic testing. At least 90% of Coloradans who have died of the virus were over the age of 60, he added.

The state also secured a 17-month contract with Honeywell for six million medical-grade N95 masks to protect health care workers, Polis said. 

The governor credited the encouraging data, increased testing capability and additional personal protection equipment in allowing Colorado to reopen several industries with strict precautions in place. 

Monday, the governor's office announced restaurants statewide can reopen in-person dining services Wednesday at 50% capacity, but bars will remain closed. The use of outdoor eating spaces for restaurants "is absolutely critical," Polis said Tuesday. He encouraged municipalities to work with smaller, local eateries who may not have the outdoor space to expand past that capacity limit. 

"I'm calling upon our entrepreneurs and the restaurant industry and I'm calling upon municipal leaders to think creatively," he said.

Ski slopes, too, are cleared to reopen with the stipulations in place, Polis said. Arapahoe Basin tweeted Tuesday that access to the ski resort will be based on a random drawing done each day. Private camping sites are also allowed to reopen under the precautions, the governor said. Children's summer day camps can open next week, but sleepover camps are still prohibited.

"We're asking that you undertake the activities in a way where you're just focused on being outdoors," Polis said. "Do the outdoor stuff for the sake of doing the outdoor stuff ... but not that other social stuff that comes along with it."

More detailed guidelines on what to expect for the month of June will be discussed next week, Polis said.

"If you didn't do an amazing job — there's no cheating here — our infection rate would be increasing like it is in some states," Polis said. "It has been decreasing and leveling off in Colorado thanks to you. Things aren't going back to normal yet. There's baby steps. Be smart. We need to keep following these common sense rules." 

Contact Liz Henderson, 719-476-1623

Twitter: @GazetteLiz

Multimedia Journalist

Liz is a multimedia journalist who joined the Gazette staff in 2019.

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