Colorado's stay-at-home order is working, but it will have to last a little longer, Gov. Jared Polis announced Monday evening as he extended the restriction to April 26.
Polis issued the original order March 25, requiring residents to only leave home for essential duties such as work if it couldn't be done remotely, grocery shopping or medical appointments. The order was initially set to expire on April 11.
Polis’s two-week extension came hours after Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced that city's stay-at-home order would be extended to April 30. Nationwide stay-at-home guidelines issued by President Donald Trump also last through April 30.
In a televised statewide address Monday, Polis said he recognized Colorado residents might be mentally struggling with the order in "a state of people who love the outdoors [and are] suddenly quarantined inside," but he cited hope in understanding the conditions aren't permanent.
"If there is any way to safely end it sooner, then we will," Polis said.
As of Monday, a month since the first confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, were reported in Colorado, the state had reported 5,172 positive cases and 150 deaths related to the virus. El Paso County reported 441 cases and 28 deaths.
But Polis pointed to good news in how the coronavirus is spreading with the number of reported cases doubling more slowly than earlier. He attributed it to people cooperating with social distancing and the stay-at-home measures. Additionally, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released modeling results from public health scientists Monday, showing the effectiveness of social distancing.
A key factor that impacts the spread of COVID-19 is the contact rate -- the frequency of contact between infectious and susceptible individuals. The goal of social distancing is to reduce the contact rate and slow the spread of infections. The spread of COVID-19 has slowed in Colorado, even if the number of cases is still increasing, the data show.
Reported cases had been doubling every one-and-a-half days in the state, but current data show doubling now taking six days, Polis said.
The slowing does not mean a return to normal behavior, he said, encouraging residents to continue following the restrictions.
"I want to thank each and every one of you who has been taking this seriously," Polis said. "You are truly helping to turn the tide against this virus...This is not the time to abandon what's been working."
El Paso County Public Health issued its own Public Health Order Monday for residents to comply with the state order on staying home and physical distancing.
“This local Public Health Order mainly streamlines the Public Health Orders issued by the state and reinforces the importance for El Paso County residents to comply with Public Health directions to Stay At Home unless for essential outings," county public health director Susan Wheelan said in a news release. "I appreciate everyone’s help in protecting the safety, health and well-being of themselves, their families and the community."
El Paso health officials confirmed an eighth coronavirus outbreak in a nonhospital care setting in Colorado Springs with one resident who tested positive at Bonaventure of Colorado Springs, a retirement community at 9112 Grand Cordera Pkwy., agency spokeswoman Michelle Hewitt said. According to the state health department, 41 outbreaks have been reported at residential and non-hospital health care facilities in Colorado.
Also on Monday, the state updated its 2018 crisis standards of care for hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes guidelines for allocating resources and equipment when hospitals are over capacity.
The new guidelines advise against basing decisions on factors irrelevant to care, such as race, ability to pay, immigration or “VIP” status. However, when rationing ventilators, doctors should first employ a scoring system based on the severity of the illness and the likelihood of surviving long-term, according to the guidelines.
Then, if additional decisions are needed, hospitals should prioritize children, healthcare workers and first responders, according to the guidelines. Other factors to consider include pregnant patients, and people who are sole caregivers. If there is still a shortage, a hospital should randomly allocate ventilators, according to the guidelines.
A federal coronavirus testing site run by UCHealth focused on first responders, health care workers and the elderly in Colorado Springs may close on Friday when its contract ends, officials said. The site opened March 31 for first responders and health care workers from across the region and on Sunday was expanded to include patients over 65 years old. The FEMA-sponsored site is open at 175 S. Union Blvd. from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The Gazette's Mary Shinn contributed to this article