Virus Outbreak Colorado

Gov. Jared Polis announces a statewide stay-at-home order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus Wednesday.

"This is not a vacation," Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Friday in warning the state's residents to take seriously the 2-day-old, stay-at-home order he issued in the face of a mounting coronavirus epidemic.

The order, issued Wednesday, requires residents to stay at home except for critical activities such as doing what is deemed to be essential work, grocery shopping and obtaining medicine or medical care.

While outside working, shopping or taking walks, everyone must maintain a six-foot distance from other people.

The order went into effect Thursday and will last until April 11, Polis said. 

Click here to view the governor's full order, and here for a summary of the order. 

"This is not a vacation," Polis said Friday during his news conference, calling out residents driving to Colorado's mountains or hiking on narrow trails. "The more noncompliance there is, the more people that are not heeding the advice to stay at home, the longer and more severe this crisis will be."

Polis addressed "hard data" the state is using to track the spread of the coronavirus, and sought to explain why the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's data on the the spread of the virus has been lagging behind one day. 

"We have some information early on, but we don't know the true impact until 12 days or so after a particular measure is taken," Polis said, referring to recent orders on banning large groups, closing nonessential businesses and the stay-at-home order.

As of Friday, the state is reporting 31 deaths from the coronavirus in Colorado, Polis said. 

Hospital officials were hopeful that the  stay-at-home order would help "flatten the curve," a term being used to describe slowing the rate of new coronavirus infections.

Without social distancing measures, Polis said, the state's data projected more than 33,000 Coloradans will die from the coronavirus by June. Colorado's typical death rate is about 100 people per day, Polis said. 

"The goal of the stay-at-home order is to bring down how contagious the virus is ... to save lives and to return to normalcy as soon as possible without costing additional lives," Polis said.

He added that no one "should be under the illusion that success is that the virus is gone from our state in a week or two weeks."

The governor said he wanted to model the response on South Korea, which relied on widespread testing, contact tracing and surveillance of all epidemiological activities to mitigate the virus. 

"If we get this right, some might say we did too much too soon," Polis said. "I'd much rather be the recipient of that complaint than to have a full-scale public health disaster with tens of thousands of Coloradans paying the ultimate price."

Thursday, local elected leaders and health officials were grappling with ways to enforce the regulation.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said at a news conference Thursday that "voluntary compliance" will be critical in the governor's sweeping effort to control the rise of COVID-19. Violating the order will result in warnings before tickets are issued, city officials said.

"To be clear, this stay-at-home order from the governor is not a suggestion. It's the law," Suthers said, adding, "We simply do not have the law enforcement resources to man every park, every trail, every open space, every small business in our community."

This is a breaking news story and will be updated as information becomes available. 

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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