Snapshots: Colorado Springs takes precaution in novel coronavirus outbreak

Housekeeper Reina Rodriguez washes her hands before putting on gloves to clean a room at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Colorado Springs on March 11. Housekeepers at the hotel are focusing on the high-touch areas in rooms and are required to wash their hands and change gloves after cleaning each room in response to COVID-19. Daniel Valdez, general manager, stressed the importance of not panicking, but being smart. "We are practicing what the local and federal health authorities are telling us to do," Valdez said. 

This article is updated multiple times a day with coronavirus news from Colorado Springs, the Pikes Peak region and elsewhere in Colorado — and along with other COVID-19-related stories is free as a public service to non-subscribers of The Gazette. Click here to sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter. If you're not already a full Gazette subscriber, click here for options.

     

The latest around Colorado

THURSDAY

- State Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet tests positive for COVID-19. She began running a fever Sunday night. She was last at the state Capitol for the March 14 session.

Rep. Michaelson made the following statement:

This morning I received news that I have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. I was tested at UC Health after experiencing symptoms. While I have had a confirmed case of bronchitis for much of March, my doctors have told me that it’s likely I contracted COVID-19 in the last few days. I am staying quarantined at home, and my children and husband are self-isolating. We will all get through this together, and I look forward to seeing my friends, colleagues and constituents when I’m better and no longer at risk of spreading the virus to others.

- The Colorado Springs City Administration Building, including public services for City Clerk, Planning, Land Use Review, Sales Tax and Public Works will be open to the public on the lobby level only. Business usually conducted on higher floors will be reserved to a dropbox system in the lobby. City employees will be available from 8a-5p via phone or email for questions and assistance.

Public Works, Planning and Land Use Review: Plans can be left in the dropbox on the first floor lobby level of the City Administration Building. Plans, documents and applications must be neatly folded or rolled, packaged and clearly marked with the recipient’s name, preferably with a transmittal letter. Employees in each department will be available via phone or email to review and answer questions. (Effective3/23/20)

Similar arrangements are being implemented for the Development Review Enterprise located at the Regional Development Center. (Effective 3/23/20)

City Clerk: License and renewal applications can be deposited in a dropbox on the lobby level. Envelopes with a tamper-proof seal will be provided for the documents and payments. Employees will be available via phone or email to review and answer questions. (Effective 3/23/20)

Sales Tax: Online remittance of sales tax is encouraged. Please call 719-385- 5903 or email us at salestax@coloradosprings.gov(link sends e-mail) to receive personalized assistance. The phone line and email will be monitored daily. Sales tax forms will be available in the lobby. Checks may be left in the drop box, however cash will not be accepted in the lobby. (Effective 3/23/20)

Pharmacy: Remains open to City and CSU employees and their dependents on the basement level. 

More info here.

- Colorado small businesses impacted by #COVID19 can seek individual small business loans up to $2M as part of the @SBAgov's Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.Small businesses throughout all 64 counties may seek SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans. More info here

WEDNESDAY

- JCPenny is temporarily closing all stores and business offices until April 2.

- The Colorado Springs Fire Department is implementing new field triage procedures. Implementation of these procedures began on March 16, 2020.

The new triage system screens for potential COVID-19 patients; identifying those individuals who are healthy enough to remain at home, as well as those in need of more advanced medical care.

This change is necessary to reduce the overcrowding of hospital emergency departments and to reduce the exposure risk of those who are not suspected of having COVID-19. The exposure risk for individuals going through hospitals right now has increased. 

- Rep. Leslie Herod issued a statement today, part of which included: 

Though the legislative session is in recess, I have been working behind the scenes with my legislative colleagues to help connect people to the resources they need.

Today, Majority Leader Alec Garnett, Attorney General Phil Weiser and I called on student loan servicers, creditors and debt collectors to suspend mandatory debt collections for those unable to pay during this crisis. AG Weiser responded quickly and joined our call. See full statement here. I appreciate him standing with us.

- Nearly 500 Fort Carson residents are in quarantine and eight in isolation, officials said Wednesday ahead of the Thursday opening of an on-post coronavirus testing center.

Forty-two individuals have been tested on post, and the five results returned so far have been negative, said Col. Eric Edwards, commander of Evans Army Community Hospital, Wednesday afternoon.

Many of the quarantined are soldiers and family members who were skiing this past weekend and have been placed under quarantine as a precaution, according to Edwards.

Members of the Fort Carson community are urged to get tested if they display symptoms, even if they're manageable at home.

The center, which will operate from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. every day, will be located away from the ER, as well as places in the hospital healthy patients might visit, like the pharmacy.

Full story here.

- A shelter in place order mandating residents only leave their homes for "essential activities" was issued in San Miguel County Wednesday, according to the San Miguel County Department of Public Health.

While the county has no confirmed coronavirus cases, the order stated, local medical experts believe "with medical certainty they are treating patients with this COVID-19." 

The order, which takes effect Thursday at midnight and lasts until April 3, says that San Miguel County residents can only leave their homes for "essential activities," including tasks essential to health or safety, obtaining medical supplies, visiting a doctor, obtaining necessary household supplies, delivering food and engaging in outdoor activity that complies with social distancing. 

View the complete order here.

The order also states that any visitors to the county need to return home immediately and that any events of 10 people or more are prohibited.

County health officials said on Facebook that a shelter-in-place order means "dramatically limiting your time in public places for the sake of your health and your friends and family's health."

- The Salvation Army in El Paso County is in need of nonperishable food items such as; dried beans, rice, peanut butter, jelly, soup, tuna, canned chicken, dried pasta and pasta sauce. It is also in need of hand sanitizer for its homeless shelter. Items can be dropped off at 908 Yuma Street from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

- For local arts events that are continuing as scheduled, please double check PeakRadar.com and information from the presenting organization/venue.

- State extends suspension of downhill ski operations and suspends in-person learning in public and private schools.

- The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued a public health order statewide banning gatherings of 10 or more people effective Thursday at midnight.

- At a press conference Wednesday, Mayor John Suthers urged the importance of preparing for the economic impact of the virus.

"There is no question that we will see a precipitous decline for an undetermined amount of length of time in city revenues."

"While public health remains obviously our number one priority, I also want to echo the calls by our local business community to encourage lower-risk ways to stimulate local businesses. We've got businesses that are really hurting."

He encouraged citizens to utilize curbside pick up and local restaurants, calling it a "lower-risk way" to engage in the economy and a way to instill a type of normalcy in our lives.

He also encouraged citizens to help those in crisis by donating to an emergency relief fund through the Pikes Peak Community Foundation and the state.

A site created in light of the closures, SupportTheSprings.com, also offers ideas for supporting the local economy, he said.

"Folks, we have been tested before. We have had floods, fires, we've had economic downturns. This is a unique and very, very challenging test. We don't know how severe the economic damage is going to be. We're going to monitor it, we are going to see how long this takes place. It's going to be painful. We don't know how painful. But we are going to get through it."

El Paso County officials does not anticipate closing any regional parks, despite Manitou Springs' decision to close the Incline indefinitely, said County Commissioner Mark Waller.

Suthers encouraged citizens to take advantage of the city's trails and continue to exercise, as long as they continue social distancing. He said Manitou Springs officials did not consult him before making the decision to close the Incline and that he personally would not have made the decision to close it.

- The UCHealth drive-thru coronavirus testing center at South Parkside Drive and Kidskare Point is limiting its hours Thursday to the morning because Colorado Springs may see severe weather. The site is will be open from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Thursday. It is typically open from from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays. Individuals must have a referral from their physician or provider to be swabbed for test. Tests are processed by the state or private labs.

-The Colorado health department confirmed 216 cases of coronavirus in the state as of Wednesday afternoon, up from 183 cases Tuesday. Eight cases have been confirmed in El Paso County.

The number of hospitalizations has also risen to 26 up from 20. Two residents in Colorado have died from COVID-19, including a woman in her 80s from El Paso County and man in his 70s from Weld County. The state did not announce additional deaths Wednesday. 

- Pioneer Elementary is opening up its Little Free Library to non-perishable donations. They are asking to leave something if you can or to take something if you need it. Any items can also be left underneath the box and they will make sure it is taken care of. It is located next door to Pioneer Elementary. More information here.

- Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument announced it is closing the visitor center. Rangers are available at the entrance to the visitor center to provide access to outdoor exhibits & trails in this part of the park. The picnic area and outdoor restrooms adjacent to the visitor center will remain open. The grounds of the Hornbek Homestead, the Barksdale Picnic area, and all other park trails will also remain open.

- Colorado Gov. Jared Polis called on residents Wednesday to donate, volunteer and give blood to help address the coronavirus. The state has set up a coronavirus relief fund that has garnered $2.8 million as of Wednesday to help with a range of needs such as purchasing medical supplies for nursing homes, cleaning supplies for home care facilities, supporting homeless shelters and those who have lost their jobs. For more info about how to give visit covrn.com.

- The Manitou Incline is closed indefinitely, Manitou Springs officials decided. They called it "an attractive nuisance and health hazard." The city also announced that the free shuttle service to the Incline will end at 1 p.m. Wednesday. Read more here.

- Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is calling out about 50 Colorado National Guard members to help out at drive-up testing sites for COVID-19 across the state over the next 10 days. Read more here.

- UCHealth has set up three tents to screen and, if necessary, treat patients that have respiratory symptoms or other concerns about about COVID-19 at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central, UCHealth Memorial Hospital North and UCHealth’s Fountain freestanding emergency department. Staff working in a tent at Memorial Hospital Central started seeing patients Tuesday. The other two tents have been set up, but UCHealth has not set a date for those to open.  Read more here.

- The Colorado state capitol has closed to the public indefinitely. Staff and members of the media will continue to be allowed access to the building.

- The City of Fountain passed a Declaration of Emergency Related to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), effective for the next 60 days. The declaration will permit access to local emergency funds, Federal and State assistance and adjustments to policies, procedures, and ordinances to ensure the public’s health and welfare. Read the declaration here.

- The Colorado Lottery has closed all of its claims offices through April 18. Winning tickets can be claimed via mail. They can also be held for up to 180 days after the drawing date. Winning tickets of less than $600 can be claimed at retailers thoughout the state.

- The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs has canceled in-person graduation scheduled for May 15. UCCS also will extend for the remainder of this semester the remote learning and working environment that started Monday, officials said. Read more here

- Target is changing store hours nationwide and dedicating one hour each week to vulnerable guests. All stores will now close by 9 p.m. starting Wednesday, March 18. The change comes as employees deal with restocking during the COVID-19 outbreak. Read more here.

- Coronavirus by the numbers.

- Colorado Springs-area school districts are partnering to offer free breakfast and lunch to children, regardless of which district they attend, during extended school closures. Find more information and a map here.

- Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site in La Junta has canceled Saturday's Frontier Skills Day, while the park's gift shop will be closed indefinitely. Other locations within in the park will be opened and onsite staff will be available for questions.

- Gov. Polis ordered Wednesday the closure of Cripple Creek's 12 casinos to slow the spread of COVID-19. Read more here.

- All nine members of Colorado's congressional delegation supports a request by Gov. Polis to give access to emergency loans to small businesses and nonprofits. They could receive up to $2 million in low-interest loans. Read more here.

HelpColoradoNow.Org has already raised $2.8 million to help Coloradans who are losing jobs and access to other resources because of the coronavirus. Coloradans can sign up to volunteer or donate on the website. Read more here.

- The United Soccer League — which features the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC — has extended its season suspension to May 10. Initially, it was a 30-day suspension.

- The Colorado Department of Transportation has closed both I-25 Pinon Rest Areas. The rest areas, north of Pueblo, are being closed due to a public health and safety concern. I-25 Pinon rest area locations do not have running water that allows the public to wash their hands. There is not an estimated date when the rest areas will open again.

- The Teller County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday announced the initiation of a COVID-19 specimen collection site in Woodland Park. The site is a collaboration of Teller County Public Health & Environment, in partnership with UCHealth and the Pikes Peak Medical Task Force. The site is open from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, beginning Wednesday, at the Woodland Park Middle School, 600 E. Kelley’s Road in Woodland Park.

     

TUESDAY

- The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said Tuesday that 23 new presumed positive cases of the coronavirus brought the state's total to 183.

- The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment saw a surge of unemployment claims up to 6,800 Tuesday from 400 on March 7. The unprecedented traffic is slowing down processing times for applications, according a news release. 

The department is encouraging workers who have seen their hours cut back to seek part-time jobs in delivery, transportation, grocery stores and businesses in other fields that are hiring.

- The state's second coronavirus death was reported in Weld County Tuesday afternoon. 

The fatality was a man in his 70s who is connected to one of the earlier identified positive cases, a Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment statement said.

“Protecting our high-risk populations from COVID-19 is imperative,” said Mark Wallace, executive director of the county health department. “We are strongly suggesting people practice social distancing in order to prevent future COVID-19 deaths and protect our workforce. Every single reduction in the number of contacts you have per day will have a significant impact on the virus’s spread.”

- The University of Colorado Boulder said Tuesday that the school's in-person commencement ceremony was cancelled. 

"As with many institutions across the country, it is with great regret that we are announcing the cancellation of our in-person commencement on May 7, as well as all college, school and department-based recognition ceremonies, due to COVID-19," a statement from CU Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano said.

- Attorney General Phil Weiser on Monday warned businesses that do not provide promised refunds due to coronavirus-canceled activities that his office will investigate. More here.

- Schriever Air Force Base announced additional precautions against the coronavirus Tuesday. They include:

• Restricted area access limited to specified mission essential personnel only.

• Child Development Center and School Age Center, Outdoor Recreation Framing and Engraving, Fitness Center and Indoor Running Track, including after-hours access, Event Center and Bennie’s are closed.

• Large events and gatherings of more than 10 personnel are cancelled or postponed.

• Base Shuttle service inside and outside the RA will be suspended.

• The following agencies are available by appointment only: 50th Force Support Squadron, 50th Comptroller Squadron and Airman and Family Readiness Center.

• Facilities outside the restricted area, not specifically identified above, will remain open. However, commanders and supervisors are minimizing the number of personnel in the work centers, primarily through telework.

• The Satellite Dish Dining Facility will be limited to Building 300/400 occupants and 50th Space Wing mission essential personnel only and will be take-out only.

• Food truck service will be suspended.

• Ongoing construction projects outside the RA will continue.

• Construction projects inside the RA are being considered on a case by case basis.

- The Colorado Lottery Claims offices will be closed to the public from March 18 to April 18. 

- Rocky Mountain National Park cancelled snowshoe walks, full moon walks, field trips and Earth Day events, a park news release said Tuesday.

The park is still open as of Tuesday afternoon, but park visitor centers including Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, Fall River Visitor Center and Kawuneeche Visitor Center were closed indefinitely. 

"The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners is our number one priority," the statement said. "The National Park Service is working with the federal, state, and local authorities to closely monitor the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. We will notify the public when we resume full operations and provide updates on our website and social media channels."

Click here for more updates on Rocky Mountain National Park.

- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Curecanti National Recreation Area are closing the South Rim Visitor Center at Black Canyon and Elk Creek Visitor Center at Curecanti are closed until further notice beginning Tuesday. The park and the recreation area will stay open for the public in activities such as as ice fishing, hiking, sightseeing, and snowshoeing/Nordic skiing.

- Cinemark announced it will close U.S. theatres beginning Wednesday, March 18 until further notice. Tickets that were purchased in advance will be refunded, the company said. Online purchases will be automatically refunded in five to seven business days.

- A long-term care facility resident and staffer in Larimer County have both tested positive for coronavirus, the county's health department said in a Tuesday press release. Both cases occurred at North Shore Health & Rehab Facility in Loveland; the facility's operating company agreed to release its name in the interest of public health, the release stated. National and state health officials are working to investigate and prevent further spread of the virus, the release added.

-El Paso County is closing some offices to residents, limiting services and providing sick leave to employees that normally would not qualify, to help limit the spread of coronavirus. More here. 

- Care and Share has assembled 300 emergency food boxes that will be distributed by local partners to help those affected by the current coronavirus situation. They will not be distributed directly to the public in order to protect public health, an organization spokeswoman said Tuesday.

"As COVID-19 forces many families to go without meals, paychecks and resources, the number of people needing food assistance from Care and Share is likely to grow,” said the food bank's CEO, Lynne Telford, in a Tuesday press release. “Our biggest challenge is that we must maintain our food supply to match growing demands. We are asking the community to rally behind us in the form of volunteering and financial support to allow us to be nimble and flexible in our response."

People in need of food assistance can find more information to contact local partners at careandshare.org/FindFood.

To learn more about helping, click here. To find your nearest food bank, click here

- End-of-the-year testing for students, including administration of the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) test, will be paused for the year due to school closures, Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes announced in a Tuesday press release. The state department of education is working with The College Board to develop methods for high schoolers to take the SAT and ACT tests, the release added.

"I’m a big fan of accountability and transparency in public education, but we will simply have to forgo incredibly useful data on student achievement for a year to help contain the virus,” Gov. Jared Polis said in the release. "Right now, students, families and educators need to be focused on doing everything they can to keep families safe and stable."

- Denver Water announced Tuesday that Waterton Canyon will be closed indefinitely until March 18. 

“Waterton Canyon is a popular recreation destination and we recognize the closure will create inconveniences,” said Brandon Ransom, manager of recreation for Denver Water, in a news release. “Closing the canyon will help ensure employee and public safety.”

- Social Security offices in Colorado and around the nation are closed effective today for the safety of the nation's older residents with underlying medical conditions. Secure online services remain available. More here.

- Pikes Peak Community College remains open as of Tuesday afternoon, with essential student services such as computer labs, advising and counseling still available, a school news release said.

Click here for a list of available PPCC services. 

Spring break at the college was extended from March 16-27. When students return on March 30, many of the classes will transition to online, the release said. 

"However, several classes especially those with hands-on engagement like nursing and Law Enforcement Academy will be held on campus with as much social distancing between students as possible."

All campus events have been canceled, the statement said. 

- Mt. Carmel Veterans Service Center will have two El Paso County Veteran Service Officers at its office "so as not to deny someone that desperately needs access to their Veteran Benefits," an organization statement said Tuesday.

"Our Behavioral Health professionals and interns are continuing to see their clients," the statement said. "This is a stressful and confusing time and we don’t want to leave the vulnerable without the mental health support they need. Until we are forced to close our doors, we will remain open for business."

"(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) protocols are being followed for all employees and guests entering our building. Extra cleaning services have been ordered and employees in the building are sanitizing while the building is occupied. We are doing our best to keep everyone safe from the spread of COVD-19."

- Fountain Utilities said Tuesday that the company will not disconnect services or assess late fees while the community responds to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

"Out of an abundance of caution for customers and staff, lobby doors were closed on Monday, March 16th and all non-emergency service requests were suspended until further notice," a company statement said.

- Yesterday Gov. Jared Polis announced the 30-day suspension of the operation of restaurants and bars, with drive-through and delivery being the exception. Gyms and theaters will also be closed as of 8 a.m. this morning. More here.

- Cheyenne Mountain Zoo announced it will close on Tuesday and plans to reopen April 1. More here.

               

KEY LINKS

More full coverage of coronavirus in Colorado.

MAP: A look at cases in Colorado.

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