Thursday, April 30, 2020

COVID-19 update for April 30: Ready to move forward

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2020 at 6:46 PM

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As of April 29, 15,284 COVID-19 cases had been reported in Colorado, according to data from the state Department of Public Health and Environment.

Cases were reported in 56 counties; 2,697 people had been hospitalized; 72,390 people had been tested; and there had been 777 deaths.

El Paso County reported 952 cases, 207 hospitalizations and 69 deaths as of April 30.

El Paso County is ready to move forward to the next phase of reopening, recovery and rebuilding, Dr. Leon Kelly, El Paso County coroner and deputy medical director, told the Board of County Commissioners on Thursday.

“The last two months have been probably the most challenging, oftentimes frustrating, uncertain times of most of our professional careers,” Kelly says. But “today is a really good day. … We’ve done the hard work already. But now we’re ready to begin the next phase.”

Kelly presented data that he says “shows that El Paso County has done better than essentially every other county from where we started to where we are right now.”

He pointed to a sustained decrease in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the past 14 days, increased testing capacity, increased contact tracing capacity and increased capacity of hospitals to treat both COVID-19 and non-COVID patients.

“We are now at a place where we can test everybody that needs it,” he says, adding that testing capacity is going to continue to grow.

Counties like Denver, Arapahoe and Weld are still on an upward trajectory in terms of the rate of new cases, but social distancing and people staying at home, along with strong leadership and hard work by El Paso County Public Health, have flattened the curve in this community.

“As we come out of this, we are going to have more cases,” Kelly notes. “At some point we have to let this virus travel through our community so that we can have healthy young people with it, so that we can build up that herd immunity. We cannot huddle in our shelters for the next year and a half until the vaccine comes. That is not acceptable.”

The county is building its capacity to deal with new cases, he says.

“What we're trying to do is to protect our ability to treat those people who do get it,” Kelly says. “We have to make sure that we are able to handle those increased cases that are going to come inevitably. Our goal is to protect the most vulnerable by allowing the rest of us to continue to progress in a controlled, appropriate manner so that we don't let this tiger back out of the cage."

El Paso County’s cases peaked in late March-early April, Kelly said. Social distancing and stay-at-home measures caused the rate of new cases to decline.

The county “is situated in a position of strength at this point, because of our leadership and because of the efforts of people in our community,” Kelly says.

“We’re not here to tell people how to live their lives. We’re here to get us all to the same place … to get people back to work, back to the things that they love, that are meaningful to them, but to do it in the right way,” Kelly says.

El Paso County Public Health has increased its capacity to track COVID-19 cases and trace the contacts that sick individuals had with others, Executive Director Susan Wheelan says. Those are essential components of continuing to limit the spread of the disease.

The gold standard for testing is 152 tests per day per 100,000 population, which in El Paso County equals about 1,140 tests per day, she says.

"At the present capacity, we are approaching that or exceeding it,” Wheelen says, adding that test results are being turned around within 24-48 hours or even overnight in some instances.\

“We’re encouraging all citizens with symptoms to get tested,” she says.

Public Health has expanded its base communicable disease team from seven to 16 individuals and hired two epidemiologists, 35 recovery investigators and 17 surge personnel, she says.

Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC
President and CEO Dirk Draper says his organization is working hard to provide information, communication and resources so businesses can reopen as quickly as possible.

“We do encourage our business members and other businesses in the community to abide by the state and the county guidance for opening businesses [and] to implement those practices and safety measures,” Draper says. “What we're seeing is that the more we adhere to the guidance that they provided, the sooner we'll be able to reopen more businesses.”

Draper says he serves on a local council convened by Commissioner Stan VanderWerf that is aligned with the state on economic stabilization and growth.

"The complementarity of our work is getting the fires out, and [then] let’s rebuild the house,” Draper says.

The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office
will begin May 4 allowing in-person motor vehicle and driver’s license services while maintaining social distancing.

These services, which were temporarily curtailed by state order, will be by appointment only and can be booked starting May 1 by visiting epcdrives.com.

Many services are currently available online for those not wanting to risk a personal interaction.

Recording services and remote marriage licenses are also still available with information on the clerk and recorder's website or by calling 719-520-6200.

Elections online services are available at govotecolorado.gov or by calling 719-575-VOTE (8683).

"Our most important goal is to maintain a healthy environment for our customers and our staff members in these unsettling times. We appreciate everyone's understanding and cooperation as we work together," El Paso County Clerk Chuck Broerman says. "We have touted our 21st century technology before and this new appointment scheduler is one more example of our office finding innovative ways to serve our customers."

The Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center
will launch the Friday Lunch Series starting on Friday, May 1. The no-cost online webinar series is designed to help small businesses improve recovery and resilience as part of SBDC's Small Business Response efforts.

“The first four webinars of our Friday Lunch Series are planned and ready for registration," says Aikta Marcoulier, Pikes Peak SBDC executive director. "Our first webinar, this Friday is, 'Navigating the Paycheck Protection Program - a CPA's perspective'. This topic has been the focus of many calls and emails from our small business community, so we encourage all who can, to join us.”

Other scheduled topics in the series include:
-Navigating Online Sales, May 8
-Top 5 Ways to Stay Resilient, May 15
-Recruiting and Retaining Employees, May 22.

All webinars run from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. For more information and to register, visit the SBDC Facebook page and website.

Pikes Peak United Way is asking the community to give on May 5, Giving Tuesday Now, in response to the unprecedented need created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

People and organizations around the world will be coming together in acts of unity and giving on May 5 for Giving Tuesday Now.

Pikes Peak United Way
is working to address immediate needs posed by this crisis as well as long-term challenges that will affect education, income and health outcomes across the community.

Keller Homes has committed to match all #GivingTuesdayNow donations to Pikes Peak United Way, up to $10,000.

"Whether it's building homes or building community, Keller Homes wants to lead by example," says Pam Keller of Keller Homes. "The impact of every dollar you give will be doubled and every dollar will impact people who are suffering from job loss, food insecurity, rising debt, and an absence of childcare and school."

The CARES Act has created new tax incentives for Americans to give to qualifying charities, including Pikes Peak United Way.

For more information about Giving Tuesday, visit now.givingtuesday.org.

For more information about Pikes Peak United Way’s response to the pandemic, visit ppunitedway.org/covid-19-donation.

The Colorado Apartment Association has partnered with the Resident Relief Foundation to create a financial relief fund that will directly help Colorado residents who are struggling to pay their rent because of coronavirus-related job or income loss or illness.

The Resident Relief Foundation, which provides rental assistance grants during temporary emergencies,  recently launched a national multifamily industry fundraising initiative to raise $10 million for rent payment assistance caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Colorado Apartment Association has joined the effort to bring this funding to Colorado.

Residents who meet the program criteria can apply for partial to full rent payments if they have experienced virus-related income or job loss. The relief funds will be given on a first-come, first-served basis, so qualified residents are encouraged to reach out as soon as they receive a demand for payment from the housing provider and realize they are unable to meet repayment obligations.

The Colorado Apartment Association encourages anyone with the financial means to contribute to RRF’s Colorado fund and directly support fellow Colorado residents with upcoming rent obligations.

“Like many others across the country, Colorado residents are experiencing overwhelming financial pressure and desperately need help from those who are financially secure in their communities,” says Tina Oswald, executive director of RRF. “We have seen a huge increase in the number of inquiries and applications from Colorado residents. While many residents have received federal aid in the form of stimulus checks and plans kick in and further relief efforts are needed.”

More than 90 percent of Colorado residents were able to pay their rent on time in April, but May and June could be a different story due to extended job losses, Oswald says.

“We have to spread the word quickly to get this program off the ground, to both donors and residents who need the help” says Mark Williams, executive vice president of CAA.

To donate, visit residentrelieffoundation.org/colorado.

For more information about applying for assistance, visit residentrelieffoundation.org/our-programs.

Goodwill of Colorado will reopen all stores in its southern and western territories on Friday, May 1— excluding Goodwill’s West Store (2304 W. Colorado Ave.), which will open Friday, May 29, and its Durango store, which will open Friday, May 15.

Goodwill’s temporary retail and attended donation center hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily.

“Goodwill has worked diligently to create a safe reopening plan that gets our valued employees back to work, keeping in mind the well-being of everyone at each location, especially those most vulnerable,” Goodwill of Colorado President and CEO Karla Grazier says. “We are excited to re-open our doors and, in turn, open new doors to opportunity for Coloradans in need. The mission we deliver has never been more vital than it is today."

Goodwill is following the government’s strict new safety guidelines, which include:
-Social distancing decals on sales floor, 6 feet apart
-Limited number of in-store customers
-One-way shopping aisles
-PPE used by staff
-Temporary closure of dressing rooms
-Frequent disinfecting of public and high-touch areas such as tables, countertops and shopping carts

Goodwill also welcomes donations of clothing, household items and other gently used goods and, in partnership with the state’s Emergency Management Office, is accepting donations of nonperishable food, masks, scrubs, fabrics and cleaning supplies.

All Goodwill donation attendants are using face masks and gloves, as instructed by the Colorado Department of Health.

Visit DiscoverMyGoodwill.org/Open for more details, including store locations.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold is again alerting small business owners about potentially misleading notices requesting an extra fee from a third party to file business documents.

In recent days, the Secretary of State’s office has received numerous reports of third parties sending deceptive and misleading solicitations to Colorado businesses. The Secretary of State maintains an easy-to-use online filing system for businesses, and use of a third party to complete filings is not required.

“During this time when many small businesses are struggling, third parties have been sending out solicitations asking for unnecessary fees to file business reports with our office,” Griswold says. “The Colorado Secretary of State’s office takes pride in having an easy-to-use and affordable business filing system, which is why we are alerting business owners about these dubious solicitations.”

The newest versions of these solicitations ask businesses to pay a fee of $110 to file their yearly periodic report with the Secretary of State’s office. Businesses can file their yearly periodic reports online at the Secretary of States website for only $10. Colorado continues to have one of the lowest business filing fee states in the nation.

Other misleading solicitations may:
-Appear similar to a government form
-Cite specific Colorado statutes
-Contain your business entity’s actual business ID number and date of formation, as reflected in the Secretary of State’s business records.
-Contain a Customer ID Number that does not match a number given to you by a state or federal agency
-Contain a warning to make sure that the forms instructions are followed exactly when completing the form
-Require a fee
-Contain a due date for your response
-Offer to file a Statement Curing Delinquency or Periodic Report.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s office does not send these solicitations, does not mail out business filing forms and compliance with these notices is not required.

A sample of the latest misleading notice can be found here.

Business owners can find instructions to easily and directly file business forms on the Secretary of State’s website under the Business Organizations heading.

In order to receive advance notice of when Periodic Reports, Trademark renewals, or Trade Name renewals are due, business owners can sign up online for free email notifications.

Additionally, business owners can visit sos.state.co.us to verify their business status, file a form or obtain a free certification.

The Secretary of State posts alerts and notices about misleading filings here.

Two health care providers in Colorado will receive a combined total of $853,527 from the Federal Communications Commission to provide telehealth services during the coronavirus pandemic.

Children’s Hospital Colorado, with 14 locations throughout the state, was awarded $807,090 to implement telehealth services to provide continuity of medical care for children, adolescents and young adults with complex pediatric illnesses.

Valley-Wide Health Systems in Alamosa was awarded $46,437 to implement video telehealth services to provide virtual health visits for COVID-19 screening and primary medical care to its vulnerable low-income and elderly patients.

This funding was provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law on March 27.

“During this pandemic, telehealth can be used to access health care while social distancing and prevent unnecessary trips outside of the home, which is critical to help stop the spread of COVID-19,” Sen. Cory Gardner says. “I’m pleased that Colorado will receive substantial funding to enhance telehealth services, and I’ll continue working with the medical professionals and leaders at every level to ensure our state has the necessary resources and support to get through COVID-19 together.”

Pueblo City-County Library District
will offer curbside pickup and mail service delivery of library materials starting Monday, May 4.

Additionally, all outdoor book drops will reopen at Barkman, Greenhorn Valley, Tom L. and Anna Marie Giodone, Lamb, Patrick A. Lucero, Pueblo West and Robert Hoag Rawlings Public Library.

All PCCLD buildings remain closed to the public at this time. Patrons can check out new materials by placing them on hold through the district’s online catalog and requesting curbside pickup when choosing the pickup location.

A library staffer will call the phone number listed in the contact information to arrange a pickup time; times will be set within 10-minute windows.

This service is available during normal business hours, up to 30 minutes before closing. Returns are not accepted at curbside pickup; patrons must use the outdoor book drops when returning materials. At this time the Library @ the Y will reopen when the Pueblo YMCA reopens.

Each branch has dedicated parking spaces for patron pickup. Once there, patrons are asked to call the phone number listed on signs to let staff know they’ve arrived.For confirmation, patrons are asked to have a photo ID ready to show staff through the car window. All items will be bagged and placed into the waiting vehicle; patrons are asked to have a door or trunk already open. Normal borrowing rules apply; to learn more, visit pueblolibrary.org/about/borrowingrules.

Attending staff will wear personal protective equipment including face masks, protective gowns and gloves, and follow public health protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Patrons who choose not to leave their homes can receive library materials by mail. When placing a hold in the library catalog, choose "Mail Delivery" as the pick-up location. Library staff will call to verify the patron's card number and address. Items will then be checked out on the customer's account for one month and mailed directly to their residence. Patrons will be responsible for returning the items during that time.Items can be returned by mail or any PCCLD book drop. Items can be renewed by calling the library directly at 719-562-5607.
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