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Health

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

COVID-19 update for April 8: Churches may offer "drive-in" Easter services, Polis says

Posted By on Wed, Apr 8, 2020 at 6:29 PM

The Colorado Convention Center has been announced as a medical shelter facility to house recovering COVID-19 patients. - JOE WOLF
  • Joe Wolf
  • The Colorado Convention Center has been announced as a medical shelter facility to house recovering COVID-19 patients.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment was reporting 5,655 cases of COVID-19 — the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus — through April 7.

Statewide, 1,162 people have been hospitalized and 193 have died. In El Paso County, there have been 472 confirmed cases and 30 deaths.

"Our thoughts and our hearts go out to every family who's experienced loss because of COVID-19 in Colorado," Gov. Jared Polis said at a news conference April 8.

Polis said the state has "confidence" the stay-at-home order's current end date of April 26 can remain in place.

"If people are failing to stay at home and mixing unnecessarily and spreading the virus, that [could] go longer," he added.


Centura Health announced it is opening 7 locations — including Colorado Springs and Pueblo — offering COVID-19 testing for symptomatic first responders across Colorado.

“We’ve recognized the need for additional COVID-19 testing since the onset of this pandemic and are grateful that we now have the capacity to provide this testing to our first responder community. The value of knowing is priceless for first responders,” Dr. Shauna Gulley, Centura's chief clinical officer, said in a statement.

“Our partners on the front line are presented with unique challenges because of the nature of their work and we want to ensure that they have the support and information they need to protect themselves, their loved ones and the community.

”Responder agencies interested in testing for their teams should email CenturaLovesFirstResponders@centura.org to receive special forms. First responders will need to bring the forms with them for testing.

The following locations are open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

● Colorado Springs: 3027 N. Circle Drive
● Pueblo: 4112 Outlook Blvd.
● Denver: 711 E. Yale Ave.
● Westminster: 7233 Church Ranch Blvd.
● Breckenridge: 555 S. Park Ave.
● Durango: 810 3rd St.
● Longmont: 1380 Tulip St.


Polis announced guidance for faith leaders for celebrating Easter and other large religious holidays.

Churches with adequate parking capacity that follow safety guidelines may offer "drive-in" services, as long as they follow social distancing and other safety procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Churches who want to coordinate such services should coordinate with their county health department, Polis said.

"It's not for every church — most can reach more people better through streaming technologies — but certainly that's available," he added.

Church services can also be recorded or broadcast live using production crews of fewer than 10 people.

The Easter Sunrise Service at Red Rocks Amphitheatre will be pre-recorded and available on the Colorado Council of Churches website, no later than 6 a.m. Easter Sunday.

Rev. Dr. Miguel De La Torre, an ordained Southern Baptist preacher and a professor at Denver's Iliff School of Theology, will deliver the sermon.


Colorado's Unified Command announced two alternative care facilities — the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, and The Ranch, Larimer County Fairgrounds & Events Complex in Loveland — to shelter COVID-19 patients being transferred from hospitals and health care facilities. Combined, the two facilities will be able to hold around 3,000 patients.

The Army Corps of Engineers will begin construction at the two sites on April 10, according to a statement from the command center.

The command center plans to finalize leases with three additional alternative care sites by the end of this week, the statement also notes.

Such alternative care sites, which are being prepared to address an expected shortage of space at hospitals, will house "Tier 3" patients only.

Here's how the tiers work:

● Tier 1: Patients with critical needs (those who need medical attention) are admitted into a critical care setting, such as an intensive care unit or medical nursing unit.
● Tier 2: As Tier 1 patients recover, they may be transferred to an ambulatory surgical center, free-standing emergency department, or critical access hospital for acute care.
● Tier 3: As Tier 2 patients recover further, they may be transferred to alternative care sites or medical shelters.
● Tier 4: Patients who are ready to go home but need to stay quarantined may be transferred to a hotel that has been converted to a medical shelter.



Local nonprofit Special Kids Special Families, which mainly serves kids and adults with disabilities, is offering behavioral health care for seniors via telehealth technology (phone or secure video).

Services include a mental health screening, diagnostic clinical evaluation, individual or family therapy and case management.

The nonprofit accepts Medicaid or CIGNA insurance, and the services are free for uninsured seniors. Contact Special Kids Special Families at (719) 447-8983 or visit sksfcolorado.org for more information.

People experiencing a mental health crisis can contact Colorado Crisis Services 24/7, seven days a week. Call 1-844-493-TALK or text TALK to 38255 to speak with a trained professional. Chat services are also available from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. daily at coloradocrisisservices.org.



The federal Food and Drug Administration issued a warning letter to a company marketing "fraudulent and dangerous" chlorine dioxide products billed as a treatment for COVID-19.

"Despite previous warnings, the FDA is concerned that we are still seeing chlorine dioxide products being sold with misleading claims that they are safe and effective for the treatment of diseases, now including COVID-19," FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said in a statement.

"The sale of these products can jeopardize a person's health and delay proper medical treatment."


Colorado Springs Business Journal Managing Editor Helen Robinson contributed reporting.
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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Make4Covid initiative unites 3D printing pros to make PPE

Posted By on Tue, Apr 7, 2020 at 11:16 AM

Library staff prep 3D printers at Library 21c. - COURTESY OF PIKES PEAK LIBRARY DISTRICT
  • Courtesy of Pikes Peak Library District
  • Library staff prep 3D printers at Library 21c.

A recent inspector general's report for the Department of Health and Human Services outlines several challenges faced by health care personnel responding to the COVID-19 pandemic across the U.S.

One of the most widespread challenges, the report found, is the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) — such as masks and gowns — to keep medical workers safe as they treat patients suffering severe symptoms from the novel coronavirus.

"To secure the necessary PPE, equipment, and supplies, hospitals reported turning to new, sometimes un-vetted, and non-traditional sources of supplies and medical equipment," the report says. "To try to make existing supplies of PPE last, hospitals reported conserving and reusing single-use/disposable PPE, including using or exploring ultra-violet (UV) sterilization of masks or bypassing some sanitation processes by having staff place surgical masks over N95 masks."

Hospitals are having to address this supply chain problem in novel ways. While many people in the community want to help by donating handmade masks or other equipment, facilities in the overwhelmed health care system don't have time to vet whether each shipment of PPE is safe.

That's where Colorado's Make4COVID comes in. The group, which started at the University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical Campus, now has more than 1,200 members working together to 3D print PPE, says Omar Soubra, a spokesperson for the group.

It's not only professional "makers" (who know how to use the 3D printers and laser cutters). The effort takes a village.

"There’s a core team, basically, that has medical professionals [who] validate what we’re doing from a medical perspective — so they approve the design, the decontamination procedures, everything that goes into those aspects," Soubra explains, "and then we have professional industrial designers that have joined the team and that are making the tweaks and the adjustments needed or required by the doctors depending on what their feedback was."

Also on board: supply chain managers, engineers, marketers and scientific advisors.

Make4Covid transports a load of PPE to the Melissa Memorial Hospital in Holyoke. - COURTESY OF MAKE4COVID
  • Courtesy of Make4Covid
  • Make4Covid transports a load of PPE to the Melissa Memorial Hospital in Holyoke.

Currently, Soubra says, the group is focusing on manufacturing face shields, which consist of a 3D-printer headband portion that's attached to a transparent shield produced using laser cutters. People with access to and knowledge of these machines follow a set of standard operating procedures "so they don't contaminate the parts," Soubra says.

Make4Covid is concentrating its efforts on helping rural hospitals, which Soubra says face the most severe supply chain issues.

As part of the effort, the Pikes Peak Library District has distributed several of its larger 3D printers to makers in the community, who are making face shield parts in the safety of their own homes.

CEO and Chief Librarian John Spears says the library district also plans to have staff use sewing machines and smaller 3D printers to help in the effort. (Read more about this in our April 8 issue.)

Make4Covid has partnered with Angel Flight West and the Civil Air Patrol to deliver shipments of PPE to rural hospitals, Soubra says.

People interested in supporting the effort can visit make4covid.co. Online, there's instructions about how to make the items and what materials are needed.

“Colorado hospitals have been overwhelmed by the preparation and response to the COVID-19 crisis," Andrew Henderson, one of the Make4Covid founders and lab manager of Inworks, said in a recent statement. "Makers and people who want to help have been reaching out to them, but most medical professionals are not makers. They have needs, but no time to repeat these to all the people who want to help.

"Make4Covid is here to centralize the needs, remotely organize teams and systems and manufacture solutions. If you are maker, tinkerer, if you own a 3D printer, a laser cutter or other manufacturing equipment, join our effort and help as a community.”
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Monday, April 6, 2020

Riot threatened at El Paso County jail to virus restrictions

Posted By on Mon, Apr 6, 2020 at 6:02 PM

The intake area at the Criminal Justice Center where a deputy worked before being infected. He died last week. - PHOTOS BY PAM ZUBECK
  • Photos by Pam Zubeck
  • The intake area at the Criminal Justice Center where a deputy worked before being infected. He died last week.
After Criminal Justice Center inmates were told of changes designed to quell the spread of COVID-19, a near riot unfolded on April 2, requiring an all-hands callout for help and, in a related matter, the activation of the Special Response Team, the jail's version of SWAT, according to El Paso County Sheriff's Office reports obtained by the Indy.

The Sheriff's Office says no deputies or inmates were injured during the incident, which spanned several hours in a facility where despite close living conditions, no inmates have yet tested positive. The virus last week, though, claimed the life of, Deputy Jeff Hopkins, a 41-year-old deputy who worked in the jail.

The threat of rioting — signaled by inmates covering their faces with towels and wrapping their hands in sheets — triggered in-house disciplinary charges of attempted riot and deviant or delinquent behavior against nine people who allegedly were instigators.

Meantime, El Paso County Coroner Dr. Leon Kelly says the county's public health department secured coronavirus tests for the jail from the state just over a week ago.

"They currently have them at the facility and can be performed by the Medical staff and submitted through the CDPHE [the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment] lab which now has about a 24-48 hour turn around time," Kelly tells the Indy via email.

Kelly says no inmates have tested positive, adding, "We are in communication constantly concerning possible exposures, isolations, and quarantines of inmates as well as EPSO staff."

He also says all law enforcement officials can be tested at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) testing center without a doctor's referral if they show symptoms, which include a temperature over 100 degrees, a dry cough and shortness of breath.

The FEMA testing center is located on International Circle east of Union Boulevard and is expecting a visit from White House officials April 7 to document the first responder FEMA testing site.

"The purpose of their visit is to tell the story of successful local, state, and federal partner coordination," according to a written update provided to the local COVID-19 Policy Team. "They will be doing a tour of the site, getting b-roll of cars at the site, and interviewing 4-5 individuals connected to the site (a Public Health representative, hospital spokesperson, elected official, a nurse/law enforcement personnel that has gone through the site, etc.)."

"The jail does have access to as many kits as they need currently and I am working with UCHealth [which operates the city's Memorial Hospitals] to ensure the jail also has access to the medical providers and increased testing capacity there moving forward as the inmates represent a very at-risk population," Kelly says. "All this is really good news and significant progress from where we all started."

More on testing of inmates later.
Unlike the ward where inmates threatened to riot, this ward has lock down cells.
  • Unlike the ward where inmates threatened to riot, this ward has lock down cells.
Sheriff's reports show that at about 9:30 p.m. April 2, a sergeant advised the jail deputy overseeing one ward of changes in restrictions due to the virus, which included forcing inmates to eat meals on their bunks instead of a common area. That particular ward has no cells but rather bays with eight beds each.

When Deputy Brenden Koehlinger told inmates of the change, inmates began shouting profanities and refused his order to return to their bunks. He called for assistance and a sergeant responded. But inmates refused to quiet down, and Koehlinger called for Lt. Otis Habert.

From the deputy's report:
As he [Lt. Habert] entered, he got the same response and the Inmates started to walk out of there [sic] bays with towels around there faces, as well as bed sheets wrapped around their hands, this indicated that [sic] were going to start a riot. Lt Habert called for responding Deputies, all assists, and all available Intake Deputies to report to my ward.

Once more Deputies came into the ward, three deputies went to each bay to address them individually. This went on for about two and a half hours until the ward finally calmed down. All Deputies left the ward except for two, who stayed and helped me maintain checks, and med pass, while I was talking to the bays. Lt. Habert advised against moving people out of the ward since that is what they all wanted.

Multiple Inmates stated their displeasure with the rule about eating in their bays if they are locked down, and that [they] would riot if they had to. 
When Deputy Kevin Cross arrived for duty that morning, he wrote in a report, "I could visually see the tension in the ward."

"The common consensus between the inmates was they felt they were being punished for doing nothing wrong and felt disrespected for being told they need to eat on their bunks, and they would 'turn up' [acting disruptive] if they had to eat on their beds," Cross wrote.

Cross said the plan, starting with breakfast on April 3, was to serve the top tier the meal and allow the lower tier to eat in the day room, then rotate on subsequent days.

In a related incident, an inmate became combative when not being accommodated his special diet, prompting deputies to call for the 11-member Special Response Team.

Nine inmates were moved to different ward.

Sheriff's spokesperson Deb Mynatt says one inmate has been tested, with negative results, and gave this description of testing in the jail:
Testing has already begun as of March 30 there were 100 tests provided that we have arranged and from CDPHE. When they come into our facility medical staff will perform a temperature scan and screen with medical-related- COVID-19 questions, and if they fit the parameters they isolate the inmate immediately.

If they start showing signs and symptoms and if they answer yes to any of the questions we put them in isolation and observe them. If they are asymptomatic and a low grade fever and even if they do not fit the COVID parameters we would still put them in isolation for approximately 72 hours, to err on caution.

If they do not show any symptoms within that time frame we can release them into general population. If they begin showing symptoms during that time frame we can conduct tests to rule out flu, strep, etc. If it is ruled out, medical would consult with other medical staff and then determine based on their observations and tests to conduct a COVID-19 test. We cannot test everyone that has a simple cough as an example, because as everyone else nationwide, we are limited in supplies.

We err on the side of caution and observe very closely, every inmate and staff member coming into our facility.

If people are leaving and have shown symptoms, we advise them to contact CDC and to self-isolate.
As of April 6, Mynatt says, 17 inmates are in isolation out of precaution but none have tested positive for COVID-19. Eight deputies have tested positive for the virus, including Deputy  Hopkins, who worked in the jail's intake area. Two others also work in the jail and five others work in other assignments outside the jail.

The jail's medical contractor is Wellpath LLC, based in Nashville, Tennessee, which announced on April 3 it would increase pay and issue bonuses, increase paid time off and other benefits "to help the thousands of frontline team members in sites providing clinical care during the coronavirus crisis." Wellpath was hired after the county had difficulties with compliance by previous contractors.

The jail's normal population tops 1,500 but as of April 6 held 1,087 inmates due to releases made to provide for greater social distancing between inmates and staff while preserving public safety, a sheriff's spokesperson says.
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Look for that masked man — Mayor John Suthers — this week

Posted By on Mon, Apr 6, 2020 at 9:30 AM

The city's Olympic City logo might show up on face masks Mayor John Suthers says he'll "model" to the public next week. - CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • City of Colorado Springs
  • The city's Olympic City logo might show up on face masks Mayor John Suthers says he'll "model" to the public next week.
Mayor John Suthers told Colorado Springs City Council on Friday, April 3 that the city should "model" Polis' recommendation that everyone wear face masks when they leave their homes to deter the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

"I think you'll see me modeling that in public appearances," Suthers said last week, adding that someone is working on making face masks imprinted with "Olympic City USA," the city's brand.

Councilor David Geislinger noted that while some residents resist the restrictions imposed by officials to discourage spread of the virus, "This is a moral requirement. Follow the underlying moral law, not only to protect themselves but to protect others."

Suthers also said El Paso County has 16.5 percent of the COVID-19 deaths in the state, while representing 13 percent of the population. He said based on numbers shared by the governor El Paso County likely has up to 4,000 infections, although the confirmed number is only 435.

The city is taking bids from health care providers to operate a homeless isolation center at the City Auditorium, which will contain 100 beds for homeless people who show symptoms, test positive or are recovering and are ready to be discharged from a hospital.

Other high points:

• A $1.3 million local fund to help small businesses has drawn 500 applicants.

• 80 percent of nonsworn city personnel are working from home.

• The city plans to apply for federal funds to help Colorado Springs Airport, which saw traffic drop from 2,500 passengers a day before the virus took root to 250 on April 2.

• The mayor will recommend Council ask voters in November for permission to keep $1.4 million in excess revenue collected in 2019 above caps imposed by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights.

• The bond market's volatility meant the Air Force Academy Visitors Center project was unable to issue bonds, but state officials extended the timeframe until Dec. 31 to enable the developer to secure funding. The project is part of the city's City for Champions tourism package.
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Friday, April 3, 2020

Fire inspectors not billing for permits, yet, amid COVID-19 pandemic

Posted By on Fri, Apr 3, 2020 at 4:10 PM

Fire Marshal Brett Lacey - COURTESY CSFD
  • Courtesy CSFD
  • Fire Marshal Brett Lacey
Colorado Springs Fire Department inspectors remain on the job, but they're not lowering the boom on some businesses like they normally would and it's unclear if all the permit fees they impose will be waived or merely postponed.

Reached by phone, Fire Marshall Brett Lacey tells the Indy his inspectors understand the trauma local businesses, many of which have shut down amid the COVID-19 pandemic, are experiencing, but the public's welfare is of primary concern.

"The fire and life safety of buildings, businesses and service providers in this community is more important now than maybe ever before," he says, "because we're in a worldwide crisis where people have had to shut things down rapidly and do things in a totally different way.

"What we don't want to see is, people making decisions that may [negatively] impact fire and life safety. We want businesses to remain open. We also recognize nationally if a business closes as result of a fire, 51 percent of those businesses don't reopen," he says."We want to make sure we are taking care of our community the best way we can. We appreciate the burden on everyone right now, so we want to collaborate with them, but we want to maintain a safe environment in our community. When we kick start everything [after the virus threat subsides] we want to make sure we are as safe as we were and can recover as fast as possible."

That means that permits charged for certain inspections may be reduced or postponed, which could have a significant impact on the city's budget.

Such fees range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand and, in a normal year, exceed $500,000, Lacey says. (Mayor John Suthers has said he expects to see sales tax collections plummet by millions of dollars this year due shutdowns caused by the virus.)

Some businesses that have closed abruptly are difficult( if not impossible) to inspect, but crews remain busy inspecting those that remain open, including auto repair shops and businesses that store hazardous materials.

"We're still going to those locations," he says. "We have a number of permits we put on annual inspections, such as restaurants and assembly occupancies. They require an annual inspection to operate. But because of all the closings, we can't get in."
Norris-Penrose Events Center has been inspected as a possible shelter amid the COVID-19 pandemic. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • Norris-Penrose Events Center has been inspected as a possible shelter amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lacey's division also is charged with inspecting potential sites to house the sick, including City Auditorium, which is being converted for use to house homeless people who are symptomatic, and Norris-Penrose Events Center.

City-owned City Auditorium, he says, does not have sprinkler or fire alarm systems, while the Norris-Penrose Event Center, owned by the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Foundation, has a sprinkler system in place and is currently installing alarms.

While Lacey is willing to give business owners time to correct code violations, "What I don't want is a tragedy upon a tragedy," he says. "Our job is to identify problems or issues. We're going to  try to work more as an advocate or a consultant. Let's do something to mitigate things until there's a budget flexibility to where it can be fixed the right way.

"I've told staff to hold on to permits, don't invoice, until the city decides how to deal with that," he says.

Despite a raft of closed businesses, he says his inspectors are busy inspecting those that are open, as well as lending a hand with investigating fires' origin and cause.

"We have got such a horrendous backlog of work between establishing training manuals, because we were so busy the last few years," he says. "Currently we're catching up on a lot of critical and needed paperwork and training."
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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Update: COVID-19 stalls Colorado legislative session

Posted By on Thu, Apr 2, 2020 at 10:18 AM

ARINA P HABICH / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Arina P Habich / Shutterstock.com
——- UPDATE THURSDAY, APRIL 2 AT 9:50 A.M. ———

The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled in favor of state Democrats, saying that the 120 days in the legislative session do not need to be counted consecutively.

State statute and the Assembly's joint resolution "together operate to count the 120 calendar days of a regular session consecutively except during a declared public health emergency disaster, in which case only days on which at least one chamber convenes count toward the 120-day maximum."

This means state legislators should be able to tack on extra days to the end of the legislative session after they return to the Capitol.


——- ORIGINAL POST WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1 AT 3:17 P.M. ——-

After a two-week, unplanned break in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a handful of Colorado lawmakers gathered at the state Capitol on March 30.

The state Assembly had voted March 14 to postpone the session until that date, in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

But on March 30, neither the Senate nor the House had enough people present — as expected — to establish a quorum, the minimum number of lawmakers required to vote on legislation. (That's 18 senators and 33 representatives, or a simple majority.)

So, both chambers adjourned for at least a few days.

House lawmakers are planning to adjourn again "in some way" when the chamber is scheduled to meet next April 2, says Jarrett Freedman, communications director for House Democrats.

State Sen. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, says the general consensus among Senate Democrats is to "continue the adjournment for the foreseeable future."

(There had been some discrepancy about whether legislators needed to return March 30 to vote on extending the adjournment, the Colorado Sun reports.)

In Lee's view, legislators have a responsibility to follow the stay-at-home order: "For us to go in when we do not have a critical function to perform to me seems foolhardy," he says.

It's unclear when the lawmaking session will resume.

On March 27, however, Gov. Jared Polis signed a batch of bills that had already been passed by state lawmakers. Some of the highlights from that list include:

House Bill 1275, which allows service members, veterans and their dependents to receive in-state tuition at Colorado community colleges;
House Bill 1178, which requires the Colorado Department of Transportation to study whether speed limits can be increased on certain rural highways; and
House Bill 1300, which makes technical changes to the local school food purchasing program.

You can read the full list here.

Meanwhile, House Democrats and Republicans are in the midst of a legal battle over what happens after lawmakers are able to return to the Capitol.

State law says that the legislative session is only 120 days, and that has been interpreted in the past to mean consecutive days.

Democrats — who hold the majority in the House, Senate and governor's office — want the session to be extended past its scheduled end date, due to this unplanned break.

Republicans, on the other hand, want the session to end on May 6, as scheduled. This would greatly hamper Democrats' ability to pass their legislative priorities.

Both sides have submitted briefs to the Colorado Supreme Court, which could issue a decision by the end of the week, CBS Denver reports.
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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

COVID-19 update for April 1: Suthers announces isolation shelter

Posted By on Wed, Apr 1, 2020 at 6:26 PM

The City Auditorium is being considered as an isolation shelter. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • The City Auditorium is being considered as an isolation shelter.

At a news conference April 1, the city of Colorado Springs announced plans for an isolation shelter at the City Auditorium, where people experiencing homelessness who have COVID-19 symptoms will be separated from others in an effort to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"This shelter is absolutely vital," Mayor John Suthers said.

Notably, at a City Council meeting on March 27, Council members were told that the Colorado Springs Fire Department had said the City Auditorium wasn't appropriate for an isolation shelter. It's not clear what changed, as Suthers said April 1 that the city had the support of the fire department in creating the shelter there.

The original time the shelter had been scheduled to open, 4 p.m. on April 1, has been delayed, according to a joint statement from the city and Community Health Partnership, the lead agency of the Pikes Peak Continuum of Care, which is partnering with the city on this project along with Springs Rescue Mission.

The state Department of Public Health and Environment was reporting 3,342 cases of COVID-19, with 620 people hospitalized and 80 deaths from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. That data is current through March 31.

"The better the compliance with the stay-at-home order, the sooner we can squash the threat," Gov. Jared Polis said at an April 1 news conference, where he also announced that schools would be required to remain closed through at least April 30 — past the original date of April 17.

Polis also signed an executive order expanding the use of telehealth services in the state.

Drawing anger from environmental advocates, and without providing an end date, the Environmental Protection Agency said it does not expect compliance on routine monitoring of pollution for the time being.

"The EPA does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the EPA agrees that COVID-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the EPA upon request," a March 26 letter reads.

Small businesses that want to apply for relief in the form of an Economic Injury Disaster Loan or the Paycheck Protection Program — as provided to the state under the federal $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act — should apply now, as "the funds are expected to go quickly," according to a statement from the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC.

During the temporary closure of county clerk and recorder offices, El Paso County residents can request marriage licenses remotely per an executive order from Polis.

"Couples will be required to sign an affidavit and submit this to the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office in addition to the online marriage application, license fee and any other required supporting documentation," according to a statement from the county clerk and recorder's office. "The license is valid immediately and may be used anywhere in the State of Colorado. Couples have until May 31, 2020 in which to use this license before it expires, which is thirty-five (35) days following the expiration of Executive Order D 2020 014, unless further amended by the Governor. For information contact Recording 719-520-6200 or recweb@elpasoco.com."

When emotions are high and needs are great, everyone's vulnerable to scams — even the state government. At a news conference April 1, Gov. Jared Polis said the state has been carefully vetting suppliers of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves for health care employees. Some offers, he said, have turned out to be scams.

To help prevent small businesses and community members from falling for scammers, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is hosting a virtual roundtable April 17, titled "Financial and Legal Scams: COVID-19 Cybersecurity Scams & The Impact on Small Business."

In partnership with the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado, SBDC Techsource: Cyber CYA (Cybersecurity to Cover Your Assets), will educate businesses on the latest scams and cyberthreats to watch out for. The free webinar will take place online from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 17. Register online.
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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

COVID-19 update for March 31. Coroner says elderly are "driving our high rate"

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2020 at 4:47 PM

screen_shot_2020-03-31_at_9.55.37_am.png
As the numbers of Coloradans infected with COVID-19 climb, El Paso County Coroner Dr. Leon Kelly disputes that county residents aren't doing enough to stem coronavirus here.

Speaking to the Board of County Commissioners on March 31, Kelly, who has taken up residence with El Paso County Public Health for the time being, said at least four of the county's 11 deaths can be directly tied to a bridge tournament that claimed the county's first victim.

A sophisticated and labor-intensive effort by employees of Public Health and the Coroner's office tracked those who came into contact during the tournament, held from Feb. 27 to March 3. Kelly noted the first victim's family and the tournament organizer cooperated fully with that effort.

He also noted that the only guidance in place at that time was to wash your hands and cover your cough. "We can't blame them for not following orders that were not yet in place," he said.

The first victim in El Paso County died the second week of March, and the governor's shelter-in-place order was imposed March 25.

"What is driving our high rate is our first cluster of cases was in an at-risk population," Kelly said. "This is a 12-round title bout. At the opening bell we got punched in the mouth a little bit."

Kelly said the first victim had no travel history, so she did not bring the virus into the community. In fact, Kelly and his crew have been unable to identify the genesis of that outbreak, despite their elaborate efforts, which involved trying to identify all 150 people she had contact with during the multi-day tournament.
Here's a graphic presentation of all the COVID-19 cases in El Paso County.
  • Here's a graphic presentation of all the COVID-19 cases in El Paso County.
Public Health notified the public the following afternoon and ultimately identified 10 to 15 others who were ill or symptomatic of the virus from within the bridge circle. "We discovered one of those went to a choir practice that involved more than 100 other people," he said. "It became clear we were working with a large portion of at-risk people."

County employees made more than 300 contacts, he said, adding, "There were untold lives that were undoubtedly saved."

He noted that El Paso County's numbers seem high, but it's the most populous county in the state, which he said explains part of the issue, noting that those numbers shouldn't be used "inappropriately to suggest we're not following the rules."

That comment was in reference to Gov. Jared Polis' brief remark on March 30 that El Paso County residents weren't sufficiently taking his order to heart, which drew a rebuke from Mayor John Suthers, according to media reports.

While some readers have observed that traffic around town doesn't seem to have changed and that people don't seem to be fully complying with the governor's orders, Suthers' spokesperson Jamie Fabos tells the Indy in an email, "The [traffic] volume - especially at rush hour - is down significantly and we are witnessing dramatically fewer cars downtown and in parking garages."

She also noted there are "large numbers" of people in parks, which is allowed under the governor's order.

Kelly also told commissioners, "We are having success locally. We are very proud of the effort the local community has made."

But he also acknowledged that officials aren't testing everyone, so "there's going to be people you don't know are positive." Test kits in Colorado are prioritized for those who are hospitalized, as well as health care providers and first responders, not the general populace or even those who show symptoms.

County health workers continue to trace the contacts an infected person has had, which typically leads to at least 10 other people, Kelly said.

The coroner also suggested that further restrictive orders aren't necessary. "We want to get compliance with people coming to the decision on their own, as opposed to more drastic measures that are infringing on people," he said. "We do not believe that our local number of deaths is being driven by failure on anyone's part here."
El Paso County has a higher incidence per capita than the state of Colorado, according to this chart.
  • El Paso County has a higher incidence per capita than the state of Colorado, according to this chart.

He predicted that fatality numbers will grow and said a third of older victims wind up in the hospital. A larger portion of positive cases in El Paso County are elderly, which is why 25 percent of those testing positive in the county have been hospitalized, compared to only 15 percent statewide.

"It's not necessarily how many people get it," he said. "It's who gets it."

"We're still in acceleration phase," Kelly said. "Overall, we really like where we are and we want to continue to encourage people to buy in on the things we're trying to do."

He said within days the community will open a shelter for homeless people who have tested positive. Mayor John Suthers said last week city officials abandoned the idea of using a warehouse near the Springs Rescue Mission or City Auditorium and instead had focused on the Union Printers Home as a potential site. The home recently closed as a nursing facility following the death of a resident unrelated to coronavirus.

Kelly forecast that easing restrictions won't come until a more thorough testing and isolation program is in place to allow public health workers to "put out spot fires" or flareups of the disease.

County Commission Chairman Mark Waller praised the presentation, saying he hopes people understand why the orders have been imposed.

Meantime, on March 31, based on data through March 30, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported a 35 percent jump in COVID-19-related deaths from the day before, to 69 (13 in El Paso County). The number of cases statewide increased by 13 percent to 2,966, while El Paso County's number of cases leaped by 18 percent to 286, compared to the day before.

Outbreaks made a nearly 50 percent gain in one day, from 11 on March 29 to 16 on March 30.

In other news:

Notice the address is "Postal Customer," meaning the piece got wide distribution.
  • Notice the address is "Postal Customer," meaning the piece got wide distribution.
• Seems President Trump knows how to capitalize on a crisis and turn it into a campaign opportunity, funded by taxpayers, to reach out to the nation's entire population. A week or so ago, postcards started landing in mailboxes, stating "President Trump's coronavirus guidelines for America." Never mind that Trump didn't take the virus seriously at first and even as recently as last week predicted the country would reopen for business by Easter, which is April 12.

Anyhow, several people reached out to the Indy wondering how Trump could spend taxpayer money to get his name in front of voters. It's been a common practice in years past for Congress members to take advantage of their ability to use taxpayer-funded communications to constituents months before an election. It's commonly called "franked" mail.

We contacted Eric Sondermann, an independent political analyst from Colorado, to get his take.

"Taxpayers are used to receiving 'franked' mail from Congresspeople which has a mysterious way of ramping up in advance of a reelection campaign," he says via email. "Now, it appears vast swaths of the country have received a postcard from our President, dressed up as the Commander-in-Chief of the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], in what is tantamount to 'franking' presumably across 435 Congressional districts."

But Sondermann also notes such a maneuver could backfire. "If there’s a silver lining to this, it is that it puts these rather standard and logical public health protocols on paper under the President’s imprint," he says. "And, in so doing, it makes it a bit harder for him to reverse course based on a momentary whim or a downward polling blip."
Sondermann characterized the advice as "rather standard" and "logical."
  • Sondermann characterized the advice as "rather standard" and "logical."
• When a reader raised the question of whether law enforcement officers were protecting themselves with masks, gloves and gowns, like the Colorado Springs Fire Department is doing, we asked.

El Paso County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Jackie Kirby says in an email, "Deputies assigned to our Patrol Division are donning appropriate, Office-issued PPE when encountering citizens when there is a COVID risk. Steps are taken, beginning in our Communications Center, or by the deputy while traveling to a non-emergent call for service, to learn if risk is involved through a screening or series of questions." She adds the department has six employees with lab-confirmed COVID-19.

The Colorado Springs Police Department didn't respond to the Indy's questions.

• Residents in El Paso and Teller counties can connect with information and resources for COVID-19 by calling 719-575-8888. The call center is open seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m on weekends.

• Blood donations are needed. Interested? Call 1-877-25-VITAL or visit vitalant.org to pre-screen and schedule an appointment to donate blood. The Vitalant donation center is located at 3670 Austin Bluffs Pkwy.

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• The Salvation Army, COSILoveYou, Pikes Peak United Way and Care and Share Food Bank have joined forces to create a food box delivery program for Seniors 60 and older who don't have transportation. Care and Share will provide the food, and all four organizations will provide transportation and volunteers. "We realized that vulnerable seniors are going hungry, and our goal is to provide groceries for them during the month of April," The Salvation Army said in a news release.

To get a food box, call Pikes Peak United Way at 2-1-1. Food will be delivered within 48 hours. The box will be brought to your door by a volunteer who will ring the doorbell. To help support this program, call to volunteer or send support: Care and Share, 719-528-1247, careandshare.org; The Salvation Army, 719-636-3891, TSACS.org; Pikes Peak United Way, 719-632-1543, ppunitedway.org, and COSILoveYou, 719-428-5988, cosiloveyou.com.

• The state is searching for sites to set up temporary care units for COVID-19 patients. One place already chosen is the Budweiser Events Center, a 7,200-seat venue in Loveland, State Emergency Operations Center director Mike Willis said.

• The Pikes Peak Community Foundation (PPCF) Emergency Relief Fund announced March 31 it had awarded 22 grants totaling $429,000 since March 20, but it's received requests for more than $3 million. The grants prioritize immediate human needs such as food, shelter, safety and health care to nonprofits serving the most vulnerable populations.

Grants have been given in El Paso County to Colorado Springs Food Rescue, Early Connections Learning Centers, Harrison School District 2, Kingdom Builders, Lutheran Family Services, Mercy’s Gate, Mt. Carmel Veteran Services Center, Open Bible Medical Clinic and Pharmacy, Project Angel Heart, Springs Rescue Mission, TESSA, The Salvation Army, Tri-Lakes Cares, Westside Cares, Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado, Family Promise, Fountain Valley Senior Center, Silver Key Senior Services and Status: Code 4.

In Teller: Community of Caring Foundation/Aspen Mine Center, Community Partnership Family Resource Center and Teller Senior Coalition

As of March 27, the fund had raised more than $580,000 for El Paso and Teller counties. To donate, go to PPCF.org.

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• The International Olympic Committee set the opening date for the Tokyo Olympics on July 23, 2021. They'll closing ceremonies are planned for Aug. 8, 2021.

• Adding a touch of humor to our collective situation, the Rocky Mountain Vibes has introduced "Toasty's Takeout," to offer hardcore baseball fans stadium food to pickup. Starting April 1, fans can order various ballpark foods from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Bonus: some meals come with rolls of toilet paper.
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Monday, March 30, 2020

UPDATE: Two senior cadets reportedly die by suicide in a four-day span

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2020 at 8:14 AM

COURTESY AIR FORCE ACADEMY
  • Courtesy Air Force Academy
UPDATE: This just in from the Academy:

We are deeply saddened to confirm that a US Air Force Academy cadet was found dead in the cadet area Saturday afternoon. This follows another cadet death Thursday morning. Both were Cadets First-Class.

“These tragedies have caused incredible shock and pain throughout our USAFA family,” said Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, Air Force Academy Superintendent. “Right now we are all focused on taking care of the cadet's families and each other—our cadets, our faculty, our staff— as we grieve this loss. We ask for everyone’s patience and respect for the families’ privacy at this time.”

Academy leaders, the chaplain's office and mental health professionals are providing support and grief counseling to cadets, faculty and staff.

The circumstances surrounding the deaths are currently under investigation, but neither was COVID-19-related and foul play is not suspected in either case. 
Read Gen. Silveria's message from March 30:

——————-ORIGINAL POST 8:14 A.M. MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2020————————-
Two senior cadets at the Air Force Academy reportedly completed suicide in the last several days, according to sources and social media.

The Chief of Space Operations, Gen. John W. "Jay" Raymond, based at Peterson Air Force Base, and the Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, will speak to the senior class on Monday, March 30, according to sources. Goldfein is reportedly flying in from Washington, D.C.

The senior class, called firsties, is the only group of cadets left on the campus north of Colorado Springs after the Academy released and sent home the lower classes about two weeks ago as a measure to combat COVID-19. No information about the cadets' deaths or identities has been released officially. But according to stripes.com:

The first death occurred Thursday and was not related to the coronavirus, the Academy said in a statement. No details have been made public about the second death, and neither cadet has been identified.

Both of the deceased were male cadets who would have graduated and would have been commissioned as second lieutenants in May.

Because both deaths “happened behind closed doors,” academy officials “want cadets with the doors open more,” said one of the sources with knowledge of the situation.

Most of the nearly 4,000 cadets at the academy were dismissed more than two weeks ago and are studying remotely until the end of the academic year. The unprecedented move was taken to allow seniors, who remain on campus, to be housed in individual rooms, where they also take online classes, to allow them to follow social-distancing guidelines, which are considered key in stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

Despite the strict measures, two senior cadets have tested positive for the virus, the academy said Friday. Both are in isolation and are being watched closely. Two civilian employees and an active-duty service member also have been confirmed to have the virus, which, in some cases, causes severe lung illness.

The academy is working to identify anyone who has been in close contact with cadets and staff who have the virus, and has closed several facilities for deep cleaning and disinfection, officials said. 
Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria wrote a letter on Facebook on March 27 to the "USAFA community" discussing the first death, which took place on March 26, but there doesn't appear to be a follow up mentioning the second death, which reportedly occurred on March 29, according to sources who couldn't be named because they aren't officially part of the Academy's public communications team.

One source says the seniors remaining at the academy have been threatened with punishment for violating social distancing directives. It's unclear what, if any, counseling and guidance were provided to the cadets in how to cope with isolation.

It's also unclear if Gens. Goldfein and Raymond will order an investigation of the deaths and the circumstances surrounding them.

The Indy has reached out to the Academy and will update when we hear back.
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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

COVID-19 update for March 25: Statewide stay-at-home order announced

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2020 at 5:13 PM

Pete Zeitz, Colorado College's campus safety supervisor, and Catherine Buckley, assistant director for community connections, drop off donations of personal protective equipment at Penrose Hospital. The donations of gloves, masks and biohazard bags came from Colorado College Athletics, Campus Safety and the Fine Arts Center. - COURTESY OF COLORADO COLLEGE
  • Courtesy of Colorado College
  • Pete Zeitz, Colorado College's campus safety supervisor, and Catherine Buckley, assistant director for community connections, drop off donations of personal protective equipment at Penrose Hospital. The donations of gloves, masks and biohazard bags came from Colorado College Athletics, Campus Safety and the Fine Arts Center.

Gov. Jared Polis announced a statewide stay-at-home order that will go into effect at 6 a.m. March 26. Under the order, Coloradans must stay at home except for necessary business. "Critical businesses" — like grocery stores, health care facilities and shelters — are exempt from the order. These businesses must comply with social distancing requirements.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment was reporting 1,086 cases of COVID-19 through March 24, including 122 in El Paso County, and 19 deaths across the state. Five of those deaths have occurred in El Paso County.


Colorado lawmakers voted March 14 to postpone the legislative session until at least March 30 in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. But Democrats and Republicans disagree over whether they should be allowed to tack on extra days to the end of the session in order to make up for lost time.

State law says that the legislative session is only 120 days, and that has been interpreted in the past to mean consecutive days. Democrats, who hold the majority in the state House, Senate and governor's office, want extra days added on after the end of the session, which is currently scheduled for May 6. Republicans want the session to end that day.

The Colorado Supreme Court will consider both arguments in making a decision. Briefs filed in the case were due March 24.


As of late afternoon on March 25, the U.S. Senate was close to passing a $2 trillion COVID-19 relief package that would include direct payments to taxpayers, unemployment benefits and assistance for financially distressed businesses.

The New York Times reports that a final vote on the legislation was being held up by a group of Republican senators who objected to the expansion of unemployment insurance, while some progressives felt the bill was too lenient on corporations.


The Pikes Peak Community Foundation's COVID19 Emergency Relief Fund — created in partnership with Pikes Peak United Way and the Pikes Peak Regional Office of Emergency Management — had raised $517,000 for efforts in El Paso and Teller counties as of March 20. However, initial requests for funding from organizations was more than double that: $1.3 million.

"It's during times of crisis that our community stands together to support our city, and we are humbled by how quickly and generously our community responds to urgent needs," Gary Butterworth, the CEO of PPCF, said in a statement. "However, there is still much work ahead of us as we support those serving the most vulnerable in our community."

El Paso County organizations that have received assistance through the relief fund so far include Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, Family Promise of Colorado Springs, Fountain Valley Senior Center and more.


In order to accommodate restaurants providing curbside pickups and food deliveries, downtown parking in Manitou Springs will be free of charge until April 30, the city announced in a statement.

"The decision to not charge hourly off-street and on-street parking customers is directly aimed at helping stop COVID-19 by eliminating cashier and kiosk interactions," the statement says.

The Barr Trail Lot and the 400 blocks of Ruxton Avenue and Winter Street will remain paid parking, and residential parking areas will be "monitored and enforced as necessary."

Colorado Springs has also made parking free in metered spots downtown and in Old Colorado City, until April 30.


Local nonprofit Harley's Hope Foundation, in collaboration with Colorado Pet Pantry, is offering assistance to pet owners impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The foundation says it can deliver dog and cat food for free to people in El Paso, Teller or Pueblo counties who are under mandatory quarantine, or at high risk of serious effects from the virus (people older than 65 and those with underlying medical conditions). To request food, call (719) 495-6083 or email info@harleys-hopefoundation.org.

Harley's Hope also has $150 vouchers to help pay for pet medications. People who are currently unemployed due to COVID-19, or experiencing other financial hardships as a result of the pandemic, can fill out an application online. Applicants must provide veterinary verification and proof of financial need.

Finally, the foundation is looking for people who can foster animals for people who are temporarily unable to care for them. You can apply online.


Don't fall victim to Social Security scammers in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, warns the Social Security Office of the Inspector General.

The office says it has received reports of Social Security beneficiaries receiving letters in the mail that say their payments will be suspended or stopped unless they call a number listed in the letter. People who call the number may be prompted by scammers to provide personal information or payments, thus making them vulnerable to identity theft and other crimes.

"Social Security will not suspend or decrease Social Security benefit payments or Supplemental Security Income payments due to the current COVID-19 pandemic," the inspector general's office says in a statement. "Any communication you receive that says SSA will do so is a scam, whether you receive it by letter, text, email, or phone call."

Those who do receive such communications should not respond. You can report suspected scams online.


On March 24, the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing submitted an 1135 waiver request to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), asking for more flexibility in administering health care to people affected by COVID-19.

Such waivers can cut down on regulatory burdens in state-administered health care systems by, for example, temporarily suspending certain requirements for enrolling providers in the Medicaid network, or waiving requirements that doctors be licensed in the same state where they are providing services.

Democratic and Republican members of Colorado's congressional delegation signed a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, asking for swift approval of the waiver request.

CMS has approved waiver requests in 13 other states since March 17.


More than 300 medical workers from the 627th Hospital Center at Fort Carson will deploy to Washington state to help with the COVID-19 response.

Evans Army Community Hospital "is working to minimize the impact" of the deployment on Fort Carson soldiers, family members and retirees, according to an announcement from the Army installation. People have an upcoming scheduled appointment should contact their primary care manager to confirm the date and time, the statement said.

As of March 25, Washington state had more than 2,460 reported cases of COVID-19 and 123 deaths due to the virus, according to the Washington State Department of Health.


Project C.U.R.E., a foundation that distributes medical equipment and supplies around the world, will host a donation drive for personal protective equipment at UCHealth Park in collaboration with the Rocky Mountain Vibes baseball team.

On March 25 between 12 and 4 p.m., Project C.U.R.E. will collect donations of the following items (unused and in unopened boxes), to be given to local hospitals:

• Eye protection and goggles
• Face shields
• Surgical masks
• Sterile and non-sterile gloves
• Disposable gowns
• N95 masks
• Sanitation wipes
• Personal wipes

UCHealth Park is located at 4385 Tutt Boulevard.


Infinity Shuttle, a local transportation company, is using its shuttle vans to bring food to Sierra High School, and all of the elementary and middle schools in Harrison District 2, according to an email from owner Anthony Perez. Through a collaboration with nonprofit COSILoveYou, the shuttles are also delivering food and supplies to people who can't get to one of the schools or leave their homes.

To collect supplies for the effort, donation drives will be held between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. weekdays at the following locations:

• New Life Church, 11025 Voyager Parkway
• Pulpit Rock Church, 301 Austin Bluffs Parkway
• Vanguard Church, 3950 N. Academy Boulevard

The following items will be accepted:

• Toilet paper
• Diapers
• Wipes
• Baby supplies
• Children's cold medicine
• General toiletries


The Air Force Academy's North Gate will be closed to all traffic until further notice, according to a March 25 announcement.

The Academy, which has been closed to visitors since March 13, began offering remote classes and training to cadets on March 25.


Disconnections of water service for Woodland Park customers will be suspended until further notice, the city announced in a statement.

"For customers who are unable to make utility bill payments, the City is working on a case-by-case basis to provide payment options and arrange payment plans during the COVID-19 Virus pandemic," the statement says. "It is very important for customers to maintain open communication with the Utility Billing team if they are unable to make their utility bill payments."

Woodland Park customers who need to discuss payment options and plans, or ask questions about utility bills, are asked to call (719) 686-9680 or email utilitybilling@cityofwp.net.

The city of Woodland Park is also waiving penalties on sales, use and lodging tax penalties for payments due March 20 or later, until Woodland Park City Council rescinds the local disaster emergency declaration for COVID-19.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with the correct effective time of the stay-at-home order, as well as additional information about donation drives coordinated by COSILoveYou.
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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

COVID-19 update for March 24

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2020 at 4:23 PM

Testing continues to hogtie the state in determining where the COVID-19 virus is having the most impact, according to remarks by Mike Willis, state director of emergency management, at an afternoon media briefing on March 24.

Willis also said President Donald Trump's consideration to lift stay home orders by April 12 would have some impact on Colorado but that Gov. Jared Polis "has quite a bit of authority."

Generally, Willis was vague when fielding questions about personal protective equipment, testing and the virus' spread.

Test turnaround times at the state lab have been between four to seven days, he said, and 400 tests per day are being processed. Private labs also are processing about 200 tests per day.

In the meantime, the latest numbers from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment show the virus continues to spread, now in 35 counties from 31 as of March 22. The number of cases increased to 912 as of March 23, compared to 720 cases on March 22.

Eleven people have died, compared to seven as of March 22. But 7,701 tests have been processed, 24 percent more than on March 22. Those hospitalized total 84, compared to 72 the day before.

While Polis "fully supports" local stay-home orders, such as in Denver, he's resisted imposing such an order statewide and will decide on that depending on how effective the local orders appear to be, Willis said.

Noting it will "take some time" to build a testing strategy that would replace stay-home orders, he said, "Once we build the mass testing capability, the governor hopes we can have a more narrow approach to social distancing and stay at home strategies."

But he also noted that officials believe the case numbers are low simply because not enough people have been tested.

"It’s safe to assume the spread is greater than the actual numbers we have," he said.

In other developments:

SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com
• The International Olympic Committee, citing the COVID-19 virus, announced March 24 that the Summer Olympics set to begin in Tokyo in July had been postponed for a year.

In an email to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic community, United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland supported the IOC and International Paralympic Committee decisions.

“We know the decision was not made lightly, but with the safety and well-being of athletes and our communities around the world in mind,” she wrote in a message on the USOPC's website. “It was the right decision. We recognize this presents more questions than answers at this time — the complexities of this new reality have never been experienced by this global community. We will get through this together. Our commitment to and focus on our mission has never been stronger.”

• Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers held a media briefing March 24 to remind people to use local parks responsibly. This means keeping 6 feet from others, not participating in team sports with close contact, not gathering in groups of 10 or more, and not touching surfaces that others have touched.

"With voluntary citizen cooperation, we can keep our parks open," he said. "Without voluntary cooperation, we may need to revisit public access for some or all of our parks." He said 14,000 people visited Garden of the Gods Park on Sunday.

City Councilor Bill Murray via email seems to disagree with keeping local parks open, as other national parks close down, including Yellowstone National Park. "National Parks are closing," Murray says, "I believe there is a hint here of responsibility. The risk is clearly not worth the reward. Best of luck to all of us."

Suthers says he's not considering a stay-at-home order but would if told to do so by El Paso County Public Health.

• KKTV reports Teller County reported a man died of an illness in which COVID-19 contributed to his demise.

• Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, spoke to business leaders March 23 saying he advocates creating a new category of unemployment assistance for those whose livelihoods has been affected by the virus. The new category, he said, wouldn't require somebody to be laid off, fired or furloughed, but would allow assistance through the unemployment insurance office for people who have had their hours reduced, or people who are at home because their place of work has temporarily closed. Gardner hopes this change would be part of a relief package that media reports indicate will be adopted soon.

• Starting this week, Rocky Mountain Public Media (RMPM) is providing educational resources for children across the state who have been affected by school closures. This initiative will provide all students with access to free educational resources at home, both on-air and online, regardless of their broadband access. RMPBS offers content on-air from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., for ages 6 and up. These programs include History Detectives, NOVA, Nature and other programs about science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics. For children ages 2 and up, RMPBS offers Wild Kratts, Peg + Cat and SciGirls between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. For more, visit this website.

Fort Carson: public health emergency in force. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Fort Carson: public health emergency in force.
• Schriever Air Force Base announced March 23 the first positive test for COVID-19 and implemented restrictive measures.

On that same day, Peterson Air Force Base announced an active duty service member and a dependent tested positive. Both are quarantined and receiving support and medical care in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Force Health Protection and 21st Medical Group guidelines. The base also declared a public health state of emergency asking commanders to limit in-office activities to those that are required for critical mission accomplishment as determined by unit commanders.

Also on March 23, the Air Force Academy also announced stricter measures, implementing Health Protection Condition Charlie to combat the virus. Those include strict hygiene, no hand-shaking, frequent hand-washing, social distancing, limited meetings and mass gatherings. Telework is encouraged.

Fort Carson declared a public health emergency for the installation at 9 a.m. on March 24.

• Some conservatives think closing restaurants goes too far, including Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs.

• The town of Monument declared a formal local disaster emergency in response to the virus. The declaration allows Monument to seek mutual aid and potentially obtain reimbursement for expenses from other governments. Also, Monument's town hall was closed last week.

• Centura Health has established drop-off boxes for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). You can drop stuff off starting March 25 outside the front entrance of Penrose Hospital at 2222 N. Nevada Ave. from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The hospital is accepting boxed masks and N95s (singles and used items cannot be accepted), gloves still in manufacturer packaging, packaged gowns or rain ponchos with sleeves, face shields (must include eye protection and be labeled as surgical, isolation, dental, or medical procedure face shields).
Regarding homemade masks, Centura says, "We are so amazed by the talented and giving members of our community offering to make homemade masks. As of today, per CDC guidelines, homemade masks are not considered PPE and should be only considered as a last resort. Therefore, Centura is not currently accepting these as donations." But you can email CovidDonations@centura.org to get a pattern and material specifications in case the policy changes.

screen_shot_2020-03-24_at_1.44.26_pm.png
• Discover Goodwill of Southern & Western Colorado and Goodwill Industries of Denver announced all retail stores and non-store donation centers closed March 24 and won't reopen until April 6 due to the pandemic. In-store donation centers will remain open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, and items will be quarantined for at least 72 hours. Check PickGoodwill.com for an array of items to purchase.

• The El Paso County GOP plans to hold its "drive-through" assembly on March 28. Get the details here.

• On a lighter note, NextDoor blog users suggest placing a stuffed toy in your home's window so children on family walks can look for the animals as they go. A veritable bear hunt.
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Health care shortages: Blood donations, protective equipment

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2020 at 1:23 PM

N95 masks, or respirators, provide more protection than surgical masks. They're getting harder to come by as demand surges. - SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock
  • N95 masks, or respirators, provide more protection than surgical masks. They're getting harder to come by as demand surges.

——-UPDATE TUESDAY, MARCH 24 AT 1:23 P.M.——-

Centura Health announced it is also accepting donations of personal protective equipment for health care workers. In Colorado Springs, you can drop off the following items at Penrose Hospital, 2222 N. Nevada Ave., on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. starting March 25:

• Boxed masks and N95 masks (single or used masks cannot be accepted)
• Gloves that are still in the manufacturer's packaging
• Packaged gowns or rain ponchos with sleeves
• Face shields (must include eye protection and be labeled as surgical, isolation, dental, or medical procedure face shields)

In a March 24 statement, Centura Health noted that it cannot currently accept homemade masks, but that could change.

"We are so amazed by the talented and giving members of our community offering to make homemade masks," the statement says. "As of today, per CDC guidelines, homemade masks are not considered PPE and should be only considered as a last resort. Therefore, Centura is not currently accepting these as donations, but would like to still hear from you. Please email us at CovidDonations@centura.org so we can provide you a pattern and material specifications in the event our current policy changes and we begin to accept homemade masks."

——-ORIGINAL POST TUESDAY, MARCH 24 AT 10:14 A.M.——-

It's still safe to donate blood — and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, health care providers say that gift is critically needed.

Local blood centers anticipate a 20 percent decline in donations the week of March 20, according to a statement from Centura Health (which counts Penrose-St. Francis Health Services in Colorado Springs among its 17 hospitals in Colorado and Kansas). In coming weeks, the decline in donations could grow to 35 percent compared with the norm, due to social distancing precautions to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"It is important to note that blood donation is not considered a large social gathering, and individuals who are well and healthy can safely donate blood," Centura Health's statement says.
"Having a well-stocked inventory of blood products is crucial for health care facilities, as trauma, cancer and sickle cell patients routinely benefit from blood donations."

Visit vitalant.org to learn more about the donation process, and to sign up for an appointment. Blood donations through Vitalant are currently by appointment only.

Meanwhile, the state is scrambling to figure out how to handle a shortage of personal protective equipment for health care providers.

Colorado received an allocation of medical equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile on March 23, but the quantities (49,200 N95 masks; 115,000 surgical masks; 21,420 surgical gowns; 21,800 face shields; and 84 coveralls) are only enough for about one full day of statewide operations, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment said in a statement.

Local medical students, in conjunction with MedSupplyDrive, are organizing a donation drive for personal protective equipment, to be given to health care facilities. They are collecting the following items (which can be in an open box, but must be unused):

• Surgical masks
• N95 masks
• Face shields
• Bandanas
• Non-latex gloves
• Medical/Surgical gowns
• Plastic rain ponchos
• Bleach/bleach wipes
• Hand sanitizer

Items can be dropped off at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' HealthCircle Primary Care Clinic parking lot, located at 4863 N. Nevada Ave., at the following times:

• Wednesday, March 25 at 5 p.m.
• Saturday, March 28 at noon
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Monday, March 23, 2020

COVID-19 updates for the morning of March 23

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2020 at 9:55 AM

FILE ILLUSTRATION
  • File illustration
Over the weekend, the number of coronavirus cases in Colorado shot up by 63 percent, growing from 363 as of March 19 to 591 as of Saturday, March 21.

The number tested rose by 48 percent, from 3,680 to 5,436.

The COVID-19 virus now has been detected in 29 counties, seven more than on March 19, and six people in the state have died due to the virus.

Gov. Polis: Stay home if you can. - COLORADO.GOV
  • Colorado.gov
  • Gov. Polis: Stay home if you can.
Gov. Jared Polis announced additional restrictions on March 22, urging people to limit gatherings to no more than 10 people and recommending that half of businesses' employees find ways to work remotely to create more social distancing.

President Trump told governors on March 22 they'd have to go it alone in finding personal protective equipment for health care workers, and Polis announced within hours that several Colorado manufacturers are stepping up to begin that process. Meantime, congress members are hashing out a $1 trillion bill to provide relief to everyone from low level hourly workers to giant corporations. Yet, the stock market was falling in early trading on March 23.

In other developments:
• The 2020 Olympics appear to be teetering on a postponement. CNN reports:
It's looking more and more likely that the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo will be postponed. Japanese officials and the International Olympic Committee have both seemed reticent to alter the event despite growing pressure to do so. The tipping point came this weekend when both Canada and Australia announced they would not send athletes to the Olympics due to coronavirus concerns. Both countries' Olympic committees called for the Games to be postponed until 2021. On Monday morning, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said postponing the Games was a possibility, softening his staunch stance that the games must start on time. The IOC says a final decision will be made in the next four weeks.
• Starting March 23, all Bed Bath & Beyond locations will close until April 3.

• Attorney General Phil Weiser called on state courts to halt eviction proceedings due to the COVID-19 crisis, noting, "evicting any Coloradan from their home would exacerbate the public health and economic crisis we are fighting together. I commend the many state courts that have already suspended or postponed eviction proceedings and are not accepting new eviction applications during this crisis. I also applaud the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court for granting local judges the authority to make that determination." So far, Denver, Mesa County, Weld County and Boulder County are among those taking this step. It's unclear if El Paso County will follow suit.

FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
• The El Paso County Sheriff's Office announced a deputy has tested positive for the virus. The release didn't say whether the deputy worked on patrol, in the jail, in the headquarters or elsewhere.

• Fort Carson announced a second positive test of post personnel. Both people are sequestered.

• Pikes Peak Regional Building Department's Regional Development Center is closed, but its functions remain available. "We continue to operate remotely and RBD is fully operational with permits, licensing, plan review, and inspections," says RBD spokesman Greg Dingrando.

• Ent Credit Union announced on March 21 it would eliminate fees, reduce loan rates and launch emergency loans to help ease its members’ financial and emotional stress.
“Until further notice, we are suspending or drastically reducing fees,” said Chad Graves, Ent CEO. “This includes eliminating fees for excessive transactions for savings and money market accounts, minimum account balances, Skip-A-Pay and credit card usage for loan payments. Our overdraft/non-sufficient funds fees are now just $0.01. And we are also waiving early CD withdrawal fees to help members access their money for immediate needs.”

“We are also temporarily eliminating limits for the number of transfers from savings and money market accounts,” Graves said.
 
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Friday, March 20, 2020

COVID-19 updates for March 20

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2020 at 4:31 PM

Colorado authorities didn't hold a daily briefing today, so as they say, no news is good news.

Except that the daily data report shows the number of cases in the state shot up by 31 percent from March 18 to March 19, growing from 277 to 363.

Deaths doubled from two to four. Hospitalizations increased and the virus has been identified in 24 counties, up from 22 counties on March 18.

The number of tests conducted rose by 25 percent, from 2,952 on March 18 to 3,680 on March 19.

Cases in El Paso County nearly doubled from 15 to 27.

Other developments:

• State and federal governments have extended the income tax filing deadline until July 15 from April 15.

• The Broadmoor announced it will close for more than two months, starting March 21, the Gazette reported. It hopes to reopen for Memorial Day weekend.

• The Gazette also reported that Pikes Peak region schools plan to reopen April 20.

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• The Salvation Army Thrift Store in Colorado Springs announced it closed its doors on March 20. "However, rather than sending employees home unpaid, The Salvation Army will redeploy staff to help serve the community amid COVID-19 concerns," it said in a release. "Thrift store employees in Colorado Springs will be utilized to help sort through donations, help sanitize and clean our facilities, help the Colorado Kitchen staff in any way, and any other projects we may have to keep our community safe." In addition, the Salvation Army Colorado Springs remains open to help the community with food, shelter, and utility assistance. For help, 855-768-7977.

• Pikes Peak Regional Building Department will remain closed until at least April 6 and perhaps indefinitely.

Westword reports there's been a run on guns and ammo amid the COVID-19 outbreak, a phenomenon seen across the country.

UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central
• The Colorado Springs Health Foundation, the entity created with lease payments for city-owned Memorial Hospital, committed up to $500,000 for COVID19-related health needs in the Pikes Peak region. The first $250,000 will be donated to the Pikes Peak Community Foundation Emergency Relief Funds that support El Paso and Teller County nonprofit organizations addressing the virus and its impact. It's unclear exactly how the money will be doled out, but a news release said, "Pikes Peak Community Foundation’s Emergency Relief Funds allow individuals, businesses and philanthropic organizations to pool their collective financial support during times of a declared emergency. The funds are a centralized, streamlined way to offer emergency assistance to affected local nonprofit organizations during a time of crisis."

• UCHealth Memorial Hospital suspended activity at its drive through testing tent off of South Union Boulevard, citing a need for medical materials for other caregiving activities.

• Numerous restaurants across the region are offering curbside service. Local officials encourage residents who have the means to patronize local businesses, especially restaurants which have been hard hit by closure to dine-in business. Many wait staff, cooks and others survive on hourly wages and tips.

El Paso County courthouse - COURTESY COLORADO COURTS
  • Courtesy Colorado courts
  • El Paso County courthouse
• Operations at the District and County Courts in Colorado Springs have been curtailed to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus. Restrictions have been imposed on who may enter the courthouse at 270 South Tejon St. Entry is allowed only between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Go here for all the details.

• The state announced on March 20 that 39 cruise ship passengers who have been under U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) quarantine since their ship docked in California on March 90 are returning to Colorado. "As requested by Governor Jared Polis in a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, all passengers returning to Colorado are asymptomatic at the time of travel," the release said. "If passengers were symptomatic in any way, they remain in federal care and will not be returning to Colorado at this time." The passengers were due in to Denver International Airport at 3:30 p.m. on March 20 and would not enter the main terminal. They will continue to self-quarantine at their homes, which are located in Aurora, Boulder, Castle Rock, Colorado Springs, Denver, Edwards, Ft. Collins, Greeley, Lakewood, Littleton, Longmont, Loveland, Westminster, Wheatridge and Windsor.

• Peterson Air Force Base opened a COVID-19 testing station on base for those who receive medical treatment at Peterson or Schriever Air Force Base. The goal is to limit the spread of the virus. To be tested, patients must first be evaluated by phone and meet criteria recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.

• Colorado Springs City Council will hold its March 24 meeting online only starting at 10 a.m. Go to coloradosprings.gov for information.

• In a rather ominous report, Newsweek explores how the military will intervene to control civil unrest if necessary during the virus pandemic. 
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Thursday, March 19, 2020

COVID-19: Paid leave, emergency declarations, and what it all means for you

Posted By on Thu, Mar 19, 2020 at 3:42 PM

Congress approved legislation funding paid leave for certain people. - MARTIN FALBISONER/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Martin Falbisoner/Wikimedia Commons
  • Congress approved legislation funding paid leave for certain people.

The U.S. Senate voted March 18 to approve legislation granting financial support for individuals, families and businesses impacted by the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus.

The act, signed by President Donald Trump on March 19, provides new funding for nutrition assistance, medical care and paid leave related to COVID-19.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act will designate an additional $500 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and $400 million for emergency food assistance. It will allow state agencies to develop plans that would supply free meals for kids whose school districts have closed and designate $250 million for aging and disability services, including home-delivered meals.

The legislation also designates $1 billion for reimbursing health care providers for services related to COVID-19, including testing and office visits, and provides additional unemployment assistance funding for states to distribute.

It also requires paid leave for some people affected by the pandemic, though certain exemptions apply based on company size (and if your company already provides paid leave, this may not apply).

Significantly, the Families First Act requires employers to provide
 family leave for employees impacted by COVID-19, with some caveats: People receiving paid leave due to the need to care for a child (including due to a school closure) must have been employed at their company for at least 30 days. The first 10 days of such leave can be unpaid — after that, employees must be paid at least two-thirds of their salary (up to $200 per day) for eight weeks. Businesses with more than 500 employees or fewer than 50 employees can be exempted from this requirement.

The Families First Act also requires paid sick leave for employees impacted by COVID-19, who can qualify if they are sick or have been advised to self-quarantine. Full-time employees get 80 hours of paid sick time, and part-time employees get paid sick time equal to the number of hours they'd work over two weeks. The amount of leave is the same as regular pay (up to $511 a day). Businesses with more than 500 employees are exempt from this requirement.

The Senate voted 90-8 in favor of the Families First Act, with Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet voting in favor. Republican Sen. Cory Gardner did not vote, as he self-quarantined after learning that a constituent who visited his Washington office has tested positive for COVID-19.

In the House, most of Colorado's delegation voted in favor of the bill, including Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Windsor, voted against it.

The White House has also proposed a $1 trillion spending plan in response to COVID-19 that would include $500 billion in direct payments to Americans. The plan would need approval from both the House and Senate.

ABC News reports that the payments, according to a proposal from the U.S. Treasury, would be distributed to all U.S. taxpayers in two rounds: the first beginning April 6, and the second May 18. The payment amounts would be tiered based on income and household size.


As of March 19,
more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19 and 150 deaths had occurred in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment was reporting 216 cases and two deaths, both in El Paso County, which has had eight cases.

States across the country are encountering a backlog of tests that means many people who have the virus are yet to be counted in official totals.

"The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) is pursuing a strategic approach to testing in the state to steward our state and country’s scarce resources in the face of widespread community transmission of COVID-19 in Colorado," the Colorado health department said in a March 18 statement. "CDPHE is sending testing resources to specific communities that have not yet had testing that will yield vital information about how the disease is spreading."

On March 19, the department planned to set up a testing site in Pueblo that will only serve
"high-risk patients who have been pre-selected by area health care providers" — not walk-up or drive-up patients.

No matter if they've been tested, CDPHE urges people to isolate themselves if they are experiencing any potential symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough and shortness of breath.

This tool from ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization, provides a sobering look at how the spread of the virus could overwhelm U.S. hospitals depending on what percentage of the population contracts COVID-19, and how quickly the virus spreads. It's based on estimates from the Harvard Global Health Institute.

In a best-case scenario — 20 percent of the U.S. population becomes infected over 18 months — the researchers involved in developing the tool say that the country's existing hospital beds would be about 95 percent full.

In the Colorado Springs hospital region, the ProPublica tool shows a shortage of beds in every case scenario. A moderate scenario — 40 percent of people infected over 12 months — would mean the Colorado Springs area needs twice the number of hospital beds currently available.


Separate emergency declarations by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, El Paso County Chair Mark Waller, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and President Donald Trump should free up funding for employees, businesses and families with children who've been affected by the coronavirus.

What exactly do the declarations mean?

This article by Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center, provides some insight into Trump's emergency declaration, issued March 13.

The Denver Post boiled down Polis' emergency powers under the statewide declaration issued March 11 in this article.

Waller's local disaster emergency declaration allows El Paso County to activate the Medical Reserve Corp., a network of volunteers. The declaration will also help providers obtain personal protective equipment, Waller said in a March 14 statement.

Suthers' emergency declaration, issued March 16, makes the city eligible for federal relief funding and gives the mayor more authority to take actions in response to the pandemic.

Other mayors have used emergency powers to close businesses, issue "shelter in place" orders, and freeze evictions, though Suthers hasn't yet taken such actions — the order to close restaurants, gyms, casinos, theaters, coffeehouses, cigar bars, brewpubs and distillery pubs came from Polis on March 16.

This is all the city code says about emergency response powers:

"The Mayor may promulgate regulations which the Mayor deems necessary to protect life and property and preserve critical resources. These regulations shall within fourteen (14) days of issuance, be posted at the Office of the City Clerk and other locations as the Mayor may determine, and may be disseminated to the print, radio, television and other electronic news media unless posting or dissemination would endanger the public or negatively impact security concerns. Emergency regulations may not suspend the provisions of the City Code, the suspension of City Code provisions being reserved to the City Council by emergency or other ordinance."
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