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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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6 stories making headlines this week

Posted By on Wed, Apr 1, 2020 at 11:02 AM

REGAN FOSTER
  • Regan Foster

School staff members and boxes of food line the driveway at Stratton Meadows Elementary School during a neighborhood food distribution event March 24. Harrison School District 2 partnered with Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado to distribute hundreds of boxes of food during the initial days of the COVID-19 outbreak in Colorado Springs. Recipients did not need to have a student in the district.

The USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region is temporarily discouraging recreational use of its forests and grasslands in response to the spread of COVID-19. “While trails and roads may be open for use, facilities like campgrounds, trailheads, picnic sites, visitor centers, entrance kiosks, restrooms, and trash facilities may be closed,” the Forest Service said in an email.

On March 27, the FBI announced it found two Colorado Springs Police Department officers — who shot and killed De’Von Bailey on Aug. 3, 2019, as he ran away with a concealed gun — did not violate Bailey’s constitutional rights, according to media reports. A grand jury previously declined to call for criminal charges against the officers.

The Colorado COVID Relief Fund is now accepting applications from community organizations, local governments and school districts for grants of up to $25,000. As of March 27, the fund had raised $7.7 million from nearly 4,000 individuals, foundations and companies, according to Gov. Jared Polis’ office. Visit HelpColoradoNow.org to donate or apply.

Hospitals expect a shortage of blood donations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and ask for healthy people to consider helping meet the need. Visit vitalant.org to schedule a blood donation.

PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck

Government critic Douglas Bruce, second from left, staged a rally on March 29 at the Firefighters Memorial in Memorial Park. It drew seven people. He expressed opposition to stay-at-home orders, alleging they violated his First Amendment right to peaceably assemble. Notice his fans are practicing social distancing, and the man on the right wore a facemask. Meantime, the International Association of Firefighters Local 5 released a statement saying the gathering was “disrespectful” of the 8,500 firefighters honored there and was “especially callous” considering “so many ... fire fighters, paramedics and EMTs are on the front lines putting themselves in harm’s way battling the COVID 19 pandemic.”

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Stay-at-home order is effective through April 11

Posted By on Wed, Apr 1, 2020 at 10:58 AM

At a news conference March 25, Gov. Jared Polis announced a stay-at-home order. - GOV. JARED POLIS
  • Gov. Jared Polis
  • At a news conference March 25, Gov. Jared Polis announced a stay-at-home order.

Gov. Jared Polis issued a stay-at-home order, which began 6 a.m. March 26, for all of Colorado to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The order, issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, says people should stay home through April 11 except for critical activities, such as:

• obtaining food and other household necessities, including medicine;

• going to and from work if you are a critical employee (such as health care providers and grocery store workers);

• seeking medical care (if you suspect you have COVID-19, health officials ask that you don’t go to the hospital unless you have symptoms that require medical attention);

• caring for children, pets or vulnerable people; and

• participating in outdoor recreation (while practicing social distancing).

Polis said March 30 that El Paso County needs “greater support and compliance.”

As of March 30, 51 deaths and more than 2,600 cases of COVID-19 had been recorded in Colorado, though officials think there could be thousands more cases that haven’t been reported due to the lack of testing capacity. Visit covid19.colorado.gov for more information.

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Colorado gears up to address expected shortages of ICU beds, ventilators

Posted By on Wed, Apr 1, 2020 at 10:55 AM

SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com

In order to meet expected shortages of hospital beds caused by COVID-19, the state aims to add 1,000 intensive care unit (ICU) beds to its supply by May, according to a March 30 statement from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

By summer, the state wants an additional 5,000 ICU beds.

That would mean more than tripling the state’s current capacity of ICU beds, which stands at 1,849, according to the statement from CDPHE.

Other priorities for the state include identifying other types of hospital capacity, helping health care facilities free up ICU beds, identifying and preparing alternative care sites (such as hotels, college dorms and vacant buildings), and getting ventilators to the areas that need them most.

At a news conference March 30, Gov. Jared Polis said the state is in talks with the federal government about securing an additional 9,000 to 10,000 ventilators.

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Patrick Frazee accomplice wants early release

Posted By on Wed, Apr 1, 2020 at 10:51 AM

Krystal Lee Kenney - CSPD
  • CSPD
  • Krystal Lee Kenney

Krystal Lee Kenney, who aided convicted murderer Patrick Frazee in covering up his killing of Kelsey Berreth, might be released to a halfway house.

Kenney was sentenced in January to three years in prison on her plea of guilty to evidence tampering. She cleaned up the gruesome murder scene, Berreth’s apartment, and took Berreth’s phone when she left for Idaho, making it appear as though Berreth had left the state.

District Attorney Dan May issued a statement noting the halfway house placement demonstrates that “Colorado’s sentencing scheme is outrageously, dishearteningly distorted — with an utter lack of truth in sentencing.”

May, who called the plea bargain “a deal with the devil,” said he “vigorously” opposes community corrections for Kenney. May says the young mother would be alive today if not for Kenney, noting Frazee told Kenney of his plans to kill Berreth. He pointed out that she’s served only 60 days of a 1,095-day sentence.

Dru Nielsen, Lee’s attorney, told The Denver Post that Kenney poses no public safety risk. 

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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

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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

COVID-19 roundup for March 30: Closing bars, restaurants and schools has slowed spread

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2020 at 6:25 PM

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At a Monday afternoon press conference, Gov. Jared Polis said closing bars, restaurants and schools has slowed the state’s COVID-19 doubling rate from two days to five. 

At 4 p.m. March 30, the state reported data as of March 29: Colorado has seen 51 deaths (11 in El Paso County), a sharp uptick from 31, and 2,627 cases (245 in El Paso County); 414 people have been hospitalized in 47 counties, and 15,364 people have been tested.

There have also been 14 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities.

In other developments:

  • Polis announced President Trump and the federal government have approved his request in declaring a major disaster for the state of Colorado. Polis submitted the urgent request March 15 to help the state deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was approved Saturday.
    “Colorado is now eligible to receive additional federal resources to help address the global epidemic impacting our state, the nation, and the world,” Polis said in a statement. “This declaration ensures that Colorado can be on a level playing field with other states that already have this status like New York and Washington when it comes to federal disaster funding and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance. Now more than ever, it’s important that Coloradans stay home whenever possible.”

Colorado is one of the states with the highest presence of COVID-19 on a per-capita basis. The state continues to face a shortage of resources in addressing the pandemic.

  • A cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy has tested positive for COVID-19. The cadet is in isolation in accordance with the Academy’s COVID plan. According to USAFA’s public affairs office, the cadet was staying in a single-occupancy room in the cadet dorms and taking classes online as part of the Academy’s social distancing directive. The cadet does not have any known underlying health conditions and is not considered high risk for serious complications. Academy officials will continue to monitor the cadet’s health. Personnel and cadets who may have come in close contact with the infected person have been identified and are being monitored.
  • UCCS today announced it will hold a virtual ceremony for spring 2020 graduates. Those graduates will be invited to participate in the fall 2020 or spring 2021 ceremonies. The virtual ceremony will start at 1 p.m., May 15.

• The Colorado Department of Transportation has suspended its Bustang and Outrider bus service throughout the state, to reduce intercity travel. The suspension, effective March 29, will last through at least April 11. CDOT says it will reevaluate the service as guidance or gubernatorial orders change. The suspension of these intercity services is different to the local transit services that continue to provide essential trips in communities throughout Colorado.

  • Colorado Springs Utilities has suspended service disconnections through April 30 to help ease financial burdens of its customers during the pandemic. Customer assistance programs are available. For help paying a bill, customers should call 719-448-4800.  More information is available at csu.org.

• The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office is implementing a remote notarization process to assist Coloradans and businesses during the pandemic. Gov. Polis issued an Executive Order on Saturday ordering the temporary suspension of the personal appearance requirement before notarial officers to perform notarizations due to the COVID-19 crisis.

• The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released results Saturday from a survey assessing Coloradans’ perceptions and attitudes to the pandemic. Nearly 45,000 Coloradans completed the survey March 22-24.

Highlights include:

– 72 percent of respondents are “very concerned” about COVID-19 in Colorado.
– Among respondents aged 18-29, 59 percent are “very concerned” about COVID-19 in Colorado.
– Nearly 90 percent of respondents think it’s somewhat or very likely that they will get sick from the novel coronavirus.
– Half of the respondents have a combination of symptoms indicative of generalized anxiety over the last two weeks.
– A large majority of the respondents are taking extra precautions around COVID-19 to keep the community healthy:

    • 97 percent are washing their hands with soap and water more frequently.
    • 96 percent are avoiding large gatherings.
    • 70 percent are working from home.
    • 35 percent are stockpiling food and other household items.

– Three in four respondents would try to get tested if they were exposed or had symptoms. The most common reason respondents selected would be to help the public health system build a better picture of how the virus is spreading.

– Of those who would not get tested:

    • Three in four respondents said they would isolate themselves from others regardless.
    • More than 50 percent of respondents would not get tested because they are not sure if they meet the criteria for testing.
    • 3 percent think the virus isn’t that serious.

– 40 percent of part-time, full-time or self-employed respondents do not have access to paid leave if they are not able to work because of illness.
– 43 percent of respondents are now working from home in response to the COVID-19. (CDPHE noted the survey was conducted before the statewide stay-at-home order.)
– 11 percent of respondents have had their hours reduced, 9 percent have temporarily lost their jobs and 1 percent have permanently lost their jobs due to COVID-19.

The complete dashboard is available at covid19.colorado.gov/about-covid-19.

•  Restaurants and food stores are encouraged to donate/sell excess food to service organizations. El Paso County Public Health is working with the Community Health Partnership to coordinate the donation and sale of excess food and goods to help the community during this health crisis. Restaurants and retail food stores may donate or sell the following goods to local community service organizations:

▪ Household goods such as paper products and cleaning supplies
▪ Non-perishable foods in original packaging
▪ Unopened perishable foods such as milk, dairy, raw meats and eggs

To provide food services to the community and alternative financial and employment viability, new guidance was established through a state executive order temporarily allowing restaurants and retail food stores to sell and donate raw and bulk food items to the public. Retail food establishments can email ppchp.org or call 719-389-9800 to donate or sell goods.

• Children’s Hospital Colorado in Colorado Springs currently is only testing children who meet inpatient admission criteria and need to be hospitalized for COVID-19. Children’s is not a public testing center. A list of Colorado testing locations can be found at: colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/covid-19-testing

Caregivers can access the following resources for information about COVID-19.

·        Family FAQs: childrenscolorado.org/coronavirus
·        Video: How to Talk to Your Kids About Coronavirus
·        Video: (Spanish) How to Talk to your Kids About Coronavirus
·        How to help: childrenscolorado.org/helpduringcovid
·        How to Calm Your Child’s Anxiety around COVID-19: childrenscolorado.org/conditions-and-advice/parenting/parenting-articles/coronavirus-anxiety/

• In response to questions about how the public can support hospital workers, UCHealth has created a web page where people can write thank you notes and upload photos or short videos for UCHealth employees. Visit uchealth.org/extraordinary/thankyouform/

• Pikes Peak United Way is helping to connect community volunteers with nonprofit organizations providing critical services, in compliance with the public health order and social distancing guidance. Volunteer at pikespeakuw.galaxydigital.com

• The El Paso County Department of Human Services is warning Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants about potential scammers using the COVID-19 crisis to steal personal information such as social security numbers, bank information, or a participant’s SNAP EBT card or PIN number. Anyone unsure if a request for information is legitimate should contact the El Paso County Food Assistance and Family Medical Ongoing Customer Service Line at 719-444-5124.

• The Pikes Peak Joint Information center is reminding residents that the COVID-19 Call Center is open seven days a week. El Paso and Teller County residents can find information and resources about COVID-19 by calling 719-575-8888 — 8 a.m.-8 p.m. on weekdays, and 8 a.m.-5 p.m on weekends.

Other reliable sources of information are:

El Paso County Health: elpasocountyhealth.org/covid19
City of Colorado Springs: coloradosprings.gov/covid19
State of Colorado: covid19.colorado.gov

• El Paso County small businesses and nonprofits hit by the COVID-19 pandemic can access up to $25,000 in immediate recovery relief through a local fund announced this afternoon. Survive & Thrive COS is an initiative of startup accelerator Exponential Impact in partnership with the Pikes Peak Community Foundation and other community partners, businesses and local investors. Small businesses employing two to 25 employees can visit exponentialimpact.com to learn about criteria and apply. For the full story, see: csindy.com/TheWire/archives/2020/03/30/exponential-impact-city-of-colorado-springs-announce-immediate-small-business-relief-measures.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story mentioned that Polis said Colorado had experienced its first death of someone under 40 due to COVID-19. A spokesperson later corrected this statement. As of March 29, no one younger than 40 had died due to COVID-19 in Colorado. Rather, two people between the ages of 40 and 49 have died.
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Exponential Impact, city of Colorado Springs announce immediate small business relief measures

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2020 at 3:21 PM

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El Paso County small businesses and nonprofits hit by the COVID-19 pandemic can access up to $25,000 in immediate recovery relief through a local fund announced this afternoon.

Survive & Thrive COS is an initiative of startup accelerator Exponential Impact in partnership with the Pikes Peak Community Foundation and other community partners, businesses and local investors.

“Because this is local dollars and administered on a local level, we will be able to turn around a one-page application ... within a week,” Exponential Impact board member Hannah Parsons said at the announcement.

Funding will be allocated over a three-month period, with a check payment each month totaling up to $25,000, she said.

“And because our goal is to help, not to hurt, we are not going to ask you to personally guarantee this; we are not going to require you to collateralize this loan; and we will not be standing in the way of any other funding that you might find available,” Parsons said.

“Our goal is to make this no-barrier and to get funding into business hands as quickly as possible.”

The loans will be on a three-year repayment plan with no payments and zero percent interest in the first year, adding 1 percent in the second year, and an additional 1 percent in the third year.

“Hopefully businesses will find this something that they can use quickly and that will not be cumbersome.”

Small businesses employing two to 25 employees can visit exponentialimpact.com to learn about criteria and apply.

Announcing the relief fund, Mayor John Suthers described Survive & Thrive COS as “quick first assistance.”

“As you know, last week Congress passed a $2.2 trillion package — obviously there's a lot of aid for small businesses in that,” he said. “But I guarantee that will be more bureaucratic than a one-page application, and it will take a little more time. So this can be something to help people over a very short period of time, as they're going through the process to get assistance from the Small Business Administration and other federal funds that are available.”

Beyond funding, Survive & Thrive participants will receive mentorship, education and tools tailored to their specific business concerns.

“Because funding seldom is the only solution, instead we will be working with our businesses, with our investors, with our mentors to identify what direct business assistance these companies need in addition to funding to make sure that they come out and have healthy businesses on the other side of this virus and this downturn,” Parsons said.

Survive & Thrive COS is the brainchild of Exponential Impact Chairman Vance Brown, who is also CEO for the National Cybersecurity Center.

“We believe in and need our small businesses,” Brown said. “Survive & Thrive COS supports resiliency, builds community and develops healthy businesses and holistic leaders.”

Survive & Thrive COS funding comes from local investors, and because of its 501(c)3 status, Exponential Impact announced it is stewarding the funds without fees or overhead costs.

Gary Butterworth, CEO for the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, said 100 percent of contributions are provided to small business owners through the recovery loans.

“Traditional emergency funding programs are often cumbersome and time consuming. Survive & Thrive COS delivers significant, immediate investment to local small business owners and nonprofits,” he said. “In Colorado, most of our business economy is comprised of small businesses. Thanks to intelligent and generous contributors, business owners are receiving funding now and sustained support.”
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NORAD/NorthCom personnel shift to Cheyenne Mountain bunker due to virus spread

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2020 at 2:40 PM

Airman 1st Class Derrick Warfield manually locks a 25-ton blast door at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station during an operational readiness inspection in 2006. - U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO BY 1ST LT. JEFF CREPEAU
  • U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Jeff Crepeau
  • Airman 1st Class Derrick Warfield manually locks a 25-ton blast door at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station during an operational readiness inspection in 2006.
An undisclosed portion of the NORAD/NorthCom contingent at Peterson Air Force Base has moved to the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station as the COVID-19 virus spreads.

The granite bunker south of Colorado Springs was specifically built, opening in 1967, for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, a bi-national force with Canada that guards the North American continent. The command linked up with U.S. Northern Command after it was created in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Inside the mountain, the entrance is guarded by two 25-ton blast doors designed to protect against a nuclear explosion. Now, officials hope the doors protect troops from a tiny but deadly microbe that's creeping across the planet.

According to theDrive.com, Air Force Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, NORAD/NorthCom commander, held a Facebook Live town hall on March 24 during which he announced some personnel would move from Peterson to the mountain to isolate from the virus.

COURTESY NORAD
  • Courtesy NORAD
"To ensure that we can defend the homeland despite this pandemic, our command and control watch teams here in the headquarters split into multiple shifts and portions of our watch team began working from Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, creating a third team at an alternate location as well," O'Shaughnessy said.

"Our dedicated professionals of the NORAD and NORTHCOM command and control watch have left their homes, said goodbye to their families and are isolated from everyone to ensure that they can stand the watch each and every day to defend our homeland. It's certainly not optimal, but it's absolutely necessary and appropriate given the situation".

We reached out to NORAD to ask whether O'Shaughnessy himself has relocated into the mountain, how long the tours will last, how many personnel have been relocated and whether they've been tested for the virus before entering to guard against infecting others.

We'll update if and when we hear back.

Meantime, check this link for a complete listing of how NORAD/NorthCom is assisting in the coronavirus response.

NORAD/NorthCom moved out of the mountain for the most part in 2006 to Peterson, leaving skeleton crews to keep the command center on "warm standby." But in 2015, key functions were restored inside the mountain.
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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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Friday, March 27, 2020

COVID-19 update for March 27. City could furlough, cut pay of workers.

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2020 at 4:50 PM

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  • Shutterstock.com
As the numbers of people stricken with the virus that causes COVID-19 climbed in Colorado and across the country, the U.S. House of Representatives on March 27 approved a $2 trillion stimulus package aimed at buoying business and industry, which have laid off millions of Americans due to the virus. President Trump signed the bill the same afternoon.

The legislation is the largest funding package of its kind in U.S. history and was passed on a voice vote. Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado appeared to be the only member of the Colorado delegation to oppose the measure, according to The Denver Post, saying he opposed specific provisions, such as $75 million for public broadcasting, $50 million for museums and libraries, and $25 million for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, among other things.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told Council via an online meeting that the city is considering several measures to deal with an expected $20 million drop in revenue due to closed businesses and other COVID-19 impacts.

"We don’t know how long it’s going to last," Suthers said. "Everything’s going to be on the table. Before we get into layoffs, maybe we do an across the board wage cut, furloughs, unpaid time off."

Before going to those extremes, however, Suthers said he already has ordered a ban on travel by city personnel, a hiring freeze and a deferral of major purchases.
Mayor John Suthers, seen here reviewing the city budget last year, said March 27 the city expects a drop of $20 million in revenue in the initial hit from the virus to the city's budget. - ZACH HILLSTROM
  • Zach Hillstrom
  • Mayor John Suthers, seen here reviewing the city budget last year, said March 27 the city expects a drop of $20 million in revenue in the initial hit from the virus to the city's budget.
That said, Suthers said the city also will be on the receiving end of the stimulus bill, which will allot billions of dollars to states and cities. The downside is that one pot of money, as the U.S. Senate insisted, will be reserved for the nation's 34 cities of 500,000 population or more, which excludes Colorado Springs, Cleveland, Pittsburg and Miami.

But another pot of cash would direct money to Colorado Springs. Not for lost revenue due to the virus, but rather for expenses associated with the virus. Hence, Suthers says the staff is diligently documenting that, including staff time spent on virus issues.

City economic development official Bob Cope said several agencies, including the Downtown Partnership, the city and the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC, are compiling several relief programs for local small businesses. One program will provide loans up to $25,000. He didn't mention a total amount that would be available.

"We do think that's going to make a significant difference and enable them to be up and running once we're given the go-ahead to do so," Cope said.

Suthers also said, based on his meeting with 350 mayors across the country online, there could be yet another federal funding bill coming that would provide aid to local governments.

As for the newest federal funding bill approved March 27, it's been hailed by many as the cure for the economy, which is ailing after stay-at-home and social distancing orders caused thousands of businesses to shut down or modify how they deliver goods and services.

But the measure was termed "entirely unworkable" by Hunter Railey, Colorado director for the Small Business Majority.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on Colorado’s small business community. Businesses from every corner of the state in nearly every industry have had to close their doors and been forced through no fault of their own to lay off staff," Railey said in a release. "Unemployment claims in Colorado topped over 300,000 in one week since the pandemic started."

Railey also said businesses need direct assistance, not more debt. "For the past two weeks, we have pressed lawmakers to craft a stimulus package that gives business owners the help they desperately need. However, our calls have fallen on deaf ears. [The bill] provides $350 billion in loans that could be forgiven for some businesses in the future, but the fact of the matter is, for the small businesses that are the heart of our communities this legislation is entirely unworkable."

Meantime, on March 27, the state reported data as of March 26: The state has seen 31 deaths (7 in El Paso County), an uptick from 24, and 1,734 cases (160 in El Paso County), a sharp rise from 1,430 the day before (137 in El Paso County). The virus has shown up in 42 counties in the state, and 11,676 people have been tested, up from 10,122 the day before.

Traci Marques, the Pikes Peak Workforce Center's CEO, tells the Indy by phone that staff is scrambling to line up programs for unemployed workers and businesses needing to hire. She says 97 companies, from health care to call centers, are currently hiring.

"We're taking job postings that are for current, active, open positions and what the company deems is necessary," Marques says. "Most of these are stay-at-home jobs, and some of those would change when orders change or several months down the road."
The Pikes Peak Workforce Center can buy a job seeker work boots if required for their new job. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • The Pikes Peak Workforce Center can buy a job seeker work boots if required for their new job.
The PPWC receives up to 130 phone calls per day from people asking questions about job openings and how to file for unemployment. "We anticipate that it's only going to get worse," she says. "We're really talking people off the ledge due to frustrations they're seeing with the state system." (So many filed for unemployment in one day recently that it crashed the state's system.)

Job seekers can go to ppwfc.org for listings of "hot jobs" and https://ppwfc.org/unemployment-resources/" target="_blank">other information, Marques says, and a virtual job fair is slated for April 8.

The PPWFC can't put money directly into the pocket of workers but can spend on items that enable them to report to a job, such as job training and even certain required clothing like work boots, bus passes or laptops.

Marques says the center is looking for ways to cut red tape imposed by federal regulations that would loosen up what the agency can and cannot do to help workers. Also, the latest relief bill didn't contain as much money for agencies like the PPWC as hoped, so she hopes to see additional federal allocations in the future.

Those businesses who are hiring can go to ppwfc.org/covid-19-resources for information on listing those jobs.

In other developments:

• Medical personnel from the 627th Hospital Center at Fort Carson left Colorado Springs on March 27 for Washington state, where soldiers will provide supplemental routine and emergency medical support to communities and medical staff near Seattle.

• Gov. Polis issued further orders on March 26 to extend certain licenses. Read more here He also issued an order regarding the criminal justice system, which will have the effect of reducing the number of prisoners held by the Department of Corrections.

• The Department of Labor on Thursday released the worst jobless-benefits report in history. The U.S. saw nearly 3.3 million new claims for the week ended March 21, nearly five times the previous record of 695,000 claims filed in the week ended Oct. 2, 1982.

• On March 26, the Colorado State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) began distributing 4,500 testing kits obtained from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to health departments in Larimer, Mesa, and El Paso counties so that those agencies can promote testing of first responders and health care workers. Only symptomatic workers will be tested to verify their exposure and allow those with negative results to continue providing medical care and public safety services. Those with positive results will complete self-isolation following public health guidelines.

• Drives to collect personal protective equipment, including eye protection and goggles, face shields, surgical masks, sterile and nonsterile gloves, disposable gowns, N95 masks, sanitation wipes and personal wipes:
—UCCS Health Lane Center parking lot, 4863 N. Nevada Ave., noon Saturday, March 28.
—The Rocky Mountain Vibes' UCHealth Park, 4385 Tutt Blvd., noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 29.

Playgrounds are shut down due to the coronavirus. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Playgrounds are shut down due to the coronavirus.
• VisitCOS has launched a hub of updates and resources to help people understand the rules and follow them and know what's open and what's not. President and CEO Doug Price urged residents to follow recommended health practices to speed a return to normal.

• Thirty-nine percent of contractors report that project owners have halted or canceled current construction projects amid deteriorating economic conditions, according to a survey released March 27 by the Associated General Contractors of America. It warned that cancellations mean "massive job losses" unless Congress passes targeted recovery measures to boost infrastructure funding, compensate firms for lost or delayed federally funded work and provide needed pension relief.

• The Independence Center reminds its clients that while its physical offices are closed, staff answers calls to 719-471-8181 and corresponds via email.

• The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum announced it would postpone the grand opening slated for the end of May. The museum's officials said in a statement it "continues to monitor the global and local impact of COVID-19 on a daily basis. While our team continues its effort to open the Museum as soon as possible, we acknowledge that the situation is constantly evolving. The health and safety of our visitors, staff, and community is a priority, and we will continue to listen carefully to health experts and community leaders."

Bruce: A new way to defy the government. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Bruce: A new way to defy the government.
• Douglas Bruce, the author of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights and government critic, invited anyone who wants to risk their health to meet him at the Firefighters' Memorial in Colorado Springs' Memorial Park at 1 p.m. Sunday, March 29. He invited Mayor Suthers "to come arrest me for peaceably assembling with my fellow Americans" and asserted that the coronavirus is a "phony emergency." Many Republicans, including state legislators, have expressed opposition to the governor's stay-at-home orders designed to curtail spread of the virus.

• More than a week after the coronavirus triggered advisories from state and local authorities, El Paso County and the city of Colorado Springs stood up a Joint Information Center (JIC) on March 27, days after the city and county of Denver did the same. The JIC's daily reports will highlight recent developments.
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Thursday, March 26, 2020

COVID-19 update for March 26: City will enforce stay-at-home order

Posted By on Thu, Mar 26, 2020 at 6:53 PM

The Air Force Academy announced that a civilian employee of the 10th Air Base Wing has tested positive for COVID-19. - PIXABAY
  • Pixabay
  • The Air Force Academy announced that a civilian employee of the 10th Air Base Wing has tested positive for COVID-19.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said Thursday that, while he hopes citizens will continue to comply voluntarily with Gov. Jared Polis’ stay-at-home order, citizens who violate the order may be subject to “criminal prosecution.”

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Suthers said the city will issue “an escalating system of warnings, but if somebody refuses to comply, they will be subject to criminal prosecution.”
Suthers, El Paso County Commissioner Mark Waller and medical experts from UCHealth and Penrose-St. Francis Health Services urged people to comply with the order to stay home, issued by the governor yesterday.

“The hope is that the stay-at-home order escalates in importance in people’s minds,” Suthers said, adding that “the vast majority have been in compliance. … I’m pretty confident that we’ll get widespread compliance. If not, we’ll escalate to do what is necessary.”

Suthers said enforcement options would include monitoring the city's parks.

"We are redeploying school resources officers and park rangers to our parks to educate and discourage gatherings and other unsafe behavior," he said. "But the truth is, we need everyone's cooperation."

Neither Suthers nor Waller knew about the stay-at-home order in advance.

“That’s been one of our frustrations,” Waller said. “I wish our governor would do a little bit better job, quite frankly, of communicating with local elected officials.”

Waller said El Paso County parks will remain open for the time being, except for some areas such as playgrounds.

“It’s our hope that those don’t have to be closed down as we move forward through this process,” Waller said. “But we need every citizen’s help here. … The way we're going to be able to keep those parts open is if everybody complies with those [social distancing] requirements that have been set forth by the state and by the CDC.”

Dr. Brian Erling, Penrose-St. Francis Health Services president and CEO, and Dr. David Steinbruner, emergency physician at UCHealth, said strategies have been put in place to try and prevent their hospitals being overwhelmed.

Both said their systems have halted elective surgeries and pushing back procedures that can be delayed.

“We are getting ourselves in a position where the hospitals are ready to take certain very critical patients if possible,” Steinbruner said. “We don't know exactly what that looks like, and we're trying to model with the public health department about what that is based on data as it comes in. But we believe strongly that by doing the social distancing, by staying at home, and by doing the things that we're being asked to do right now, we are going to be able to ride this out much more effectively and be able to take those citizens who are at most at risk of getting extremely sick.”

Erling said UCHealth facilities are running at about a 60 percent capacity by canceling elective surgeries.

“We’re doing only about 10-15 percent of what we would normally,” he said. “We have units that we have essentially shut down that we are ready to surge up when the capacity is needed.
“we are likening this to the calm before the storm,” Erling said. “The big question is, how big a storm is it going to be? And we believe that with all the strategies that we're putting in place as a community, that we can keep that storm to an absolute minimum.”

Hospitals in El Paso County, as elsewhere, are running short on personal protective equipment, Erling said.

Penrose Hospital is accepting donations of equipment in a drop-off box outside Penrose Hospital, and UCHealth has partnered with Project C.U.R.E and Children’s Hospital for a PPE drive from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 29, at UCHealth Park - Home of the Rocky Mountain Vibes, 4385 Tutt Blvd.

According to a news release from UCHealth, the following items are being sought and will be distributed to all hospitals in the Colorado Springs area:
• Eye protection & goggles
• Face shields
• Surgical masks
• Sterile & non-sterile gloves
• Disposable gowns
• N95 masks
• Sanitation wipes
• Personal wipes

Asked how hospitals were deciding who is tested for COVID-19, Erling said, “We started to get inundated very early on, and it wasn’t so much capacity, it was test kits. So we were only testing those patients who were sick enough to be admitted to the hospital.”

More tests are now available, he said, “but we have more than 50 patients in the hospital right now who are waiting to get a test result The average is seven days, and we have outliers that are more than 10 days waiting for a test result. We’ve taken a very conservative approach … until we have tests that are turning around more rapidly. … And so what I’ll do is test you as you come into the hospital, if you’re being admitted .”

Other developments on March 26:

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment listed 1,430 COVID-19 cases and 24 deaths throughout the state, including 127 cases and seven deaths in El Paso County through March 25. Positive cases include people who have tested positive as well as individuals for whom there is a high likelihood that they have COVID-19. The department stated on its website that 10,122 people have been tested for the virus and that 184 patients have been hospitalized. There have been nine outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities.

The Department of Public Health and Environment also issued a release listing critical workplaces that are exempt from the state stay-at-home order. They include:
• Health care operations
• Critical infrastructure, including utilities, fuel supply and transmission, public water, telecommunications, transportation, hotels, organizations that provide for disadvantaged people, and food supply chain
• Critical manufacturing, including food, beverages, chemicals, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, sanitary products, agriculture
• Critical retail, including grocery stores, liquor stores, farms, gas stations, restaurants and bars for takeout/delivery, marijuana dispensaries (only for medical or curbside delivery), hardware stores
• Critical services, including trash and recycling, mail, shipping, laundromats, child care, building cleaning and maintenance, auto supply and repair, warehouses/distribution, funeral homes, crematoriums, cemeteries, animal shelters and rescues
• News media
• Financial institutions
• Providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations
• Construction
• Defense
• Public safety services like law enforcement, fire prevention and response, EMTs, security, disinfection, cleaning, building code enforcement, snow removal, auto repair
• Vendors that provide critical services or products including logistics, child care, tech support, or contractors with critical government services
• K-12 public and private schools for the purpose of providing meals, housing, facilitating or providing materials for distance learning and providing other essential services to students
• Postsecondary institutions including private and public colleges and universities for the purpose of facilitating distance learning or performing essential functions
• Pastoral services for individuals who are in crisis or in-need of end-of-life services
• Houses of worship may remain open, but must practice social distancing or use electronic platforms
• Professional services, such as legal, title companies, or accounting services, real estate appraisals and transactions

View a full list of critical businesses and operations here.

The U.S. Air Force Academy announced that a civilian employee of the 10th Air Base Wing, host wing for the Air Force Academy, has tested positive for COVID-19. The employee is hospitalized at a Colorado Springs hospital, and the individual’s condition is improving. There is no indication the individual had any direct or indirect contact with cadets, the release stated. Academy officials will continue to monitor the situation and other Academy personnel who came in contact with the individual have been asked to self-quarantine for 14 days and take appropriate actions if they develop symptoms.

Peterson Air Force Base officials elevated its health protection condition to HPCON-Charlie on March 25 to further safeguard service members, community, and the national defense missions supported here. HPCON Charlie is implemented during a public health emergency when there is substantial risk of a disease being spread, and includes social distancing and potential shelter-in-place orders, as well as restrictions on in-person meetings and official travel. Find more information at peterson.af.mil/Coronavirus.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also announced that it is suspending vehicle emission testing for both gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles. The state will continue to provide certain services and registration online at colorado.gov/dmv. The state will provide further information soon on extended vehicle registration deadlines through the duration of Department of Motor Vehicles offices.

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold warned Coloradans to beware of possible charity scams during the COVID-19 public health crisis. She urged people to confirm the organization requesting donations is registered and current at checkthecharity.com; vet solicitation calls carefully, be watchful about newly formed charitable organizations and be wary if a charity fails to provide detailed information about its identity, mission, finances and how the donation will be used.

The ACLU of Colorado urged all Colorado sheriffs to help stop COVID-19 by “safely and swiftly” reducing the jail population. In a letter to sheriffs in 52 counties, UCHealth infectious disease specialist Dr. Carlos Franco-Paredes wrote: “This epidemic has the potential to become the Coming Prison Plague.”
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Figure how much of the $2 trillion rescue bill you'll get

Posted By on Thu, Mar 26, 2020 at 11:56 AM

COURTESY USGS
  • Courtesy USGS
Been wondering how much you'll get from the $2 trillion stimulus package just passed by Congress to pump money into the economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis?

Marketwatch.com provides a detailed description of how payments will be calculated.

In short, here are the rules, based on that website:

• Taxpayers making $75,000 and below will receive a $1,200 check. Married couples making $150,000 and below will receive $2,400. Taxpayers falling under those caps also will receive $500 per child. Those who file as “head of household” — meaning they are unmarried, have children or dependents and pay more than half of their household expenses — will get the $1,200 check if they make $112,500 and below.

• You won't be taxed on the stimulus check.

• All of that is based on adjusted gross income, which is gross income less deductions. Checks will be based on 2018 tax filings, or on 2019 filings, if they've been made. However, 2019 taxes aren't due until July 15, moved from April 15 amid the COVID-19 crisis.

• Those who receive Social Security benefits will be eligible, as will green card holders.

• The checks phase out for incomes above $75,000 a year and caps for individuals making above $99,000 a year. For married couples, income of $198,000 a year is the cap and those filing as head of household are capped at $146,500 a year, according to the analysis from the office of Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

• Checks will be paid via direct deposit to bank accounts taken from taxpayer's 2018 or 2019 returns. If you didn't use bank information for direct deposit on your filing, your check will come in the mail.

Want to calculate your check? Go to the Washington Post's website and plug in your data.

The Post also reports there's a catch to all of this, as follows:
The only catch is that technically a person’s 2020 income is what qualifies them for the payment. Since no one knows their total 2020 income yet, the government is using tax returns from 2019 and 2018 to figure out who qualifies for a check. It is possible that someone may have to pay back some of the money if his or her income this year turns out to be significantly more than it was in 2019 or 2018. That’s expected to be a relatively small share of people, and the money would not have to be paid back until April 15, 2021.
Checks will start going out the week of April 6 and could take several weeks to mail, the Post reports.
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Colorado stay-at-home order: What does it mean?

Posted By and on Thu, Mar 26, 2020 at 8:34 AM

At a news conference March 25, Gov. Jared Polis announced a stay-at-home order. - GOV. JARED POLIS
  • Gov. Jared Polis
  • At a news conference March 25, Gov. Jared Polis announced a stay-at-home order.

Gov. Jared Polis issued a stay-at-home order, effective 6 a.m. March 26, for all of Colorado in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

"The numbers are telling us, and the data is telling us, that while we’ve made progress on increasing social distancing, that progress is not enough," Polis said at a news conference March 25.

Under the executive order, which is effective through April 11, Coloradans are ordered to stay at home aside from actions such as "obtaining food and other household necessities, going to and from work at critical businesses, seeking medical care, caring for dependents or pets, or caring for a vulnerable person in another location."

State governments that have issued similar orders include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

A public health order, issued March 25 by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, lists the following types of businesses as "critical," meaning they may stay open under the stay-at-home order:

• Health care operations (such as hospitals and medical care facilities)
• Critical infrastructure (such as utilities and roadways)
• Critical manufacturing (such as food processing and chemical companies)
• Critical retail (such as grocery stores, farm stands, gas stations, restaurants and bars serving takeout and delivery, medical marijuana dispensaries, and recreational marijuana dispensaries offering curbside pickup)
• Critical services (such as trash collection and mail services)
• News media (such as newspapers and television)
• Financial institutions (such as banks and insurance companies)
• Providers of basic necessities (such as homeless shelters and food banks)
• Construction (such as housing for low-income people and electricians)
• Defense (such as security and aerospace operations)
• Safety and sanitation services (such as law enforcement and fire prevention)
• Vendors of critical services (such as technology support and child care programs)
• Critical government functions (such as public safety and emergency response)

You can read the full list of critical businesses here (go to page 5).

Also on March 25, Polis asked President Donald Trump to declare the state a major disaster area, which Polis said will open up federal resources for medical care, housing and disaster management.

During his press conference, Polis explained that county health departments were responding to the crisis in many different ways. That meant, he said, they were essentially developing a density issue, with more and more people patronizing fewer and fewer retailers or recreation sites.

“We need time to build the hospital capacity to acquire the ventilators we need to save lives,” Polis said. “At the peak of the crisis, we expect to need thousands of more hospital beds. We hope by reducing the spread of the virus and having you stay at home, we’re going to be doing that.”

The governor added that the state is acting to minimize the disruption to jobs and the economy.

“By acting boldly now, we can limit the duration of this economic crisis,” he said. “We can effectively contain this virus by engaging in these measures now and returning to normal sooner, as opposed to later.”

Watch the full news conference online here.
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