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Gov. Polis Declares State Of Emergency As Number Of COVID-19 Cases Rises To 15

Gov. Polis announced three more cases of COVID-19 in Arapahoe, Eagle and Gunnison counties and declared a state of emergency Tuesday morning.
Scott Franz
Capitol Coverage
Gov. Polis announced three more cases of COVID-19 in Arapahoe, Eagle and Gunnison counties and declared a state of emergency Tuesday morning.

Updated 3/10/2020 at 10:52 a.m.

During a press conference at the governor's office Tuesday morning, Gov. Polis announced three more cases of COVID-19 in Arapahoe, Eagle and Gunnison counties and declared a state of emergency for Colorado.

"We will get through this together, but the actions we take in the next few days and weeks will determine the trajectory of the coronavirus in Colorado," Polis told reporters.

Scott Franz reports from the state Capitol.

The governor announced a new drive-up lab for testing will open Wednesday in Denver. People will need a doctor's order to utilize it.

Colorado currently has 900 COVID-19 test kits.  Polis said he had a 20-minute conversation with Vice President Mike Pence last night, during which he stressed the need for more kits in Colorado.

Polis said he's directing the state to adopt rules that will allow workers in food handling, hospitality, child care, health care and education to get paid sick leave if they need to leave work because of flu-like symptoms and wait for coronavirus test results.

The state is also allowing residents aged 65 and older to renew their driver's licenses online to reduce risk of virus exposure at DMVs.

"It's important to protect our most vulnerable populations," Polis said, adding that about 80% of people who get COVID-19 can manage symptoms on their own at home, but 20% of cases may have more severe symptoms, require hospitalizations and can be potentially fatal.

"Our goal is not only to save lives ... but also to prevent the wide disruption we're seeing in China and Italy and the rest of the world," Polis said. "Declaring a state of emergency does not mean Colorado is not open for business."

The original story continues below.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment identified three additional presumptive cases of COVID-19 on Monday afternoon. Earlier in the day, a Larimer County woman tested positive for COVID-19.

Until they are verified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these cases are considered presumptive.

The positive cases announced Monday afternoon involve a woman in her 70s from Eagle County whose exposure to an infected person is unknown, but who has recently traveled in the U.S. The others include a woman in her 30s from Denver who neither had contact with an infected person nor recently traveled, and a woman in her 30s in Arapahoe County.

There is also an indeterminate case — with no conclusive results — for a woman in her 70s from Denver with no known contact with an infected person but has recently traveled in the U.S.

By Monday afternoon, the number of cases reached 12 in Colorado.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.

Governor Directs Health Insurers To Waive Fees

Gov. Jared Polis has directed health insurers in Colorado to waive fees for coronavirus testing and treatment.

State health officials don't want people with symptoms of the virus, like coughing and shortness of breath, to avoid their doctor because they're worried about getting hit with a fee. Co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles can be waived along with some prescription and telehealth costs.

The order covers state-regulated plans. You're covered if your insurance card has the letters CO-DOI on the corner.

Universities Crack Down On Travel

The University of Northern Colorado and Colorado State University are restricting travel to combat the spread of coronavirus.

UNC is suspending travel to Japan, China, South Korea, Italy and Iran. This affects students who were planning to study abroad in these countries over the spring and summer semesters. And UNC says students currently in Japan and South Korea are on their way home.

Travel is also suspended for UNC faculty and staff.

Meanwhile, CSU has suspended all non-essential travel, such as conferences. It has not restricted athletic travel. CSU says its athletic department is in close contact with the Mountain West Conference and NCAA.

CSU is urging students, faculty and staff to monitor travel alerts before any traveling during spring break.

Both universities are requiring anyone returning from these countries to self-quarantine for 14 days before returning to campus.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 KUNC

Scott Franz is a government watchdog reporter and photographer from Steamboat Springs. He spent the last seven years covering politics and government for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, a daily newspaper in northwest Colorado. His reporting in Steamboat stopped a police station from being built in a city park, saved a historic barn from being destroyed and helped a small town pastor quickly find a kidney donor. His favorite workday in Steamboat was Tuesday, when he could spend many of his mornings skiing untracked powder and his evenings covering city council meetings. Scott received his journalism degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is an outdoorsman who spends at least 20 nights a year in a tent. He spoke his first word, 'outside', as a toddler in Edmonds, Washington. Scott visits the Great Sand Dunes, his favorite Colorado backpacking destination, twice a year. Scott's reporting is part of Capitol Coverage, a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.
Stories written by KUNC newsroom staff.
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