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Polis Orders Businesses To Increase Remote Work, Urges Residents To Stay Home

An assortment of pictures from the Colorado state Capitol building on Thursday, March 19, 2020. The building is closed to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. Polis said more state employees will start working from home.
Scott Franz
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Capitol Coverage
An assortment of pictures from the Colorado state Capitol building on Thursday, March 19, 2020. The building is closed to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. Polis said more state employees will start working from home.

In another effort to curb the spread of coronavirus, Gov. Jared Polis is ordering most businesses in the state to reduce the number of workers they allow at the office by 50%. The executive order was announced during a news conference Sunday.

He's also encouraging residents to remain at home except to get supplies, care for loved ones, drive to work or engage in outdoor recreation at a safe distance.

He said residents should go to the grocery store, but at most once a week to limit their exposure to the virus.

"If we do not do more to contain the spread of this virus, our health care system will be overwhelmed," he said.

He warned that without more social distancing, the virus outbreak could reach a point similar to a "wartime triage" situation where doctors would have to choose "who will live and who will die."

He pointed to Italy, where hundreds of residents have been dying in recent days, as a worst-case scenario.

His order to reduce the number of workers driving to the office does not apply to essential services like health care workers and financial institutions. He's still encouraging employers to have as many people working remotely as possible.

"It might mean every third cubicle is filled instead of every cubicle. It might mean having two shifts where people come in at different times. It might mean telecommuting," he said.

Polis did not issue a shelter-in-place order like ones that have been issued in some other states because Polis says they cannot effectively be enforced.

Instead, he said Coloradans should remember they are putting lives at risk if they don't practice social distancing.

Polis also said the state needs 7,000 more ventilators to be prepared for the height of the virus outbreak. He criticized the response of the federal government and said it was giving Colorado a limited amount of supplies to protect against COVID-19.

Colorado has now had seven residents die from the virus. The latest victim was a woman in her 70s in Weld County. As of Sunday, the number of positive cases had risen to 591 in 29 counties.

"We fully expect the number of Coloradans with COVID-19 is in the thousands," Polis said.

He also predicted it would reach all 64 counties in the state.

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.
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