KUNC

Testing is considered a major requirement on the path back to normal, and as the president has made clear, it's largely up to the states to find the way. Are states in the Mountain West up to the task? By multiple measures, Utah and New Mexico are leading the way, while other states are still lagging behind. 

In a normal April, the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver hosts a car show and business conferences this time of year.

But this week, construction crews are working inside to put 2,000 hospital beds in the convention center to accomodate a possible surge of COVID-19 cases.

Wearing masks in a nearly empty hearing room at the state Capitol on Wednesday, top lawmakers said they want to resume their session on May 18.

But they are also working on a backup plan that would let them pass a budget and other critical bills remotely if it's still not safe to return.

Aron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post Pool Photo


  In a rare statewide address, Gov. Jared Polis said he is extending Colorado's stay-at-home order another two weeks to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Finding Columbia spotted frogs in Utah's mountains is not easy. But it's possible, with a guide like Paula Trater. She leads a visitor down a dirt path, then through mucky wetlands filled with cattails and a riot of birdsong.

US Dept of Defense / Airman 1st Class Nicholas Dutton

Colorado’s coronavirus response team is racing to add thousands of additional hospital beds to handle a projected surge of new cases in the coming weeks. KUNC’s Scott Franz has more.

Gov. Jared Polis said Monday the dramatic social distancing measures residents are taking in Colorado appear to be working.

Polis said new testing results suggest the spread of the COVID-19 may be slowing days after schools, bars and restaurants were ordered to close their doors around the state. He reported it is now taking five days for cases of the virus to double statewide.

As of Thursday morning, Gov. Jared Polis' statewide stay-at-home order is in full effect. Polis said the state's previous social distancing efforts have not been effective at slowing the virus. So what can and can't you do under the new order? What jobs are considered essential?

Here's the basic rundown.

NICK COTE FOR KUNC/LIGHTHAWK

Water agencies throughout the West are changing their operations during the coronavirus outbreak to make sure cities and farms don't run dry. Their responses range from extreme measures to modest adjustments to ensure their most critical workers don't succumb to the virus.

The halls of the state Capitol are so quiet and empty during the coronavirus pandemic, some state patrol troopers have been spotted biking through the halls outside of the governor's office.

But while the building is closed to the public indefinitely and lawmakers remain away on an emergency recess that is likely to extend into April, party leaders are still waging a high-stakes political battle behind the scenes.

Speaking in an eerily quiet state Capitol building that had closed to the public for a deep clean, Gov. Jared Polis ordered Monday that all bars and restaurants in the state close their dining areas for at least 30 days to help curb the spread of coronavirus. 

He also ordered the closure of large gathering places, such as casinos, theaters and gyms. Take-out and delivery service can continue.

Gov. Jared Polis is urging the cancellation of large public gatherings as several more COVID-19 cases are reported around the state.

Polis says gatherings of more than 250 people should be cancelled unless organizers can prove attendees will be at least 6 feet away from each other.

Colorado has its first two "presumptive positive" cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the latest coronavirus. State health officials on Thursday confirmed an out-of-state visitor to Summit County has tested positive.

Raleigh Burleigh

Capitol Coverage is a project created by the Rocky Mountain Community Radio coalition (made up of 19 stations in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Wyoming) and managed by KUNC in Greeley. Reporter Scott Franz joins KDNK's Gavin Dahl to talk about his second year covering the State Capitol on behalf of the stations who carry his coverage around Colorado.

Colorado's legislative session is just over two weeks old, and lawmakers have already introduced more than 270 bills and counting. With hundreds more bills expected to land in the coming weeks, here are some of the ones we are starting to watch at the state Capitol.

When Blondie's Diner closes around 9 p.m. and a table of hunters finish their green chili cheeseburgers and head back to their hotel, the town of Naturita feels a bit like a ghost town.

There are two new marijuana dispensaries still open late with green neon signs, but on a November night at the start of hunting season, not many customers are partaking.

The only sound punctuating through the cold evening is a semi-truck idling in the parking lot of the Rimrocker Hotel, its driver trying to stay warm.

It's a good day when Tammie Delaney hears a train rumbling down the tracks outside of the century-old granary building she owns in Hayden.

"Oh, you get the train noise today!" she shouts as a train whistle pierces the usual silence in the small town of about 2,000 people.

The train whistles are an indicator of the economy in the Yampa Valley.

Every time thick, dark rain clouds move over the deserts that surround Las Vegas, there's an anticipatory buzz. Flora and fauna alike begin preparing for the rare event, lying in wait for the first few drops.

Todd Esque is usually waiting for them too from his office in Henderson, Nevada. He knows how much desert life depends on their arrival. So when they do come, he's smiling.

There were the usual jokes and friendly banter between the House and Senate.

State lawmakers from both sides of the aisle exchanged hugs in a chamber that felt a bit like a school getting back to work after an eight-month break.

But amidst the pomp and circumstance of the opening day of Colorado's 2020 legislative session, lawmakers also drew some clear battle lines.

Some of the biggest and most contentious laws the state legislature passed this year are going into effect on Wednesday.

Together, the new laws aim to prevent suicides and gun violence, protect hospital patients from unexpected medical bills and give local governments the power to raise their minimum wages higher than the state level.

With short-term drought plans finished, water managers from across the Southwest recently gathered in Las Vegas to figure out what's next.

The Colorado River Water Users Association annual conference brings together nearly every municipal water agency, irrigation district, Native American tribe and environmental group that relies on the Colorado River.

The federal government is now taking comments on alternatives to a project in western Colorado notorious for causing earthquakes. 

The Bureau of Reclamation is looking for replacements for the Paradox Valley Unit, located in a remote part of western Colorado’s Montrose County. The agency released a draft environmental impact statement for those replacements Friday. 

The West’s water security is wrapped up in snow. When it melts, it becomes drinking and irrigation water for millions throughout the region. A high snowpack lets farmers, skiers and water managers breathe a sigh of relief, while a low one can spell long-term trouble.

Patrick Johnson closed on 2,500 acres in Pinal County over five years ago. The property, just off Interstate 8, is mostly farm fields right now. Johnson’s plan is to build a dream spot for motorsports lovers, including two tracks for racing or testing, 2,000 homes, and a hotel. 

But millions of dollars in, Johnson is a long way from a grand opening.

As climate change continues to sap the Colorado River’s water, some users face serious legal risks to their supplies, according to a new analysis by researchers in Colorado and New Mexico. 

Declining flows could force Southwest water managers to confront long-standing legal uncertainties, and threaten the water security of Upper Basin states of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico.

In A Revived Arizona River, A Wildlife Oasis Is Remade

Nov 19, 2019

Much of the Santa Cruz River is a dry, desert wash, only flowing after heavy monsoon rains. As Tucson Water hydrologist Dick Thompson and I walk along the river south of Starr Pass Boulevard, he points out how brown the vegetation looks.

Earlier this year, Arizona -- one of seven southwestern states that rely on the Colorado River -- was in the midst of a heated discussion about water.

“It’s time to protect Lake Mead and Arizona,” the state’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey, said in his state of the state address in January 2019. He spoke to lawmakers in the midst of uncomfortable, emotional discussions at the statehouse in Phoenix about who gets access to water in the arid West, and who doesn’t. 

Colorado residents have rejected a request from their state legislature to remove an annual government spending limit that some elected officials argued is holding back the state’s roads and schools.

Instead, voters opted to continue getting tax refunds when the state reaches a revenue cap set by the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

Climate change has been called the new normal. But residents in some parts of the Southwest say after living through the last two years, there’s nothing normal about it. 

Communities in the Four Corners -- where the borders of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona meet -- have been bouncing between desperately dry and record-breaking moisture since the winter of 2017, forcing people dependent on the reliability and predictability of water to adapt.

Proposition CC is pitting lawmakers who are seeking more money to pay for roads and education against residents who think government spending should have a limit.

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