This afternoon, Colorado state Senators Rachel Zenzinger (D-Arvada) and Jeff Bridges (D-Greenwood Village) held telephone town halls to discuss updated information about COVID-19, as well as to answer constituents’ questions.
Zenzinger and Bridges were both joined by Mara Brosy-Wiwchar from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and Cooper Reveley from the Colorado Department of Public Safety.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ stay-at-home order enacted March 26 is set to expire April 11, but Zenzinger stressed that it could be changed or extended. Polis already extended the stay-at-home order for schools until April 30, and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock extended Denver’s stay-at-home order through April 30 already, as Bridges pointed out.
Both senators asked Cooper about enforcement of the stay-at-home order.
“Enforcement is possible both civilly and criminally,” Cooper said. “The penalties that are described in the order do include up to a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail if there is an unwillingness to follow that public health order.”
Cooper did stress that law enforcement is locally handled in Colorado, so enforcement could vary based on county, but he hopes and expects law enforcement who come across individuals not following the stay-at-home order to generally handle it as a learning opportunity.
Cooper recommended to Zenzinger that if people see individuals not following stay at home orders, to reach out to their local law enforcement agency to make them aware of the issue.
“I am reading a little bit of media that there have been tickets issued by the City of Denver for folks who are not complying with that city’s stay-at-home order,” Cooper told Bridges when asked if anyone had been ticketed.
“We’ve seen questions from folks and local jurisdictions about, you know, will I be pulled over by my local county sheriff for just being out on the road? And the answer is no. We’re not treating this as a primary violation. We’re not setting up checkpoints on the road. We’re not pulling people over just for being out of their house,” said Cooper.
In Colorado, as of noon today, according to both senators, Colorado had 3,338 cases, 612 people hospitalized for the coronavirus, 18,645 people who had received testing, approximately 77 COVID-related deaths, and 16 outbreaks in long-term care homes.
As Colorado lacks a sufficient supply of both testing kits and personal protection equipment (PPE), Zenzinger and Bridges also asked Brosy-Wiwchar to comment on the shortages.
“Currently, we are still working with the federal government to get more test kits into the state,” Brosy-Wiwchar said. “…We have a team trying to work to verify [45-minute and 15-minute test kits] as quickly as possible, so that way we can get more test kits into the hands of Coloradans.”
Brosy-Wiwchar also added that the state has already sent out 4,400 test kits and PPE to health agencies in El Paso, Larimer, and Mesa counties, as well as 300 test kits to the Ute Mountain tribe.
“The message remains the same: if you have only mild symptoms, then self-isolate and don’t wait for a test,” Zenzinger added.
Brosy-Wiwchar outlined three tiers of importance that Colorado currently follows. Tier 1, with individuals who receive priority testing, consists of hospitalized patients and healthcare workers with symptoms. Tier 2 includes people with symptoms and underlying conditions over 65 who live in assisted living homes, first responders, and those who work with vulnerable populations, and tier 3 covers all other individuals who have symptoms.
During Zenzinger’s town hall, Brosy-Wiwchar outlined a detailed system in place for Colorado to get its hands on more PPE:
“One, we have called upon everybody in the state of Colorado: if you have extra PPE to donate–think veterinary clinics, or if nail salons have some extras equipment–we are asking you to consider donating equipment, and that those donated items will then be distributed to clinics across the state that are really in desperate need of them. Second, we are working with local manufacturers to create additional PPE,” said Brosy-Wiwchar. “There’s different 3D printing that’s helping to create face shields and things of that nature. And then third, we are working within our procurement team to order more PPE for the state. So, just today, we started to get some buying opportunities, and we are hoping to really get an influx of PPE into the state before the health care surge that we will start to see in the coming days.”
Brosy-Wiwchar also told constituents during Bridges’ town hall that Denver Mattress Co. has begun to manufacture face masks, while distilleries and breweries in the state focus their efforts on making hand sanitizer.
Looming over Coloradans’ heads, however, is the financial uncertainty that accompanies the virus’ spread.
Zenzinger and Bridges both provided resources and reassurance for those who are struggling.
Bridges asserted that law enforcement officials have been told not to enforce eviction orders at this time–but in case a local authority does decide to enforce it, or if a landlord threatens an individual with eviction, Coloradans can go to 211 Colorado for rent assistance.
Coloradans can also go to Hunger Free Colorado for assistance with food, and Zenzinger mentioned that Jefferson County schools are providing meal assistance for kids as well.
“People who have lost their jobs or have seen a reduction in hours could qualify for unemployment. Independent contractors, gig workers, and those who are self-employed all now qualify,” said Zenzinger.
“…If you are having trouble getting your claim processed, we recommend trying the hotline early in the morning, or trying the website outside of regular business hours, when there is much less traffic on the site.”
For those who own small businesses, “The small business administration has disaster loans that are available for small businesses, and Colorado small businesses in all of the state’s 64 counties can seek up to $2 million to cover those losses from COVID,” according to Zenzinger.