Latest COVID-19 updates: El Paso County outlines 4 steps to move forward

Posted at 6:01 AM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 18:14:53-04

COLORADO — Coronavirus cases continue to rise in Colorado, with the statewide total at 15,284 cases as of Wednesday afternoon, including 777 deaths. Since the pandemic started 2,697 people have been hospitalized. As of Thursday 756 were currently hospitalized, and 54 were released in the last 24 hours.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has a new site offering details on COVID-19 outbreaks in the state.

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Check here for the latest update on the number of cases, the age, gender and location of presumptive positive, indeterminate and confirmed cases from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Colorado Springs and Pueblo have both set up hotlines for people to call with questions about COVID-19. In Colorado Springs, call 719-575-8888 or the United Way 2-1-1 hotline. In Pueblo, call 719-583-4444.

Below, we're updating this blog with the latest information regarding COVID-19 in Colorado.
Thursday, April 30, 2020

9 a.m.| El Paso County Health Department updates Board of County Commissioners

Dr. Leon Kelly, who is acting as the county's deputy medical director during the outbreak, said the county has been accomplished a lot during the last few weeks. He said there is a long road ahead as we recover from the impact of COVID-19.

"El Paso County is in a position where we are ready to move forward," Kelly said. He said that we have done the hard work already and that we are prepared to keep moving forward. Kelly said it is important for the department to be able to prove that the county is able to move forward.

A couple months ago, he said the county was not in a good place. The objective was to reduce the rate of the virus spread and to preserve the health care infrastructure. The social distancing and stay-at-home order was the most aggressive approach, but it paved the way to be able to return to "normal" and move to containment, mitigation and capacity building.

Kelly said from the beginning of this, the department has felt that they have been partners with our community and that the county is in a position of strength.

Kelly outlined four ways to move forward:

  1. Sustain decrease in new COVID-19 cases
  2. Increase testing capacity
  3. Increase contact tracing capacity
  4. Increase hospital capacity

Dr. Robin Johnson with the department said the county's testing capacity is about 1,140 tests per day. She said they are tracking how quickly test results are able to return and right now, there is a 24-hour/48-hour turnaround for test results. "Now that we have the ability and capacity, we are encouraging all individuals with symptoms to get tested," she said.

According to the department's COVID-19 dashboard, the county has had 926 total cases, 206 hospitalizations, 69 deaths and 511 people who recovered. Kelly said there are currently 24 or 25 people hospitalized due to the virus. He said as time goes on, there will still be hospitalizations and people infected by the virus. Right now, he said the goal is to protect methods to treat people who are sick.

The hospital's ability to care for patients is what is driving the decisions the county is making to be conservative or less restrictive when it comes to dealing with the virus. Kelly addressed Weld County as being in a rough spot by not following responses that state set. El Paso County is leveling out in its number of cases. We have one of the highest populations in the state, according to Kelly, and early responses have helped the county prepare to move into the next phase.

The department has increased its ability to contact trace, meaning they have a stronger ability to find cases quickly so they can isolate those who need to be and reduce the spread of the virus.

The health department has been interviewing the people who have recovered from the virus to learn more about virus and to learn about the resources that were available to them during this time. Kelly said this will help address holes in the community that may not be giving those help and support.

Many residents have been impacted by economic challenges and he said the next phase is going to address these hardships for our residents. Kelly said mental health is incredibly important to focus on while financial struggles, fear, and other issues are at the forefront with the pandemic. He addressed that there is a GRIT — Greater Resilience Information Toolkit — initiative to create a stronger, "more cohesive community." Its website states the goal is "to vastly expand the capacity of our community to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as future disasters."

Johnson said the department has been tracking the community's health equity using zip codes. There are factors that help determine health:

  • Healthcare system
  • Economic stability
  • Neighborhood and physical environment
  • Education
  • Food
  • Community and social context

Dirk Draper, CEO with the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, said they are encouraging businesses to follow state and public health guidance. Businesses are also encouraged to seek testing, clarity for operations and liability protection. He said the goal is reopen safely and as advised by the state and county. He said that in collaboration with the health department, they have been able to reopen businesses with curbside sales.

7:30 a.m.| 3.8 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, bringing 6-week total to 30 million

The Department of Labor said Thursday that 3.8 million Americans filed for unemployment in the last week, bringing the six-week total to about 30 million. Those figures are slightly down from last week, when the Department of Labor reported that 4.4 million Americans filed initial claims for unemployment.

7 a.m.| Follow Up: El Paso County Sheriff's Office will resume accepting new concealed carry applications May 11

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office announced Wednesday that it will begin resuming concealed handgun permit appointments on May 11. This announcement comes just one week after News 5 Investigates reported that the sheriff's office had abruptly stopped accepting new permit applications during the coronavirus.

6:45 a.m.| We're Open Colorado: Moving company offers free moves to victims of domestic violence

College Hunks Hauling Junk & Moving is working to provide moving assistance to victims of abusive living situations. According to a release from the company, "A certified domestic violence shelter will need to approve any victims requesting a free move (to ensure that the victim is supported throughout the entire transition, and for the safety of our team and the victim to ensure local law enforcement is involved if need be)."

6:30 a.m.| News5 Exclusive: Interview with Gov. Jared Polis

In case you missed it, News5's Elizabeth Watts had an exclusive opportunity to speak with Gov. Jared Polis yesterday evening where we asked your questions. To view the full interview, click the link above.

6 a.m.| How high school seniors are managing COVID-19 stress

Through our Rebound Colorado series we're here to help in managing that stress. In this story News5 is putting a spotlight on our high school seniors who are facing challenges most of us never imagined.

Just like their classmates and high school seniors all over the country, the Colorado Springs teenagers News5 spoke with say that they had big plans and expectations for their final year on campus.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

4:30 p.m. | Gov. Polis says Colorado hopes to test 8,500 people a day for COVID-19 by end of May

Colorado expects to significantly ramp up its testing capabilities to be able to perform around 8,500 tests per day by the end of May as more testing supplies are received and as community-based testing increases at the county level statewide, Gov. Jared Polis said Wednesday.

The governor also announced the state had hired 25 more epidemiologists in the past two weeks, bringing the total to 56, who will work to implement a contact tracing program in conjunction with a digital symptom reporter and tracker businesses and health officials will use to more-quickly identify possible outbreaks.

“We’re building this car as we’re driving,” Polis said in regard to the testing build-up.

4 p.m. | Latest COVID-19 numbers in Colorado

14,758 cases
2,621 hospitalized
56 counties
69,449 people tested
157 outbreaks
766 deaths

Find the latest information from the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment here.

2:20 p.m. | COVID-19 Navigator Program and website to improve identification, testing

Gov. Polis announced the establishment of a first in the country COVID-19 Navigator Program that will establish "wrap around support" for those who are sick and help them navigate how to self-isolate at home and provide support.

The state is launching in partnership with Google. The site will help identify hot-spots early, refer people directly to testing sites, allow for quicker contact tracing, and make data available more quickly. When someone visits the site, they will be asked to take a short survey and enter their symptoms.

2 p.m. | Testing to ramp up to 8,500 per day through May, Polis says

Gov. Polis said the state plans to be processing 8,500 COVID-19 tests per day by the end of May, up from about 3,000 tests currently. The state plans to test about 5,000 people by early May and increase the capacity over the course of the month.

The state lab can process up to 10,000 tests per day — a long-term goal of officials — but the state is still constrained by the number of test kits available and also by the personal protection equipment and staff needed to conduct the tests.

As of Wednesday, the state had about 15,000 test swabs, 20,000 extraction reagents for the test, and about 100,000 detection reagents for the test. By the end of May, the state plans to up those numbers to 195,000 across the board.

1:50 p.m. Safer at Home does not mean back to normal

The Governor began by saying the Safer-at-Home phase is not a return "back to normal."

Those over 65 need to continue to stay home as much as possible. We also need to continue to keep group gathering to less than 10 people.

Retailers can return to curbside service on May 1 and offices can return to in-person work at 50 percent capacity on May 4.

Business owners or anyone with questions regarding this new phase can find answers here: Safer-at-Home

1:40 p.m. Governor Polis update on COVID-19

Governor Polis provides update on COVID-19 in Colorado: 4/29/20

11:20 a.m.| Gov. Jared Polis set to get update on state response to COVID-19

Gov. Jared Polis is scheduled to give an update on the COVID-19 response today at 1:30 p.m. News5 will be airing this live and streaming it on our Facebook page as well as your streaming device.

Watch News5 on a streaming device
Watch News5 on a streaming device

11 a.m.| News5 Exclusive: Interview with Gov. Jared Polis

News5 has another exclusive opportunity to speak with Gov. Jared Polis this evening where we will ask your questions. You can send your questions right now by emailing or leave us a message on "The Rebound Colorado" Facebook page.

10 a.m.| Colorado Parks and Wildlife shuts down campgrounds until May 4

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials have announced all playground, campgrounds, camping and camping facilities at the state parks will remain shutdown through May 4.

Along with these closures, CPW said they are not allowing any camping at State Wildlife Areas to help fight the spread of COVID-19

6 a.m.|"We will beat this beast": Colorado nurse shares experience from New Jersey ICU

Our Colorado healthcare workers have been on the frontline of the COVID-19 epidemic. But even as the stress of their jobs mounted here at home, some have traveled to hotspots such as New York City and New Jersey to help battle the crisis there. Amy Espinosa, a registered nurse in the Emergency Department at St. Anthony North Hospital in Westminster, was one of those healthcare workers who went to help.

5:45 a.m| Colorado receives $10.3M from HHS to build up tracing, testing programs; hope to test 10K per day

Colorado received $10.3 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last week to build up its COVID-19 contact tracing and testing programs as the state continues to spend millions in its response to the novel coronavirus. Colorado Office of Emergency Management Director Mike Willis said Tuesday that the state had spent about $70 million so far on the COVID-19 outbreak.

5:30 a.m.|Southeast businesses can apply for recovery loan until Thursday

Local businesses are working hard to bounce back from the impact of coronavirus here in Colorado, and we want to help. If you're a small business owner in southeast Colorado Springs, you may qualify for an immediate recovery loan of up to $25,000, but you must apply for this loan by midnight on Thursday, April 30.

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Get the latest from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Click here for the latest update on the number of cases, the age, gender and location of presumptive positive, indeterminate and confirmed cases from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

People who have general questions about coronavirus disease 2019 can call CO HELP at 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911 for answers in many languages. Email for answers in English.