Latest COVID-19 updates: El Paso County Health says phased approach will bring us to 'finish line'

Posted at 5:02 AM, May 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 20:12:33-04

COLORADO — Coronavirus cases continue to rise in Colorado, with the statewide total at 16,907 cases as of Monday afternoon, including 851 deaths. Since the pandemic started, 2,838 people have been hospitalized.

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.
Tuesday, May 5

5:30 p.m. | Children's Hospital Colorado begins phased reopening of pediatric services

Children's Hospital Colorado announced Tuesday that it has started to reactivate services that were suspended due ot the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hospital said in accordance with the Safer-at-Home order, the phased reopening of pediatric services began last week, starting with procedures and surgeries that "can no longer wait."

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

17,364 cases
2,919 hospitalized
56 counties
85,976 people tested
170 outbreaks
903 deaths

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

11 a.m. | More counties moving to "safer-at-home" phase

Jefferson, Boulder and Broomfield counties on Tuesday morning announced their stay-at-home orders would be expiring after Friday. Like Denver, they will transition into a safer-at-home phase.

The statewide stay-at-home order expired last week, but several counties along the Front Range extended their orders through May 8. Under a safer-at-home phase, critical businesses can remain open and many non-critical businesses can begin to reopen.

Tri-County Health — which covers Arapahoe, Adams and Douglas counties — also had extended its stay-at-home order through May 8, but the agency by Tuesday had not announced whether the order would be extended.

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

Board of County Commissioners are voting on variance to decide how high school graduations will be able to be conducted with COVID-19. Commissioner Mark Waller said it would take enforcement if the county were to open faster than the state guidance.

"We're doing the best we can to protect, 'we the people,'" Waller said. But he said there is a limited ability for the county to change things going forward because the state is "running the bus." He said he wishes Gov. Jared Polis would have given the counties authority to decide how operations would go.

El Paso County Department of Public Health Director Susan Wheelan said the department will do all they can to ensure businesses in the county open as quickly and safely as possible. She agreed with Waller that there isn't a large consensus on business operations, but they will rely on data and science to help move forward.

"We're poised much better than more populated counties...We are in a very good place," she said. Wheelan said their job is to implement state health orders and amendments. The department is working to educate and enforce public health orders. Since March 26, Wheelan said the department's hotline has received 2,700 calls.

Wheelan said the county is the most populous in the state and that the county is always competing with Denver based on population. In comparison, the front range counties are more restrictive and that we are not because of how well residents and leaders have been doing to follow orders.

The safer-at-home order the county is under is the current guideline we are following. The department said while we were under the stay-at-home order, residents were prohibited from leaving residence except for necessary activities and all gatherings were prohibited.

Now, we are encouraged to stay home as much as possible. We are also urged to wear a mask, gatherings are limited to 10 people and those at-risk people should stay home. Outdoor recreation is allowed, social distancing must still be practiced and travel should be limited to your own county. The department said there are requirements for businesses that are reopening: social distancing, disinfection, signage, employee and customer screening.

Dr. Leon Kelly reiterated that keeping large groups from convening is important to keep the virus at bay. He said in regards to the county department and restaurants/businesses may be able to open sooner than the state is ready to. Dr. Kelly said they are never going to do anything that may jeopardize the long-term progress of the county and to have the businesses reopen. He said the department is working a timeline as quickly as they can.

He presented El Paso County's progress with COVID-19 and we have what we need to "ensure successful containment and treatment of ongoing COVID-19 viral transmission." The way this will remain and continue as time goes on is if everyone takes the responsibility to make good decisions. He said our county's phased approach is giving the greatest chance at a continued, sustained approach to return to normal.

In regards to graduation ceremonies, Dr. Kelly said the health department feels that it is doable given the current state of the county's progress.

"We are moving together, and at no point are we going to risk losing control of this [virus]," said Dr. Kelly.

Both The Board and Dr. Kelly recognizes graduations are a once in a lifetime, isolated event in young people's lives, and wants to see them be honored. However, it needs to abide by Gov. Polis' safer-at-home order. Here are the proposed guidelines for modified graduation:

  • Schools need a written plan constrained within guidelines
  • Students and faculty only ceremony, consisting of appropriate social distancing
  • Alternate virtual-only plan as backup for students not able or wishing to be present
  • Parents, family, and friends present virtually, outdoor only events in the areas to accommodate class size and social distancing or must be staggered
  • No touch diploma acceptance, appropriate mask-less photos allowed
  • Parents must provide written approval for their children

This still has to be approved by Gov. Polis, and there is no guarantee that he will sign off on this. The vast majority of the Gov.'s guidelines follow that of Dr. Kelly's proposed modifications for graduation, but given the local data, they feel these extra precautions are essential to a safe and socially distant graduation. Dr. Kelly believes they can still move forward to apply for the variance.

The Board of County Commissioners agrees with Dr. Kelly, and passed the submission for a variance request unanimously. The Board does want to note that no graduations can happen for at least three weeks. Moving forward, the Commisioners would like to address these issues in a more timely manner, as graduations and approvals of schools' plans for graduation need to be approved.

7 a.m.| Virtual counseling meets clients "right where they're at"

While the battle rages on in hospitals across the country trying to heal those who are sick with coronavirus, another public health crisis is emerging: the impact of this pandemic on the mental health of our family members and neighbors. The good news is mental health experts are coming to the rescue finding ways to reach more people than ever before. Virtual counseling is getting people help right where they're at.

6:30 a.m.| How to protect your data working from home

While COVID-19 continues to threaten the globe, computer viruses are also threatening our data, and the scammers behind them now have more opportunities to target you if you're working from home. The issue is that many of us are now mixing personal and work data, so there's a lot more at stake if any of that gets compromised.

Monday, May 4

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

16,907 cases
2,838 hospitalized
56 counties
83,266 people tested
170 outbreaks

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

3 p.m .| Colorado National Guard plans F-16 flyover

The Colorado National Guard is planning an F-16 flyover to honor COVID-19 frontline workers across Colorado.

The flyover will be from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, beginning in Greeley and continuing to Fort Collins, the high country, the Denver metro area and then finishing in Colorado Springs.

Here's the full schedule, from the Colorado National Guard:

1:45 p.m. Gov. Polis updates

After beginning with a tribute to Paul Cary, the paramedic from Colorado who died of COVID-19 after volunteering to work in New York City, Polis said the State of Colorado has recorded 848 deaths from COVID-19.

He then said that having mass deaths and people being unable to earn a living are both "not an option." He asked that grandparents put off seeing their grandchildren for the Month of May so they can be there for them in the future.

Polis said the daily growth rate of cases continues to decline and they are also seeing similar results with the hospitalization rate.

He went on to say that going forward a Governor's Advisory Committee will advise him and the Colorado Dept. of Health and Environment on policies and regulations. The committee will be made up of representatives from both large and small municipalities, public health, first responders, and others.

Polis then spoke about the types of places Coloradans can get tested moving forward. They are, hospitals, community based testing sites, targeted testing at senior living sites, and private sector partner sites.

He then announced that a new state website has been created to help Coloradans find testing sites. The site features a map of community testing sites. That site can be found here:

The Governor encouraged people to get the healthcare they need. "It's important that we don't drop the ball on non-coronavirus health issues because we're so focused on coronavirus," Polis said.

1:30 p.m. Gov. Polis press conference

Gov. Polis provides update on COVID-19 in Colorado: 5/4/20

1 p.m.|Pueblo Riverwalk updates guidelines under safer-at-home order

The Pueblo Riverwalk has modified its guidelines to comply with safer-at-home order that began May 1, according to a release. During the stay-at-home order, it was required that anyone using the Pueblo Riverwalk must maintain a social distance of 6 feet or more. Now that Colorado has moved to the safer-at-home order as of April 27, Gov. Jared Polis has refined the guidelines.

12:15 p.m.| Gov. Jared Polis to give COVID-19 update this afternoon

Gov. Jared Polis is scheduled to give an update on COVID-19 in the state at 1:30 p.m. News5 will be streaming this on air and on our Facebook page.

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9:40 a.m.|El Paso County parks and facilities reopen this week

Beginning on May 4, park headquarters will reopen Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the County Fairgrounds office also reopening on those same days from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Park restrooms will also reopen.

7 a.m.| Sterling Correctional Facility inmate dies at hospital after experiencing COVID-19 symptoms

An 86-year-old inmate from the Sterling Correctional Facility died at a city hospital days after experiencing symptoms of the novel coronavirus. The inmate, who was not immediately identified, was taken to the hospital on April 27 and was tested for COVID-19 while at the hospital. The official cause of death will come from the coroner’s office.

6:25 a.m.| Faced with 20,000 dead, care homes seek shield from lawsuits

Faced with 20,000 coronavirus deaths and counting, the nation’s nursing homes are pushing back against a potential flood of lawsuits with a sweeping lobbying effort to get states to grant them emergency protection from claims of inadequate care. At least 15 states have enacted laws or governors’ orders that explicitly or apparently provide nursing homes and long-term care facilities some protection from lawsuits arising from the crisis.

5 a.m.| Unemployment benefits could delay getting back to work

As businesses start to reopen their doors and use their Paycheck Protection Program money to keep employees on the payroll, some staff may decide to wait to return to work if they are making more on their unemployment benefits. News5 learned what the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center recommends to try and maintain employees, even if they are making more off of unemployment benefits.

4:55 a.m.| Manitou Restaurant owner repays PPP loan early

In the kitchen at The Loop restaurant, you can hear the spatulas chopping sizzling meat on the grill while aluminum tray lids clank on counter-tops. The pair of cooks here are busy serving up the sopes and molcajetes the Mexican eatery is famous for. The only difference between today late February is that all of the dishes are now packed up neatly in to-go containers.

4:45 a.m.| More than 46K small-biz loans approved in Colorado in second round of PPP

More than $3 billion is heading to Colorado to shore up small businesses affected by the COVID-19 slow down as the second round of the federal Paycheck Protection Program gets underway. The Denver-based regional director of the Small Business Administration, Dan Nordberg, released a statement Sunday, touting the success of the loan program's reboot.

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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.