In a special address to the state Monday evening, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said he is extending the statewide stay-at-home order, set to expire April 11, until at least April 26.
“If there is any way to safely end it sooner, then we will,” Polis said. “And likewise if Coloradans aren’t staying at home and the numbers of the dead and dying continue to increase, then it could go longer.”
The governor struck a hopeful tone but emphasized, as he has for weeks, how important it is for Coloradans to obey the statewide stay-at-home order.
“The sheer size of this crisis has forced us to take a series of drastic measures that we would have thought unthinkable, unimaginable just a month ago,” Polis said, later adding, “By staying home, wearing a mask when you go out, practicing proper physical distancing and proper hygiene — you are literally saving lives.”
Like so much else since March 5, when Polis announced the state’s first known cases of the virus, the address was unprecedented. It’s the first time Polis has requested TV and radio stations give him time to speak directly to the public since he took office in January 2019.
As of the governor’s address, Colorado has counted a total of 5,172 known cases of the coronavirus, 994 hospitalizations and 150 deaths. Because of a lack of testing, experts say, Colorado’s known case count is dramatically short of reality.
An estimated 17,000 to 18,000 Coloradans have the virus or have had it, public health officials said in a call with reporters several hours before the governor’s address. The officials also estimated that 30%-40% of Coloradans will catch the virus in the coming months, and that 5% of those people will require hospitalization.
Polis has declined to this point to guess when the number of new coronavirus cases in Colorado will peak.
“We all want a timeline,” he said Monday. “When will this nightmare be over?”
The peak of hospitalizations, he’s said, will likely come a week or two after the case peak, and officials and health care providers are working feverishly to prepare for a scenario in which the health care system in the state is overwhelmed and unable to effectively treat all patients in need. The state on Sunday released guidelines as to how health workers should prioritize care — potentially meaning, in some cases, choosing who lives and dies — in the event of an overload.
On the earlier press call, state health officials reiterated what Polis has been saying for weeks: The date and severity of the peak depend on how seriously the state takes social distancing.
Jill Hunsaker Ryan, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said on that call she is “certain” the peak has not yet hit — contradicting at least one popular model that suggested the state may have passed the peak two days ago — and other officials on the call said the state’s modeling indicates the peak may not fall until July or later.
Denverites have already been assured they’ll be ordered home through at least the end of the month. Mayor Michael Hancock made that official Monday afternoon prior to the governor’s address, extending Denver’s order until April 30, consistent with federal guidance.
Polis spoke Monday of the heartache he feels over the economic decline the virus, by way of shutdown orders, has wrought. More than 4% of the state’s labor force has filed for unemployment in the last three weeks. He has said nobody would be happier than he would to see shuttered businesses reopen, but, he said Monday, that’s not happening for now.
“Like many of you,” he told viewers, “I am beyond furious that we have been forced to shut down large portions of our economy — putting tens of thousands out of a job — because the wealthiest nation on the face of the earth doesn’t have the supplies and testing that we need to mount a proper, more targeted response.”
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