COVID-19 pandemic in Colorado
The COVID-19 pandemic reached Colorado on March 5, 2020, when the state's first two cases were confirmed. As of May 30, 2020, Colorado public health authorities reported 26,098 confirmed cases of COVID-19, an increase of 1331 cases (5.4%) over the previous 3 days, resulting in 4,333 hospitalized patients. Fifty-one deaths have occurred since May 27th, bringing the state's COVID-19 death toll to 1,443. All three of these figures are cumulative, beginning on March 5, 2020.
|COVID-19 pandemic in Colorado|
Map of the outbreak in Colorado by confirmed infections per 100,000 people (as of May 31)
1000+ confirmed infected
500 - 1000 confirmed infected
100 - 500 confirmed infected
20 - 100 confirmed infected
0 - 20 confirmed infected
|Index case||Summit County, Douglas County|
|Arrival date||March 5, 2020 (2 months, 3 weeks and 6 days ago)|
|Hospitalized cases||397 (current) |
On March 5, public health officials reported the first two cases of coronavirus in the state. The first case was a man in his 30s visiting Summit County who had contact with a confirmed case in California. The second case was an elderly woman in Douglas County who had traveled on an international cruise. Both cases were considered presumptive positives; they had been tested by the state but had not been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) for verification.[a]
On March 6, with six new cases of coronavirus, the case count climbed to eight, seven of whom had traveled abroad recently.
On March 10, Governor Jared Polis declared a state of emergency. Polis also announced 17 total presumptive positive cases in the state. The state announced a drive-up testing facility for patients with a doctor's note in Denver's Lowry neighborhood, at no charge to the patients.
On March 11, The University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) cancelled the 72nd annual Conference on World Affairs. The Nederland Town Board of Trustees cancelled the annual Frozen Dead Guy Days, following a Boulder County Public Health recommendation. The event was scheduled for the weekend of March 13.
On March 12, a Post Malone concert at Denver’s Pepsi Center proceeded as scheduled, drawing a sellout-crowd of 20,000, likely the largest enclosed gathering in the U.S. before widespread lockdowns.
On March 12, a CU Boulder employee received a presumptive positive test for COVID-19. The employee worked on March 9 from 8 a.m. to noon in limited areas of the Center for Community dining center. Despite Boulder County health's recommendations, the annual May Bolder Boulder race and the Boulder Creek Festival were still scheduled. Many major school districts, including Denver Public Schools, Jefferson County Public Schools and Cherry Creek Public Schools, announced closures lasting at least two weeks. Owing to the current strain on medical facilities in mountain communities, Governor Jared Polis discouraged mountain travel for the elderly.
On March 13, Colorado reported its first COVID-19-related death: an 80-year-old woman with underlying health issues from El Paso County. To offset the loss of quarantined medical personnel, Governor Jared Polis asked former doctors and nurses to rejoin the stressed medical workforce. Owing to low temperatures, the Lowry drive-up testing service did not operate. The state planned to move the drive-up testing to the Denver Coliseum, starting March 14, subject to weather. The testing at the Coliseum would service a maximum of 150 patients. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) also planned to move the drive-up service to strategic locations as warranted. In Aspen, 10 Australian ski vacationers were confirmed with the virus, with three others refusing testing. The three Australians who refused testing were quarantined for two weeks. Michael Larson, of Crested Butte, in Gunnison County, owner of Mikey's Pizza died from COVID-19, on March 13, 2020. His test for the coronavirus was done post-mortem, and received back on March 23. Making him the first death in Gunnison County, and also one of the first's in Colorado.
On March 14, the state legislature went into recess for two weeks. Governor Jared Polis issued an executive order to close downhill ski areas for a week, doing so "with a profound sense of pain and grim responsibility." Some ski areas had already planned to close on March 15.
On March 16, Denver Mayor Hancock ordered all bars and restaurants closed by 8 a.m. on March 17 (except for food delivery and pickup) and banned gatherings of more than 50 people. Governor Jared Polis expanded the closures by ordering a state-wide closure of dine-in services, gyms, casinos, and theaters.
On March 18, Governor Jared Polis closed schools until April 17 and banned gatherings of more than 10 people for the following 30 days. Polis also ordered ski resorts to remain closed until April 6. The governor also expressed frustration with nonchalance regarding social distancing and announced the creation of a fund to aid Coloradans affected by COVID-19. San Miguel County became the first county in the nation to plan to test all of its residents. It also ordered residents to "shelter-in-place." Gun sales skyrocket in Colorado, along with toilet paper, and hand sanitizer, thousands of Coloradans are also falling in line with the national trend of stocking up on guns.
On March 19, Colorado reported two more COVID-19-related deaths, one of which was a man related to Colorado's first death. Governor Jared Polis extended the closure of bars, restaurants, theaters, gymnasiums and casinos until April 30 and suspended all nonessential medical procedures. The governor also ordered the closure of "nonessential" businesses until April 30, which include nail salons, spas, and tattoo parlors.
On March 23, Aytu BioScience, a pharmaceutical company in Colorado, announced that it developed a blood test that will deliver results in two to ten minutes at the point of care for antibodies for the COVID-19 virus. The FDA has now approved the test for distribution. Denver Mayor Hancock announced a "stay at home" order for Denver county. This was to go into effect Tuesday March 24 at 5pm.
On March 24, thirteen Colorado counties and multiple cities had announced some form of the stay-at-home order, including Adams County, Arapahoe County, Archuleta County, Boulder County, Broomfield County, Denver County, Douglas County, Eagle County, Grand County, Jefferson County, La Plata County, Pitkin County, and San Miguel County.
On March 25, Governor Jared Polis put the state of Colorado in complete lock-down, with a stay-at-home order. This started on Thursday the twenty-sixth at six in the morning, and was scheduled to last through April 11. Mesa Verde National Park Closed.
On March 26 Mike Willis, Colorado's director of emergency management, had a new coronavirus testing program, after receiving 5,000 test kits and expecting another 2,500. New locations will be set up to test the first responders and health workers. Colorado Parks and Wildlife will be closing all facilities, including camping at Colorado's state parks and State Wildlife Areas until further notice.
On March 27 Governor Jared Polis said that he is working to add 5,000 ICU beds to Colorado's capacity by the end of the summer and is in conversations to bring more ventilators to the state to treat sick COVID-19 patients. The 8pm Denver Howl is started by folks in a neighborhood near the now closed Denver Botanic Gardens and Denver Zoo.
On March 28, Governor Jared Polis announced that the White House had approved his request to declare a major disaster for Colorado.  The status means the state is eligible to receive additional federal resources and funding to help address the pandemic. The New York Post named Gunnison County, at 454.20 per 100,000 people and Eagle County at 331.74 per 100,000 as being two of the top four counties leading the nation in confirmed cases outside of New York and Louisiana. The other two counties are Blaine County, Idaho and Summit County, Utah. They state that this will no doubt overwhelm local hospitals. Andy Larson of the Salt Lake Tribune did some math based on factual reporting, and put Gunnison County, Colorado third in the country for cases per capita. He listed Eagle County as eighth.
On March 31, Gunnison County announced they will begin working with a company called Biobot, to test fecal samples from the sewer system, to track coronavirus. The county will collect samples and send them back to Biobot which can produce results in about three days. The tests will help measure the scope of the outbreak in the county and track the impact of interventions, such as social distancing. It could also act as an early warning system for a re-emergence of cases. Colorado Doctors are turning to telemedicine, to keep people out of the hospitals or ERs where their chance at the infection of COVID-19 is higher. Many Health insurance companies will pay the Doctors the same rate for a virtual visit as in-person. Previously, insurance companies only paid about half as much. Also, Medicare may waive co-payments on these visits, making a virtual visit an affordable way to maintain the spread of infection. The demand for guns in Colorado continues to rise amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Despite the CBI strongly encouraging firearm dealers to hold firearms until the background checks are completed, gun shops are considered essential businesses under the state's stay-at-home order and are classified as "critical retail," along with grocery stores, gas stations, marijuana dispensaries, liquor stores, and several other businesses. Mike Wills, director of the state's Office of Emergency Management, said that Budweiser Events Center could serve as a temporary hospital as Colorado prepares for the coronavirus surge.
At the end of March, the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs eased some of its social distancing measures for its on-campus cadets, after two seniors committed suicide there in the prior week. Earlier strict efforts to isolate and separate cadets had provoked complaints.
On April 1, Guidelines for patient prioritizing are made, with 3,342 cases, and 620 people hospitalized with COVID-19, Doctors could be forced to decide which patients to treat. About the new guideline, Dr. Matthew Wynia, director of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus said, "This is statewide guidance on how to do triage in the most ethically defensible way," Projections that Colorado will hit its peak of COVID-19 cases on April 17, at which time there could be a shortage of nearly 2,000 hospital beds and nearly 500 intensive care unit beds even with the present preventive measures being taken, there are new efforts that could close that gap.
On April 5, Colorado officials set guidelines for deciding who gets care in case of coronavirus surge. Based on a four-tier system, the comprehensive 22-page document will prevent health care workers from making decisions about care based on gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, and other non-health related factors. The document states that decisions should not be made based on a person's status or position. Colorado sees significant declines in air pollution due to a decline in driving during coronavirus outbreak.
On April 6, Colorado's mountain communities are dealing with high altitude issues concerning coronavirus. By moving their patients to lower altitudes, they hope that their patients will need less supplemental oxygen. Dr. Jason Hogan, an emergency medicine physician at Gunnison Valley Health, has started transporting patients from Gunnison, at an altitude of 7,700 feet, to Montrose at 5,800 feet, and Grand Junction at 4,500 feet, to help with the significant amount of oxygen they need. Aspen Valley Hospital's Dr. Barry Hammaker chief medical officer said they are transporting patients to Denver and Grand Junction. Colorado mountain communities due to the high skier/tourist population became hotspots for the new coronavirus early on in the pandemic, closing ski resorts and asking tourists to return home. Governor Jared Polis in a special address extends the stay-at-home order to April 26, 2020. "If there is any way to safely end it sooner, then we will," Polis added. "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."
On April 7, tourists and second homeowners could face 18 months in jail or a fine of up to five thousand dollars if they visit Gunnison County in Colorado during the pandemic. Officials initiated the public health order stating non-residents and tourists must stay out to help slow the spread of the virus. In the statement, the public health director said people from lower altitudes were at greater risk for COVID-19 complications than people who live in the high-altitude.
On April 9, the Texas attorney general's office wrote a letter to the director of Gunnison county's Department of Health and Human Services, saying that the Colorado county's call for all non-residents to leave the county is unconstitutional. The letter said, “While the order contains other laudable measures aimed at protecting public health, its patent discrimination against non-resident homeowners – including Texans who own homes in Gunnison County – runs afoul of the United States Constitution.”  Senator Kerry Donovan, said it's better for people to stay home, where they have a support system in place. The National Western Complex becomes a shelter for homeless men during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On April 10, Attorney General Phil Weiser supports Gunnison County public health order as does Governor Polis' stay-at-home executive order, telling non-residents to leave. The "8 p.m. Howl" was reported to have spread in popularity throughout the entire United States. Started two weeks before, the nightly howl received support from Polis and media coverage.
On April 11, at least 50 employees at a meatpacking plant in Greeley, Colorado have contracted Coronavirus, and two have died. Governor Jared Polis, says that JBS USA would be closed until all workers could be tested. Vice President Mike Pence said that supplies to do so were on their way. “And I want to encourage people in Colorado that we will work to support that effort, but I also want to emphasize that all of the people that are working in the food supply, from farmers to meatpackers to distributors to truckers to grocers, continue to have our gratitude,” Pence said.
On April 12, concerns were raised nationally regarding the potential for COVID-19 spreading during April 12 Easter celebrations in churches, though many churches had previously announced the transition to online services in light of this danger.
On April 18, protests are planned against the stay-at-home order to take place on April 19, at the capitol. To mark the April 18 graduation of cadets from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs–including the first cadets to commission into the newly-created Space Force–the Air Force Thunderbirds display team released their flight plan for their F-16s to fly along much of the Front Range, from Boulder to Pueblo. The flight is also intended to honor first-responders and essential workers currently helping fight the coronavirus.
On April 19, before Sunday's protest at Colorado State Capitol, Governor Polis informed the public through a spokesperson of Coloradan's right to protest, hoping that those protesting were doing so safely. He also expressed his desire to re-open businesses and by lifting some restrictions within a short period. Health care workers counter demonstrate against protestors at Capitol.
On April 21, the “stay-at-home” order became a “safer-at-home” order as Colorado prepared for its first phase of re-opening.
On April 23, there were still not enough tests, however, more were coming. In the meantime, there were strategies being executed to help combat COVID-19 despite lack of access to testing. Also, a possible blood test that would show antibodies began to show promise. Governor Jared Polis, outlined safer-at-home policies and emphasized that unnecessary travel was still not recommended. Also on April 23, Eagle County was the first in the state to be released from the stay-at-home order following a significant decline in cases in the county. The allowance for Eagle County businesses to re-open and for citizens to travel was restricted to only those within the county and prohibited citizens from elsewhere in the state from traveling to Eagle. JBS meatpacking plant in Greeley, reopened April 24, after being closed for 8 days. Testing will take place for any employee showing symptoms. Weld County Health Department will oversee testing at the plant for morning and evening shifts. Many employees feel unsafe and reluctant to return to work, even with a pay raise and bonus, they said it's just not worth the risk.
On April 24, several counties extended their stay-at-home directives, Governor Jared Polis' order will expire on Sunday, April 26 at which time safer at home will be augmented. Weld County will extend one day until April 27. Adams County, Arapahoe County, Boulder County, Denver County, and Jefferson County will extend their directives until May 8. Grand County will extend until May 21. 138 inmates at Sterling Correctional Facility in Sterling tested positive for COVID-19. A Walmart in Aurora shuts down after a security contractor, an employee and her husband die, with COVID-19. Also, six more employees, of this store tested positive for coronavirus, and three more have symptoms and await test results. The store will clean and sanitize before reopening. Ride the Rockies canceled its annual event. Those who have already paid for the event may receive a refund or automatically be entered in next year's event which plans on using the same route. In June The Denver Post sponsored event will have two virtual rides provided via Zoom.
On April 25, the Colorado National Guard and Colorado State Patrol staffed free drive-through testing for residents of Weld County with COVID-19 symptoms. Testing runs from April 24 through April 28 and does not require doctor's orders. During the four days, testing begins at 10 a.m. and continues until 300 samples are taken. The Greeley Stampede, has been canceled, ticket holders will receive a refund or credit towards the 2021 event.
On May 1, the Lone Tree city government mandated the wearing of masks when inside retail buildings. The order will be in effect from May 8 through May 26. It has exemptions for children under two years old and persons with breathing difficulties.
On May 15, the Colorado Department of Health began reporting deaths counted two ways. First:
- "the number of deaths among people with COVID-19. This represents the total number of deaths reported among people who have COVID-19, but COVID-19 may not have been the cause of death listed on the death certificate. This information is required by the CDC and is crucial for public health surveillance, as it provides more information about disease transmission and can help identify risk factors among all deaths across populations."
- "The number of deaths among people who died from COVID-19: This represents the total number of people whose death was attributed to COVID-19 as indicated on a death certificate. This number is determined by the CDC and is updated daily for dates through the previous Saturday."
Data: Cases and Deaths by DayEdit
|Cases||Deaths Among Covid 19 Cases||Deaths from COVID-19|
|Date||# Cases||New cases||% Increase||# Deaths||New Deaths||% Increase||7 Day Avg||14 Day Avg||# Deaths||New Deaths|
Source: Daily Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reports. Deaths reflect date the death was reported to the state. 
On March 10, Governor Jared Polis declared a state of emergency, ordering the state's Department of Labor and Employment to develop rules for requiring employees in sectors such as foodservice and health care be offered paid sick leave if they display symptoms. The March 14 executive order to close ski areas for a week was the second most significant action by the governor.
Colorado was set to purchase 500 ventilators before the Federal Emergency Management Agency swooped in and bought them first. Trump announced on Twitter that the federal government would be sending 100 ventilators to Colorado at the request of Senator Cory Gardner. The incident caused Governor Polis to make future supply purchases in secret.
Self-quarantine of government officialsEdit
On March 17, both Senator Cory Gardner and Representative Jason Crow elected to self-quarantine for 14 days, until March 25. Both Gardner and Crow interacted with a Coloradan who tested positive for COVID-19 on March 11. The legislators represented two of 14 members of the U.S. Congress who decided to self-quarantine.
On March 19, Colorado State Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet reported testing positive for coronavirus. Michaelson Jenet was the first member of the Colorado General Assembly to report testing positive for coronavirus and elected to self-quarantine in her home. Michaelson Jenet was at the Colorado Capitol on March 14, the day it closed due to the virus.
Impact on sportsEdit
Most of the state's sports teams were affected by the pandemic. Several leagues began postponing or suspending their seasons starting March 12. Major League Baseball cancelled the remainder of spring training on that date, and on March 16, they announced that the season will be postponed indefinitely, after the recommendations from the CDC to restrict events of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks, affecting the Colorado Rockies. Also on March 12, the National Basketball Association announced the season would be suspended for 30 days, affecting the Denver Nuggets.
The 2019–20 Colorado Avalanche season was suspended for an indefinite amount of time as the National Hockey League suspended the season. After a player on the Ottawa Senators tested positive for coronavirus on March 17, concerns arose about the Avalanche's potential exposure. The Avalanche used the same visitor's locker room at the SAP Center against the San Jose Sharks after the Senators.
In college sports, the National Collegiate Athletic Association canceled all winter and spring tournaments, most notably the Division I men's and women's basketball tournaments, affecting colleges and universities statewide. On March 16, the National Junior College Athletic Association also canceled the remainder of the winter seasons as well as the spring seasons.
Impact on religionEdit
On March 12, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints canceled public services worldwide. Other Christian denominations, such as Methodist and evangelical churches, began to close or announce alterations to their schedule around the same date. Highland United Methodist Church in Denver was opened to allow for an assembly line manned by volunteers to produce protective masks in early April. Messiah Baptist Church in Denver received criticism for remaining open. A statement from the church said, "We are NOT canceling any service due to the covid-19 [sic] virus, snow, hail, wind, locust or any other natural or super natural [sic] event with the exception of the rapture. If Christ comes to call us home, whoever is left behind can do what they want."
The Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, and Fuel Church organized in April to help deal with the increase in the need for meal donations and food assistance in Colorado Springs. The economic impact of the virus left an increase in donation requests across the state.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Denver began cancelling public services in March, including cancelling Sunday Mass through April 17. Holy Week Masses were moved to live-streams from each parish, as well as Masses featuring Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults was moved to the 30 May Pentecost Vigil.
In the Diocese of Pueblo, Bishop Stephen Jay Berg offered dispensation for those who were experiencing flu-like symptoms in early March. On Sunday, March 8, parishes in the diocese stopped filling Holy Water fonts and stopped offering the eucharistic Blood of Christ in the chalice. On March 13, the diocese cancelled all Masses following Governor Polis banning all public gatherings of 250 people or more and closed the schools operated by the diocese. March 13 announcement, made by the Archdiocese of Denver, affected the entire ecclesiastical Province of Denver, including the Diocese of Colorado Springs.
On April 12, the Easter Mass held at Denver's Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception was broadcast live by KDVR. A spokesperson for the archdiocese described participating in Easter celebrations from home as an act of charity.
The Episcopal Church in Colorado, the sole Episcopal diocese in the state, released a statement for Bishop Kimberly Lucas on the pandemic on March 13. The statement announced the cessation of public services on March 22 to last until April 1, with congregations in more heavily affected areas–which the Bishop cited as Denver, Pitkin, and Eagle counties–to immediately stop offering services. Beginning Sunday, March 15, Episcopalian parishes began using live-streaming services to allow congregants to watch from home upon the recommendation of Reverend Canon Carl M. Andrews, the diocese's Disaster Response Director.
Temple Emanuel in Pueblo had already cancelled its Passover Seder events in April when a suspected arson attack on March 11 destroyed much of the interior of the building. Most other synagogues in Colorado had cancelled their public events and services by March 19. Some Jewish schools, such as Garden Preschool in Lone Tree, began using video communication to interact with students. Temple Emanuel in Denver offered online courses on how to parent and educate students during the pandemic.
In late April, celebrations of Ramadan began with alterations. Some in the Colorado Muslim community express concerns that immigrants that were only able to communicate with others at their local mosque would find the “stay-at-home” period particularly trying. The Downtown Denver Islamic Center announced it would provide online courses throughout Ramadan.
Despite the urgency for testing Coloradans for COVID-19, many people have been frustrated with the state's limited testing capacity and slow response time. Governor Jared Polis has noted that expanding testing capacity is "absolutely critical", yet limited supplies and a small number of trained medical staff have resulted in a low testing rate. While CDPHE implemented a mobile testing site in Lowry, Denver (later moved to the Denver Colosseum), the site closed due to long lines. As of March 18, no private laboratories were performing tests and only people who exhibited the most severe symptoms were being prioritized for testing. While some tests can be completed in a matter of minutes, Colorado's test results have taken up to five days.
- Timeline of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States
- COVID-19 pandemic in the United States – for impact on the country
- COVID-19 pandemic – for impact on other countries
- The state later moved to consider presumptive positive cases as positive, without requiring additional verification from the CDC.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to COVID-19 pandemic in Colorado.|
- Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDHPE) official coronavirus page updates, hotline phone numbers, FAQ, official media releases, links
- Fort Collins Coloradoan – Coronavirus in Colorado: Tracking the confirmed cases, latest news, and updates
- Denver TV station 9 News List of things canceled or postponed in Colorado due to the coronavirus
- Denver TV Station CBS 4 Coronavirus Closings: List Of Colorado Events Being Canceled Or Postponed
- Colorado Public Radio coronavirus FAQ
- Boulder-based community radio station KGNU: Coronavirus in Colorado – What You Need To Know includes Boulder area school closures, meal availability