Governor Polis COVID-19 Updates July 1, 2020

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Topline Update

We currently have 32,715 cases, 1,690 total deaths (1,520 are deaths due to COVID), and 5,489 hospitalizations out of 324,632 completed tests. Every death is a tragedy. There are families mourning across our state today and we keep them in our thoughts.  

In terms of new cases, 3 of the last 14 days have had a downward trend in the 7-day moving average of newly reported cases. And in terms of hospitalizations, 8 of the last 14 days have a downward trend in the 7-day moving average of new hospitalizations.

This case data is broken down by various categories, is updated daily and can be found here.

Coronavirus Update

Gov. Polis reiterated that controlling the spread of COVID-19 is the key to economic success.

Thanks to our methodical approach -- and thanks to Coloradans doing their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 -- Colorado is doing better than our neighboring states on both virus suppression and economic recovery. 

Colorado’s unemployment rate was more than 3 percentage points below the national unemployment rate in May, and we recovered 20 percent of the jobs that we lost in March and April — much higher than the national rate of 11 percent. 

Still, we know an unemployment rate of 10.2% is unacceptable. And that unemployment rate isn’t just a statistic, it represents the pain and struggle of tens of thousands of Coloradans. The Polis administration is committed to doing everything we can to support those families and get everyone back to work, but it begins with an effective management of the virus.

Moving Forward

Colorado has been doing a good job so far relative to our neighbors. But it doesn’t mean we have been perfect. 

Over the past two weeks, COVID-19 cases have been rising slowly. Scientists and epidemiologists are also pointing to an increased likelihood of higher case counts in the fall and winter.

Yesterday, the Governor provided two major updates. In the long term, we all hope Colorado will be able to take many steps forward, but in the immediate term, we need to take one small step back. 

Closing Bars

Gov. Polis announced that recent guidance will be rolled back for bars. Colorado’s bars have been allowed to open up to 25% capacity since June 18th.  However, leaders across Colorado and across the country have been reporting that it has been particularly difficult to get public compliance in bar settings where there is mingling and conversation between parties.

For these reasons, the Governor announced that Colorado will be going back to the Safer at Home model for bars. This means that if bars can adapt to function like a restaurant where they serve food, people sit down, and people only interact with their own party, then they can operate under restaurant guidelines. Many bars have taken steps to open like a restaurant or to open their patios or sidewalks to minimize the risk to their patrons. These establishments can continue to operate. 

If a bar wishes to adapt to become a restaurant, the Governor has asked his team to ensure that applications to expand outdoors have a 24 hour turnaround time. Bars that cannot reopen will still be able to sell take-out liquor. And, if a county has a variance to open bars, bars in the county can continue to operate.

Protect Our Neighbors Framework 

While the bar closure is one small step back, we hope to take many steps forward as we continue to control the spread of this virus and build health care capacity.

Governor Polis laid out the policy framework for the Protect Our Neighbors phase of reopening, giving counties more freedom to provide economic opportunity if they can ensure that they have the necessary public health capacity to handle a severe outbreak. Additionally, the framework ties a community’s ability to relax their guidelines to their ability to suppress and contain COVID-19. 

In this phase, communities with low transmission rates and robust public health capacity to contain an outbreak, should be able to reopen to a greater degree. Colorado was one of the first states to allow for variances by county to our statewide orders, and local flexibility will continue to be provided. 

The underlying premise of Protect Your Neighbors is that in order to reopen to this greater extent, a county must have: 

  • Low virus prevalence 

  • Healthcare capacity to handle a surge 

  • Strong public health capacity to contain outbreaks and surges locally, including the ability to test, track, and trace.

Based on local conditions and capabilities, different parts of the state could be at different phases of reopening. Underlying virus levels, public health capacity, and health care capacity to respond to cases and outbreaks will determine whether a community will need to be under Stay at Home, Safer at Home, or Protect Our Neighbors. 

Next week, communities can request to qualify and be certified to move to the Protect Our Neighbors level. A county can qualify themselves or form a “region” with neighboring counties and submit for a certification together. Applications must meet a set of qualifications and put forth a mitigation plan.

Applicants must be able to demonstrate, relative to population size:

  • Sufficient hospital bed capacity

  • Sufficient PPE supply

  • Stable or declining cases of COVID-19 hospitalizations

  • Fewer new COVID-19 cases

  • Sufficient testing capacity

  • The ability to implement case investigation and contact tracing protocols

  • Documented surge capacity plans for case investigation and contact tracing

  • Implementation of strategies to offer testing to close contacts of outbreak-associated cases

The full framework with qualification metrics and mitigation plan criteria can be viewed here. 

In order to meet these benchmarks, local public health agencies will have to continue to step up, and the state is committed to supporting them. 

In total, Colorado is investing $346 million in state and local capacity, with $75 million going directly from the state to Local Public Health Agencies.

In addition to that significant funding commitment, the Governor wants to make additional funds available to this critical system strengthening work. 

Two new sources of available funding:

  • All counties can apply for a Planning Grant of up to $50,000. These funds can be used to engage consultants, community partners, and finance community engagement efforts such as listening and planning sessions with communities impacted by and at increased risk of COVID-19. 

  • If counties have already identified infrastructure needs and engaged with impacted communities, they may apply for Infrastructure Strengthening Grants - with a maximum state award of $150,000 and a maximum total grant of $300,000. These grants will require local matching funds and can be spent on investments such as technology, community resource coordination, communication activities to increase compliance with the public health orders, funding for community-based partners and cultural brokers, and enhanced prevention and containment efforts.

Colorado’s existing investments and new investments combined will help dramatically expand testing, contact tracing, and containment capacity across the state, and will allow counties to enter into the Protect Our Neighbors phase.

Coloradans are lucky to have a close partnership with our local public health leaders. These leaders have gone above and beyond to meet the challenges that this unprecedented crisis presents to save the lives of countless Coloradans and help get our economy back on track. We look forward to working with local public health agencies across the state to ensure that we can allow the maximum amount of economic and social activity while protecting against a severe outbreak.

Independence Day Holiday Weekend

Whether you are out enjoying Colorado’s great, vast outdoors or celebrating with a cookout with your family or maybe one or two other families, don’t forget to take the steps to keep one another, and our communities, safe. Please avoid risky activities to avoid overwhelming our health systems. 

Here are a few guidelines that Coloradans should follow:

  • Make it safer: If you choose to participate in in-person activities, keep it small, keep your distance from others, wash your hands frequently, and wear a mask. Consider a smaller gathering than in years past, and try to stay outside where transmission of coronavirus is less likely.

  • Know before you go: Check fire bans and local COVID-19-related rules at your destination. If you plan to play in the great outdoors be prepared with appropriate supplies. 

  • Prevent fires: It’s fire season, and this year we need to be even more careful due to added threats due to COVID-19. Please skip the fireworks and campfires this year. We want to prevent situations where people have to evacuate their homes, firefighters have to deploy to camps, and the resulting smoke worsens summer air quality, which would be very bad in the middle of a pandemic where the disease attacks your respiratory system.

Together we can help slow the spread of the virus and help preserve the great, vast outdoors where we all love to play.

Let’s make sure we celebrate the Fourth of July responsibly, and have a safe, happy, and healthy holiday weekend!