Governor Polis COVID-19 Updates July 27, 2020

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Topline Update

The State currently has 44,336 cases, 1,794 total deaths (1,661 are deaths due to COVID), and 6,268 hospitalizations out of 494,626 completed tests. Every death is a tragedy. There are families mourning across our state today and we keep them in our thoughts.  

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

Colorado’s Testing Strategy 

Two weeks ago, the average test turnaround time was 1-2 days, over the last few weeks we have heard it taking up to 12 days due to a national testing backlog. The Polis Administration finds this unacceptable and will be taking matters into their own hands with expanding state lab capacity and bringing additional in-state private lab partners online rapidly.

As there is an uptick in new cases, Colorado’s ability to expand our testing infrastructure will alleviate the strain on our health system, giving peace of mind to Coloradans and furthermore, and is a critical component of a successful public health response. 

In the absence of a clear national testing strategy, Colorado has worked hard to secure our own sources for testing supplies and expanded our lab capacity -- both in the state lab and through partnerships with private labs. However, this is not a panacea and it’s important to remember that we are not immune to issues that face our national supply chain and national labs. 

Undoubtedly, we would all be better off if there were a national testing strategy and effective management of supplies across the country, but because Coloradans  are smart, hardworking, innovators, we have built and will continue to expand the best system a state can provide on its own.

State Goals & Indicators of Success 

When the state responds to prevent the spread of this virus across Colorado, that response is driven by the following goals: 

  • Acquiring more PPE -- masks, gloves, gowns, face shields -- and testing equipment

  • Expanding testing with prompt results, tracking, and tracing capacity

  • And ensuring hospitals and local public health agencies can meet the need if we do have another surge of cases.

The Four Pillars of Success 

And as we work toward meeting and surpassing these goals, we must continue to be in alignment with the four pillars that determine our success while in Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors, meaning: 

  1. Every Coloradan stays safer at home whenever possible. 

  2. Older Coloradans and those at higher risk of suffering from complications of COVID-19 are staying at home. 

  3. Coloradans must wear a mask: This is now required statewide in all public spaces, and everyone should do their best to wear masks outdoors to minimize their risk and protect others. 

  4. And as a state, we are continuing to scale up our testing and tracing: this is a pillar determinant of our response in tracking positivity rates and assessing our capability to treat those who have tested positive, which is currently just over 4% of people who get a test.

Update on Testing Capacity 

As a direct result of state lab expansion and partnerships with the private sector, Colorado has made the quantum leap from testing 160 Coloradans per day back in March to administering on average over 10,000 tests per day.  

In mid-April, when our daily average of new cases surpassed 500, we were able to test 2,000 per day, but we were missing critical resources like a sufficient amount of swabs to conduct reagent tests - more commonly known to the 450,000+ Coloradans who have been tested as the “brain tickle” test. Within that same month, we set a goal to test 5,000 individuals per day between state and private labs. 

Governor Polis announced that the state lab processed an all time high of 3,803 tests on July 19th. That day Colorado also hit our overall combined high between the state lab and private labs with 12,413 tests processed. And our average this past week was 10,317 tests per day total, and over 3,000 for the state lab. 

Our state lab team represents true excellence in public service. We recognize the tireless efforts of our lab director Dr. Emily Travanty and her whole team for their unprecedented scaling of the lab’s capacity. They have been able to go from 200 tests a day to 3000+.

As a reminder --  if you get a test, you should self-isolate and quarantine until you receive your test results to confirm that it’s negative. Conduct yourself as if you are contagious with the virus, so you do not become a spreader and risk the health of others. 

The state lab has also added a third, overnight shift to process more tests and keep turn around time low. We know that these extra hours working to serve our communities are not easy on our state healthcare workers, and we thank them for their courageous work every day. 

Increasing Lab Capacity 

Since this virus reached our state, we knew, in the absence of federal leadership, we would have to act aggressively to partner with private supply channels, to scale up to respond swiftly and boldly in order to keep people safe and address this crisis head-on. We appreciate any federal resources and partnerships we have received to date and would welcome more.

Colorado’s testing team’s goal has been to build a diverse portfolio of testing supplies and lab capacity to build resilience into our testing program and to be less subject to the national supply chain issues. Our Administration is doing everything possible to ensure we have the testing capacity that Colorado needs. A key strategy of our Administration is to build our own state capacity while building partnerships with the private sector.

By building both public and private partnerships, Colorado has been able to increase our testing capacity to meet the demand. The state partnered with local public health and healthcare providers including hospitals, Federally Qualified Health Centers, and others to support over 50 local community-based testing sites. We are also working with Children’s Hospital and National Jewish to run 800 tests per day. Other local private labs Biodesix and Unipath are adding capacity for another 1200 tests/day. We have agreements in place with additional private labs like Mako Labs (2,000/day), Curative (3,000/day) and ATCG (1,200/day) to help us process thousands more tests each day and better meet increased need, as well as test at residential facilities across the state and increase community based testing. The state has teamed up with Korean manufacturers to secure critical testing supplies to Colorado. 

Unique Supply Contracts 

Our state is unique, in that we are developing an important set of relationships directly with suppliers at home and abroad has helped Colorado be in a better position than other states. 

In April, the Governor said our biggest barrier was supplies but we have made a huge effort to increase our supplies. We have purchased 300,000 tests and 450,000 swab kits through our international suppliers, and we are expecting 300,000 more tests plus 800,000 swab kits over the next 8 weeks by September 30th -- or 100,000 swab kits per week. Another 300,000 swabs have been purchased and delivered from within U.S. borders, and 500,000 kits are expected by the end of September. 

Saliva Tests

To cover all of our bases, we want to expand and diversify our testing capacity as much as possible through innovation. The state lab has invoked the authority from the FDA to approve novel tests for use in Colorado. Over the next few weeks, we will be evaluating an innovative saliva test developed at University of Colorado that has the potential to significantly expand our surveillance testing capabilities. 

Over time, university and private lab partners will be expanding the types of samples that we can collect for testing, including working with a company called Curative Inc. to introduce a cheek swab test in Colorado, in settings where repeated testing is appropriate.

Studies will be conducted, and we are excited to be able to introduce new, more efficient testing methods. When we detect the virus early in individuals, they can undergo treatment sooner, and our foremost goal is achieved: saving lives.

Residential Care Strike Force

In Colorado, more than half of the COVID-19 related deaths have been among older adults and people with disabilities who resided in high-density, group-living settings. This includes nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and group homes. In order to reduce the spread of illness and number of deaths in these settings, the state launched a Residential Care Strike Team  in late April. Our Administration thanks Randy Kuykendall and Bonnie Silva for their work leading this team. They have been focused on mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in all high-density environments serving older adults and people with disabilities and have made significant progress. 

The Strike Team has set a goal to conduct proactive widespread asymptomatic testing for both residents and staff. This proactive testing aims to identify asymptomatic cases early to minimize the potential for an outbreak. The team has prioritized facilities serving the most residents, as they are at the highest risk for an outbreak. To maximize capacity and to provide individualized support, facilities have been provided three options for testing support. To date, 110,690 testing kits have been distributed to 176 facilities who have indicated they just need support with supplies. 

When requested, the National Guard was also deployed to complete 11,384 tests in 75 facilities. The National Guard has been key to our capacity for testing the most vulnerable whether that is at senior facilities or rapid deployment to outbreaks when they happen. Governor Polis has asked the federal government to extend the national guard past the current authorization in August. 

And the state has contracted with Colorado State University to provide support with testing for facilities that are able to complete their own testing with additional technical assistance. CSU has completed 12,246 tests in 31 facilities. In total, 134,320 tests have been completed or delivered to long term care facilities, and we are thankful for The Strike Team’s hard work in caring for our most vulnerable.  

Contact Tracing

We are working hard -- in partnership with our Local Public Health Agency (LPHA) partners -- to expand our contact tracing capacity. This is why we prioritized contact tracing as a Protect Our Neighbors phase metric, and are working to make over $75 million available to LPHAs to grow their programs.

The State is continually working to do our part. Thanks to the 115 full-time COVID-19 case investigators and contact tracers Colorado’s Department of Public Health & Environment, Colorado has been able to reach out to 96% of positive cases within a 48 hour window, where the vast majority -- 72% -- have responded. 

This increased contact tracing and disease investigation capacity will help us keep the virus from spreading.It’s extremely important to know who has recently been in close contact with a person infected with coronavirus, so that we can take swift action to notify others that they may have been exposed and guide them to self-isolate or take other measures to prevent a full blown outbreak.

In June, Governor Polis announced that the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) would be mobilizing more than 800 AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members to support the State of Colorado’s COVID-19 response through contact tracing and other associated work.

To date, 423 contact tracers have started working, and an additional 300 AmeriCorps NCCC members, 350 VISTA Summer Associates, and 100-200 Senior Corps volunteers will be joining them over the course of the next year.

Energize Colorado Gives a Helping Hand

In addition to robust testing, another way to keep Colorado’s communities safe is having access to adequate protection against this virus. Energize Colorado’s PPE marketplace serves to re-engage the economy while keeping our most vulnerable populations safe and healthy by connecting Colorado businesses with Personal Protective Equipment. More and readily available PPE will help build our economic resiliency and help our businesses bounce back.  

Some supplies that are available in the marketplace right now are: 

  • KN-95 respirator masks

  • Surgical mask

  • Face Shields

  • Hand Sanitizer

  • Surgical and general purpose gloves

  • Face Coverings

  • Disinfectant 

  • Thermometers 

  • Surgical Gowns

  • Face masks

Our Administration would like to thank Noel Ginsburg, the Founder and Chairman of Intertech Plastics and founder and CEO of CareerWise Colorado who helped establish a team dedicated to ensuring Coloradans have access to PPE. 

Finding PPE equipment is tough, but this group made sure through its partnership with the Colorado State University testing labs that the PPE meets quality standards and negotiated prices so that Colorado businesses get the compensation that they deserve. All can visit to learn more about the PPE Marketplace and a whole host of other services and supports to help get Colorado safely moving again. 

Because of our success in acquiring PPE, we will be supplying all K-12 schools in Colorado with one mask per week per teacher for the next ten weeks and we are working on the logistics and process around that. We will be supplying masks to all district public schools, private schools, Catholic schools, charter schools, and boarding schools.

A Team Effort

The fate of our state in both virus suppression and economic recovery is largely in the hands of Coloradans. It’s important to reduce social interactions, remain six feet from others whenever possible, and wear facial masks when in public. Testing won’t improve your outcome if you get it, so please stay safe at home, wear a mask to avoid getting this nasty and deadly bug.

Since we have seen a 4-week increase in cases and as a result -- demand for testing -- administration is now taking an active role in test processing and our state lab workers are working around the clock to expedite the timeline for receiving results.Testing needs to be done right, and developing more public-private partnerships is one way we lead by example in Colorado.

We extend a thank you for the state lab workers for fearlessly facing each challenge head on and implementing leading strategies that prevent the spread of this virus. If we actively work to scale up our lab capacity,  testing capabilities, and logistical support systems, we’ll be prepared to face the challenges that lay ahead.