An hour after the city of Boulder ‘s “stay-at-home” order took effect yesterday, Boulder City Council held its first-ever virtual meeting for an update from the Boulder County Health Department regarding the coronavirus pandemic. KGNU’s Roz Brown says the city’s mandate to “stay-at-home” began at 5 p.m. on March 23.
Listen to the report below (Download Audio):
Boulder County plans to announce its own directive Wednesday to make sure there’s a coordinated approach in place in response to the coronavirus health crisis. Boulder City Manager Jane Brautigam addressed councilmembers during a video conference call last night.
“We will amend our order to conform to the Boulder County public health order so it will be seamless throughout the county,” said Brautigam.
The city’s public health order encourages residents to stay at home as much possible, and travel only for groceries, or to other essential services including places such as banks, gas stations, and hardware stores, marijuana and liquor stores, Laundromats and to pick up food from restaurants. Brautigam outlined how the city will enforce the stay-at-home order.
“We will enforce this through education and encouragement,” said Brautigam. “Certainly if a police office or park ranger were to see someone violating the order they will comment to them, but they will not arrest them unless it’s someone who is constantly violating the order.”
City and county health officials were also on the call. Boulder County Public Health Executive Director Jeff Zayach says local cases are mostly following the nationwide pattern, and city and council orders encouraging people to stay home, can help.
“Ideally what we would like to do is test, but also do a better job of controlling some of the cases so they are not exposing other people, and if we can continue to move toward that in the coming weeks we still have the opportunity to lower the possible surge locally and in Colorado,” said Zayach.
Zayach says more young people are being infected with COVID-19 in Colorado and the U.S. in general than what’s been seen internationally. Among the 47 confirmed Boulder County cases as of Tuesday, 28% are individuals 19 to 29 years old, 44% are in individuals 30 to 59 years old and 28% are people 60 and older.
Much like the rest of the nation, Zayach said local health professionals are preparing for a peak surge in cases.
“The best prediction is that surge will fall at the end of April or the end of May,” said Zayach.
Boulder Community Health CEO Dr. Robert Vissers told city council members that so far the hospital is not experiencing any staffing shortages and is doing pretty well with supplies including surgical masks, while somewhat short on hospital gowns. Vissers emphasized that the stay-at-home order can help with the surge Boulder’s hospital might face.
“The challenge is if our capacity at the hospital is below the surge, it will cost people’s lives,” said Vissers. “If we don’t have the critical care and ventilators, it will cost people’s lives – so whatever we can do to spread out the surge over a couple months instead of a couple weeks, that greatly helps our capacity.”
Vissers said the hospitalization rate is about 10 percent and average length of hospitalization can be as long as three weeks, including the time needed to make sure the patient ultimately tests negative. He said testing for the virus continues to be a challenge.
“We’ve done 450 tests, 130 are still pending, 288 were negative and 32 were positive, and so far we’ve only had three positives which required in patient care,” said Vissers.
Following the update from local health officials, council heard a report on how the city has responded to help those experiencing homelessness; and discussed how to assist local businesses, prevent evictions and possibly help renters with a “rent holiday.” The city manager said traffic to the city’s website has increased almost 60 percent in recent weeks, and the city is posting as much information as possible to keep the public informed. The information is at bouldercolorado.gov.