Boulder City Council received news about local cases of COVID-19 last night while also tackling what comes next after the statewide stay-at-home order expires at midnight on Sunday. KGNU’s Roz Brown says local health officials told council social distancing and facial masks must continue, especially because testing remains limited.
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Governor Jared Polis has been communicating with health professionals and Colorado mayors this week about Phase 2 of COVID-19 scheduled to start next Monday. “Safer At Home” as it’s being called will include the gradual opening of the state, but Boulder Mayor Sam Weaver told
fellow councilmembers the governor said that doesn’t necessarily mean businesses will open on April 27.
“It could be April 27th for say, a hair salon going in to prepare their businesses to receive customers and once the guidelines are out for hair salons they can open for business,” said Weaver. “So I think there’s still a TBD for that,” said Weaver.
It’s estimated about 75 percent of state residents are practicing social distancing which is believed to reduce infections. Nonetheless Susan Motika, Boulder County Director of Health Systems told council the exact number of cases cannot be calculated.
“You may have heard the Governor say Colorado has 10,000 reported cases, but the state believes the real number is 65,000 to 75,000 Coloradans,” said Motika.
Boulder County has reported about 400 cases of coronavirus and 20 deaths. As in other parts of the country, Motika says older people have an increased risk of contracting COVID-19, a more difficult time recovering and a higher rate of death. She said that higher risk is also true for Boulder County’s Latinx population.
“The fact that the Latinx population has 28% of the cases – double their percentage of the population in Boulder County – which is 14% – they have 28% of the cases,” said Motika.
She added the virus is exposing inequities in local health care access that need to be addressed. “We need to think more about the prevention of chronic disease in Boulder County and we know the Latinx population has this in higher numbers,” she added.
So far, coronavirus patients have not overwhelmed local ICU hospital beds. To avoid a backslide, experts say 150 tests per 100,000 people are needed, but Boulder Community Health CEO Robert Vissers says Colorado is currently only capable of 29 tests per 100-thousand people.
“We are still pretty far behind in our ability to expand testing which is critical as we relax stay-at-home orders,” said Vissers.
Motika believes long-term social distancing measures will still be necessary and added that Boulder County may need to tailor its Phase 2 response.
“I think that we are going to look at the order and consider some options that could involve an extension of the existing stay-at-home order or other modifications,” said Motika.
The Governor has said elective medical procedures will be allowed as of April 27 and Vissers acknowledged that people have been putting off trips to the hospital even when they need to be there.
“If I had one message for the community, we are starting to see significant harm in our community and our patients because of people deferring care or afraid to seek care,” said Vissers.
“Please go see your doctors. There’s probably not a safer place in Boulder than the hospital right now because we test all of our employees and haven’t had a positive test in three weeks.”
Council also was told that Boulder may be able to open its municipal golf course next month, but when libraries or rec centers open is still TBD.