Headlines April 28, 2020

Headlines April 28, 2020

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Housing remains a major source of concern for Coloradans during the pandemic. Speaking at a virtual town hall meeting hosted by state representative Jonathan Singer on Monday, Frank Alexander, Executive Director of the Boulder County Housing Authority, said Boulder has launched some new measures to help people who are struggling, including a new housing helpline: 303-441-1206.

“That housing helpline has coordinated about 12 different funding streams from our local community and across the state to help do rent assistance and eviction prevention and also to support mediation with landlords.”

Alexander says it will also help people get connected with other legal supports in the community as well as financial counseling and financial supports.

Cathy Alderman, with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, said during the town hall that there are several strategies being used to help those experiencing homelessness during the pandemic.
These include opening up more shelter space to de-densify existing facilities and to allow for more social distancing. In Denver, the National Western Center and the Coliseum have been opened to take the pressure off other shelters.

“That is step one, it is not a solution but it is a way to get some additional space, provide some more room for people to breathe and access services,” said Alderman.

Alderman said that people are screened for symptoms of the virus at the door of all shelters. There are also efforts to source hotel and motel rooms to provide isolated spaces for people who are high risk; people who have been tested for the coronavirus and are awaiting results but don’t have a home to isolate in, and people who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, who don’t require hospitalization, but don’t have a home.

Members of the public have a chance to hear directly from Boulder County Public Health this afternoon as local health officials will host a Facebook live event at 5 p.m. to discuss the local response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Boulder County Public Health Executive Director Jeff Zayach will discuss the decision to extend the state order and the focus for the coming weeks. Boulder County Housing and Human Services Executive Director Frank Alexander will share details about services and support available to residents.

Residents are encouraged to submit questions to healthinfo@bouldercounty.org.

People can tune in at Facebook.com/bouldercountypublichealth.

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The state has received more than $10 million from the federal government to fun epidemiological work and lab testing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a press release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the money is coming from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or the CARES Act.

The money was received by the state last week and will be spread over a two year period. It will go toward contact tracing and outbreak response especially in high-risk settings and among high-risk populations.  It will also help strengthen and enhance laboratory testing.

Testing and contact tracing have been a challenge for the state with supplies like swabs and test kits being in short supply. Currently, there is a capacity of 2000 tests per day for the entire state. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has said that he would like to see 1000 tests a day done in the city before he considers loosening current stay at home orders.

A new drive-through testing site opened on the Auraria campus in Denver today and will operate tomorrow also. The site is being operated as a partnership between King Soopers and state health officials. It has the capacity to do 500 tests over the two days.

People must register in advance to take a test and conduct a CDC screening online. The website for registration is krogerhealth.com/covidtesting.

350 Colorado last week submitted an open records request to the University of Colorado in Boulder over the firing of air quality researcher Detlev Helmig.

Dr. Helmig was an Associate Research Professor and Research Scientist at the Institute of Alpine and Arctic Research (INSTAAR) at CU and was conducting air quality research at Boulder reservoir, focusing on emissions from oil and gas operations.

Western Wire, a news organization funded by the oil and gas industry, reported that Dr. Helmig was terminated, allegedly because resources and research for the University were not adequately separated from that of private clients.

KGNU reached out to Dr. Helmig who responded that he has no comment to make until he learns more from the University, but he said that public statements made by the University are inconsistent with exchanged communications between him and his superiors.

Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones and Steve Fenberg, the Colorado Senate majority leader wrote a guest opinion in the Daily Camera saying that they stand by Dr. Helmig and his work, and hope that his critical research into our region’s air quality challenges can continue.

Dr. Helmig and his company, Boulder A.I.R., (Atmosphere Innovation Research) are contracted with the City of Longmont to collect and analyze data from sampling and analyzing atmospheric emissions from oil and gas operations near the city. 350 Colorado said in a statement that that work will continue. The statement also said that Boulder County is also transferring its current contract for air monitoring from CU’s INSTAAR to Dr. Helmig, to continue his work for the County.