Headlines April 29, 2020
The local union that represents workers at the meatpacking plant in Greeley is joining other organizations across the country to protest President Trump’s order to keep facilities open.
Yesterday, Trump signed an executive order aimed at keeping packing plants open as long as they follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
9News reports that unions across the country fear the order means workers won’t have recourse should protections at their essential workplaces be inadequate.
Kim Cordova, the president of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 7, which represents employees at the JBS plant in Greeley, said that companies are going to take advantage of this order, and there’s no incentive for them to provide a safe workplace.
Cordova spoke to the press on Tuesday, despite being told earlier by JBS to stop the public campaign about the company’s response to the coronavirus.
The national U.F.C.W. said yesterday that 20 workers around the country had died at meatpacking plants, and an estimated 6,500 are sick or have been exposed to the virus while working near someone who tested positive.
As health experts try to predict the severity and length of the coronavirus pandemic, economists try to predict how local governments will fare.
Boulder City Council last night heard from Rich Wobbekind with the CU Leeds School of Business. While complete data for the first quarter of 2020 won’t be available for a few more days, Wobbekind said that prior to the pandemic, Colorado had the nation’s third-lowest unemployment rate. Now its 31st at 10-point-seven percent, with 300-thousand unemployment claims in the past five weeks and more expected.
Optimistically, he noted that Colorado was on strong economic footing prior to the COVID-19 crisis, but its heavy reliance on hospitality and tourism jobs could make recovery painful. He also worries about how willing some people may be to resume normal activities that feed the economy.
On a side note, Wobbekind’s presentation showed that in Colorado, more women than men are filing unemployment claims.
Last night the Longmont City Council expressed support for ordering the public to wear face masks. The only opposition came from Mayor Brian Bagley. The council directed the city attorney to bring a measure for its consideration, if Boulder County Public Health doesn’t order a county wide mask requirement soon. The Times Call reports that City Manager Harold Dominguez told council members that a decision by county health officials might occur this week.
The Aurora city council has decided not to require face masks for those in public. Instead, that council is planning an educational campaign encouraging residents to wear masks when they leave their homes.
Other cities in the state that have mask orders in place include Wheat Ridge, Aspen and Glenwood Springs.
Last night Boulder became the latest city in Colorado to require face coverings for anyone inside a business.
Colorado Schools and universities could see dramatic budget cuts as the pandemic has caused revenues to the state to plummet. Chalkbeat reports that documents made public on Monday show a worst-case scenario that would threaten funding for full-day kindergarten – which was enacted statewide just last year- and could also endanger the solvency of some public universities.
Lawmakers caution that no decisions have been made yet, and they are pledged to try to protect education. However, the shortfall in state revenues is likely to be between $2 and 3 billion and spending on k through 12 schools takes up more than one-third of the state’s general fund. Dealing with the state losses will be difficult to address without impacting education. Sales tax and income tax revenues on which the state government depends are declining as many people are unemployed and most stay at home.
The effects on colleges and universities could range from significant but manageable – to devastating, according to budget documents.
The state legislature has been in recess due to the virus crisis and plans to return to session in late May to pass a budget and take up other essential legislation.
As the first of May approaches, many Coloradans who’ve lost their jobs or face reduced hours during the COVID-19 crisis are worried about being able to make rent payments. Governor Polis had promised that residents won’t be evicted in March and April, but he has not entered an order halting evictions statewide as have governors in other states like Michigan and Florida. However, struggling tenants are still getting eviction notices.
The Denver Channel reports that Denver’s Democratic Socialists of America taped dozens of eviction notices to the Governor’s Mansion in Denver. Mariah Wood, a leader of the organization said that landlords are scaring their tenants, and added that we are going to see an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.
Last night the governor’s office released a statement saying in part that he plans to extend his order about encouraging landlords and financial institutions not to proceed with evictions. He is also considering what he can do within his power including not allowing state resources to be used for that purpose. Meanwhile, Zach Neumann, head of the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project told 9News that he thinks a statewide eviction moratorium would go a long way in alleviating some of the confusion among the various state jurisdictions.
Speaking this afternoon, Governor Jared Polis expanded on what the new safer at home phase looks like for Colorado.
He said that we can expect to see a significant expansion in testing capacity for COVID 19. There should be 5000 tests a day happening in early May, increasing to 8,500 tests a day towards the end of May. That is up from the approximately 2000 tests per day that are currently happening in Colorado.
Governor Polis says testing will include targeting testing of people who are asymptomatic but who are working and in contact with vulnerable people, for example, workers in residential nursing homes.
Testing is currently being done across the state at hospitals, at community sites and at mobile state run test sites. Governor Polis says this will continue as will partnership with private entities like this week’s pop up testing site on the Auraria campus in Denver done in partnership with King Soopers pharmacy.
Boulder is expected to ease stay-at-home restrictions on May 9th, but the use of face coverings will be required inside local businesses. Boulder City Council approved the emergency ordinance last night with the support of local health officials trying to control the spread of COVID-19.
Boulder County Public Health Director Jeff Zayach said the county had 531 cases as of Tuesday; is averaging 14 new cases every day; with a total of 34 deaths – most of those associated with long-term healthcare facilities.
Zayach told Boulder City Council his department has received both angry and grateful calls from residents about the extension of restrictions. He says local hospitalizations remain relatively flat, but testing capacity needs to increase to about 500 tests a day before restrictions are lifted. The county is currently doing about 100 tests per day.
Zayach said Boulder County may require that face coverings be worn inside businesses after May 9, but a decision is a few days off. Meanwhile, Boulder councilmembers passed an emergency ordinance to that effect last night.
The measure, approved by council will require customers and clients of businesses to cover their mouths and noses in workplaces and spaces of “public accommodation” with a mask or other face covering such as a bandana.
Denver City Councilman Chris Hinds said this week that he was surprised and disturbed by CBS4’s April 24th investigative report that found Denver Health Medical Center executives received performance bonuses one week after hospital workers were asked to take pay cuts.
The investigation found that bonuses for top executives ranged from $50,000 to $230,000. Denver Health CEO Robin Wittenstein told CBS4 that the bonuses are to keep the hospital competitive and to make their pay equivalent to peers nationwide.
Last Friday, Hinds said he felt that the money should be given back to help hospital workers on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak.
After CBS4 filed the request for information about the bonuses, Wittenstein emailed her executive staff urging them to voluntarily give something back.
Hinds’ District 10 office has reduced staff from three to two aides to help properly fund those who need it. He also plans to donate his 2.5% pay increase, about $2300, council members are expecting in July.