Headlines May 13, 2020

Headlines May 13, 2020

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Boulder residents were allowed to adopt Safer at Home measures last Saturday after six-and-a-half weeks under stay-at-home orders to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. County health officials had mostly positive news for Boulder City Council last night.

Boulder County Director of Public Health Jeff Zayach told Boulder City Council that the growth in daily COVID-19 cases peaked on April 27 and has been dropping since. Zayach said as of Tuesday, there were 775 county cases, with 144 hospitalized, 297 recovered and 54 deaths.

Zayach told city council that the majority of deaths from COVID-19 are happening in long-term care facilities. He said the county an entire team working on that to support facilities and doing everything they can to control the spread in those facilities.

Zayach noted that the number of positive cases could increase as the county begins offering more testing. He emphasized that maintaining a distance of six feet from others, avoiding large gatherings and wearing face coverings is still recommended to avoid infection.

Restaurants expect to hear from Governor Jared Polis on May 25 about policies for how restaurants can operate going forward. With that in mind, city council discussed temporary right-of-way changes that would allow outdoor sit-down dining around town, with separation among patrons, and maybe even liquor service, if the state allows. Parking changes could also be adopted with some sections of streets or alleys closed to traffic to create more outdoor seating with the goal of getting restaurants back on their feet.

Larimer County is requesting a variance from statewide safer at home rules.

The Fort Collins Coloradoan reports that Tom Gonzales, public health director for Larimer County, outlined the progress the county has seen in its fight against COVID-19 during the county commissioners meeting Tuesday.

Gonzales said that Larimer’s cases of the coronavirus are decreasing which makes him confident about requesting a variance from the state safer-at-home rules.

One of the variances being requested is changing the requirement of limiting the number of people in a business at one time. The county is asking for square footage to be taken into consideration so that businesses with a bigger space can have more people inside as long as 6 feet of space can be maintained.

Some Colorado colleges are looking at ways to support DACA students financially during the coronavirus pandemic.

This spring, Colorado’s universities received millions of dollars from the federal coronavirus stimulus package to help needy students during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Trump administration has barred colleges from granting assistance to undocumented students — including “Dreamers” who have federal protection.

Some of Colorado’s colleges are stepping up to fill in the gaps.

Colorado State University, based on an assessment of student need, has given $1,500 grants to 400 students not included in the federal CARES Act, including 218 undocumented individuals.

Metropolitan State University of Denver said grants for its Dreamer population would range from $250 to $650 per student based on need, with $80,000 to help the university’s 381 undocumented students.

All of the University of Colorado campuses has set up a student relief fund. It is giving preference to students in the DACA program and others who are unable to get federal money. CU’s grants are also based on type of need.

The University of Northern Colorado is looking at private philanthropy to help their undocumented student population.

There are 15,000 immigrants in Colorado enrolled in the Obama-era DACA program, which allowed people who came to the U.S. as children to stay in the country.

 

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The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this morning about whether the state of Colorado has the power to punish a so-called faithless elector.

The faithless electors were some members of the Electoral College who did not vote for the presidential candidate in the 2016 who won the most votes in their states.

A Colorado elector was removed when he attempted to vote for John Kasich instead of Hillary Clinton in an effort to block Donald Trump from becoming president.

The case to be decided by the high court involves the one elector from Colorado and three in Washington State. A federal appeals court ruled that the Colorado elector could cast his vote for whomever he wanted despite the fact that Clinton won the state’s popular vote.

Today is the last day of hearings before the Supreme Court. Their decision is on the faithless electors case is expected next month.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis is in the nation’s capital today to meet with President Trump along with the governor of North Dakota. Polis said that it is important for the President to hear what’s really happening on the ground including the fear the anxiety, the health conditions, and the economic challenges the people of the country face.

CBS4 reports that Polis will discuss the federal support the state has been getting and will advocate for more help.

The City of Boulder and Xcel Energy have begun discussions about new pathways to reach Boulder’s future energy goals as an alternative to a city-run and owned electric utility.

In a joint press release issued yesterday, the city and the company said that a potential settlement between them will be conducted through a full public process.

The city’s work toward municipalization will continue while negotiations go forward.

The Daily Camera reports that Mayor Sam Weaver and Mayor Pro tem Bob Yates were in talks with Xcel as far back as January and they met again in mid-April.  In the joint release, Weaver said that he is cautiously optimistic that negotiations could be successful.

The city and Xcel plan to reveal details on any settlement proposals when they are legally permitted to do so.

Yesterday, state lawmakers learned from the legislature’s joint budget committee that about ten percent of next year’s budget will need to be cut as a result of the pandemic.

The state will have probably have about $3.3 billion less to spend next year. Due to the health crisis, people are shopping and working less which affects income and sales tax revenues.

Democratic leaders are considering major cuts to local school districts and reductions in the state’s workforce unless the state receives more federal aid or increases taxes and other fees.

The problem is more than just a drop in income and sales taxes. The Colorado Sun reports that lawmakers could be asked to cut residential property taxes close to 20 percent next year to comply with the Gallagher Amendment to the state constitution. That provision requires that residential tax evaluations cannot exceed 45 percent of the total of all property evaluations including oil and gas assets and other commercial properties. Commercial values are expected to drop by more than a third.

But it is the pandemic that is creating the biggest impact. General fund revenues which are made up of individual and corporate income taxes, and sales and use taxes, are estimated to be down more than $2 billion in 2020-21 as a result of the coronavirus.

Yesterday the restaurant in Castle Rock that attracted national attention for opening on Sunday in violation of health orders, was closed.  Both the Governor and the Tri-County Health Department ordered the C&C Coffee and Kitchen to shut down.

Photos and videos showed the restaurant crowded with people on Mother’s Day with few wearing masks or engaging in social distancing even though Douglas County is under the state’s “safer-at-home” order that allows only take-out services.

The Tri-County Health Department and the state health department said that C&C would remain closed until it can prove it is in compliance. Governor Polis said that the closure would be indefinite.

In a release from the state health department, Jill Hunsaker Ryan – the agency’s head – said that we are still not out of the woods and the virus will continue to take lives if we don’t act responsibly.  She added that irresponsible behavior like that at the restaurant only serves to defeat all of progress made.

As of yesterday’s report from the health department, a total of 1,010 had died in the state.  Denver has the most with 214 fatalities.

Officials at Rocky Mountain National Park plan to increase recreational access and services beginning May 27. It’s part of a phased reopening since the park was shut down more than two months ago in response to COVID-19. The park is working with state officials to follow “safer-at-home” guidance. The opening is also being coordinated with the Centers for Disease Control.