Headlines May 18, 2020

Headlines May 18, 2020

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Governor Jared Polis said today that anyone in the state who has coronavirus symptoms can get tested.

Polis said that when there weren’t enough tests in Colorado, the original message from state officials was that if people were sick, whether it was COVID-19 or not, they should self-isolate at home.

“That can still be your choice,” said Polis “but we are now encouraging you to get tested to see if it is COVID if you have flu-like symptoms.”

Polis said that there isn’t as much flu now in Colorado due to social distancing, which means that if you have flu-like symptoms there’s a higher chance that you could have COVID-19.

Polis said that testing is free whether a person has insurance or not. There is no copay or out-of-pocket fee, regardless of the type of health insurance someone may have.

An eighth worker at the JBS meat packing plant in Greeley died over the weekend. The Denver Post reports that 60-year-old Tin Aye died on Saturday from the coronavirus. She had worked at the plant for 12 years according to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 7 which represents the workers at the plant.

At least 316 workers at the plant have tested positive for COVID-19 according to state data. That means the plant has been identified as a hot spot for the virus. The plant was closed for nearly two weeks in April to clean the facility after several workers tested positive for coronavirus.

However, the union representing the workers says the plant owners and managers have subsequently failed to protect workers. They say not enough room is given on the plant floor to allow for social distancing and they allege that workers have been pressured to come to work even while sick.

UFCW Local 7 also represents grocery store workers and today they are calling on Kroger, the corporate owner of King Soopers, to shut down a Denver store after a worker there died from the virus.

The Denver Post reports that Randy Narvaez is the second employee at the store to die of the coronavirus. He had worked at the King Soopers off 9th Avenue in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood for more than 30 years.

The union says that about a dozen COVID-19 cases have been identified among employees at the store, which makes it the highest number of cases at a King Soopers in the Denver metro area.

The UFCW local 7 is today calling on Kroger, to shut down the Capitol Hill store to clean and disinfect the building and test every employee for coronavirus. Kroger has been criticized for ending the bonus pay for employees that was offered to show appreciation for working during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. As of yesterday, the so-called hero pay finished. It amounted to approximately a $2-per-hour bonus for workers. The company said it was replacing it with a one-off thank you payment of $400 for full time and $200 for part-time workers.

A lawsuit was filed in Denver District Court today after Colorado Governor Jared Polis issued an executive order over the weekend to suspend certain requirements that would affect signature collection for ballot issues.

The lawsuit was filed by the group Colorado Concern who says the order would remove vital safeguards that guarantees signatures would be gathered transparently in front of a third person. They added that the governor does not have the power to unilaterally change the state’s constitutional protections around the signature gathering process.

The governor’s executive order would authorize the secretary of state to create temporary rules to allow signatures for ballot issues to be collected by mail or email.

The Denver Post reports that the executive order comes after ballot organizers advocated for changes because of limitations on public activities during the coronavirus pandemic could make it difficult to collect enough in-person signatures to get their issues on the November ballot.

 

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Yesterday, Governor Jared Polis said that he expects many K-12 public schools will open this fall in Colorado and elsewhere.

He told Fox News Sunday that it’s not going to look like any other school year and things will likely be run in a “hybrid” fashion. Interactions in hallways and during lunchtime will be limited, and up to 20% of kids will continue with online classes at home, if that is the preference of their parents.

He said that schools could also close periodically when there’s an inevitable outbreak.

The governor also ordered Saturday that workers at essential government businesses and critical government jobs must continue to wear masks when at work until at least June 15th. The mask order has already been in place for 30 days, and Polis cited the continuing need to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Workers in grocery stores, restaurants, liquor stores, and food processing plants, among others, must wear masks and should also wear gloves if provided by employers.

While the general public in Colorado is not required to wear masks, at least 15 cities and counties including Denver and Boulder require face coverings for all individuals in public businesses and spaces.

It will be easier now for people to collect signatures for ballot measures. On Friday Governor Polis signed an executive order allowing the Secretary of State to create temporary rules so signatures can be collected by mail or email.

The governor also ordered that unaffiliated and independent candidates for office are allowed to gather signatures by mail or email.

The Denver Post reports that the fate of several ballot measures have been hanging in the balance including a proposal for paid family leave.

The change in rules has been a sensitive topic in the last several weeks.  Some say it’s necessary, and others argue it could open a Pandora’s Box.

In response to the Governor’s order, the Denver Chamber of Commerce said in a release that it was a violation of our constitution.

But a coalition of health and child advocacy groups applauded the governor’s action including those that back an initiative that would increase taxes on tobacco and nicotine products.

On Friday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment changed the way it reports deaths from the coronavirus. Now the state includes a tally of total fatalities among people who had COVID-19, but the disease was not listed as the cause of death on the death certificate.

As of Sunday, 1,215 people who had the virus have died, with 878 of those listed as succumbing due to the virus. The number of deaths caused by COVID-19 remained unchanged from the prior day.

And as of yesterday less than 500 remained hospitalized with the virus – the lowest number since the end of March.

Denver area hospitals report that the number of emergency room visits were down anywhere from 30 to 50 percent in April compared to the same month last year.

The Denver Post reports that the lower numbers could be due to fewer accidents from work or outdoor activities; but according to an emergency room physician, that doesn’t explain why hospitals are seeing fewer heart attacks and strokes.

Dr. Richard Zane of CU’s School of Medicine said that not a single day goes by that they don’t see people who have had symptoms with things like stroke or heart attack for days, but they delayed going in to the hospital.

Emergency responders and hospitals are encouraging patients to use virtual care options, if appropriate, and to seek emergency care should it be needed. They emphasize that they have measures in place to handle the coronavirus.

Boulder County health workers are having trouble getting some people to share the information needed to track the progress of COVID-19. The Daily Camera reports that such information is critical to public health and the key to the county’s recovery from the pandemic.

Chana Gousettis, spokesperson for the county health department, said that the problem is an increasing trend particularly among the Spanish speaking population.

She added it is possibly related to immigration status as well as concerns about joblessness – if someone is identified as exposed to the virus, then the belief may be their employer would fire them, even if they don’t have symptoms.

She also said that it’s likely some just aren’t comfortable making a public record of everyone they have been in touch with on a day-to-day basis.

Health officials emphasized that, in order to limit the spread its staff needs those who have been sick to recall and share the details of everyone with whom they have had close contact during the time they were infectious. The department says it does not share data with anyone.

About 30 people are working to get in touch with those contacts to inform them of their potential exposure as rapidly and as sensitively as possible.

A coalition of affordable housing organizations in Colorado is urging an emergency plan that could stave off mass evictions and foreclosures – if the state and local leaders can find the money for it.
The total price tag according to the plan would be nearly $300 million.

The 15-member Neighborhood Development Collaborative sent a letter to the governor and other state officials earlier this month calling for almost 200 million to support the tens of thousands of renters who will not be able to pay their rent, when the governor’s moratorium on evictions expires at the end of this month.

Nearly $100 million would help those who can’t pay their mortgages.

The Denver Post reports that the Neighborhood Development Collaborative was born out of the Great Recession about a decade ago.  Its letter to government officials was in an effort to be proactive and identified potential funding sources.