Headlines May 20, 2020

Headlines May 20, 2020

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Speaking today Governor Jared Polis said that with Memorial Day coming up, people need to continue social distancing and to remember that this isn’t a time for vacation and encourage people to recreate close to home.

“This is a global pandemic that we need to treat it as such,” he said. Governor Polis said he was proud that the vast majority of Coloradoans are responsibly practicing social distancing and that that must continue. “Just because we’re all tired of living in a heightened threat out there, we all know that has not made the threat go away,” said the governor.

There have been 3 cases reported in Colorado of an inflammatory disease related to COVID-19 that specifically impacts children. Dr. Sam Dominguez said at today’s press conference that Children’s Hospital in Denver is able to treat Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome. He said it is quite rare, but advised parents to be on the lookout for symptoms including multiple days of high fever, rash and significant abdominal pain. He advised parents to contact their pediatricians if they are concerned about possible symptoms of MIS-C.

The City of Boulder announced today it is closing part of Boulder Creek, close to Eben G. Fine Park, effective immediately in an effort to reduce the community spread of COVID-19.

Today’s announcement comes after a newspaper photograph showing dozens of young people gathered Monday along the banks of Boulder Creek. None of the sunbathers wore masks or practiced social distancing.

The closures include all park land and creek bed north of the Boulder Creek Path from the eastern boundary of Eben G. Fine Park to the western boundary of the city of Boulder.
Eben G. Fine Park itself will remain open.

Today’s announcement comes after crowds of people gathered at Boulder Creek last weekend

The closures will be monitored by police and gatherings of 10 or more people will be asked to disperse.

Some recreation areas around the state will begin to reopen towards the end of the month.

The US Forest Service has announced they would begin reopening some developed recreation sites in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Medicine-Bow Routt National Forests after May 31.

Sky-Hi News reports that the USFS order cancels the closure and fire restrictions for developed recreation sites today, May 20, but gives local managers control over reopening and restrictions. Some closures will remain in place to allow employees time to prepare facilities, ensure proper personal protective equipment and acquire ample cleaning supplies.

Recreation sites, including campgrounds, developed trailheads and picnic sites, on national forest property in the Rocky Mountain Region, closed in April after Gov. Jared Polis’ stay at home executive order.

 

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The panel charged with setting the state’s budget slashed nearly $500 million from Colorado’s higher education funding. The reduction amounts to a cut of almost 60 percent from the current budget.

The Joint Budget Committee decided yesterday to make the cuts, and as Chalkbeat reports, lawmakers are trying to address the state’s shortfall in revenue due to the pandemic.

However, the impact of the cuts to higher education will be softened by Governor Jared Polis’ Monday evening order to give $450 million from federal money to the state’s public colleges and universities.

In addition to falling state revenues, higher education is facing another challenge from the threat of enrollment declines.

The cuts to colleges and universities came after the end of a long day of agonizing decisions by the committee including discussions of potential cuts to K-12 schools. Any cuts in that area such as reducing base funding were put off.

Colorado’s college tuition is already high relative to other state’s public systems. During the last two recessions, the schools raised tuition to make up for a decline in state support.

There will be no tuition or fee increases over the coming academic year at the Colorado University System after yesterday’s Board of Regents vote.

Chancellor Philip DiStefano said in a release that they want to ensure access for students and families during this time. The Regents also decided to suspend employee merit increases for the next fiscal year.

So far the Boulder campus has notified about 450 employees that they will be furloughed on or before June 1.

Yesterday leaders of the Boulder Valley School District told the Board of Education that its schools may be in better financial shape than initially predicted.

The Daily Camera reports that the system’s Chief Financial Officer, Bill Sutter, said that funding for K-12 cannot be cut beyond a certain level as a requirement of federal pandemic relief.

Sutter said that there’s a scenario where next year doesn’t look all that bad, an outlook that is very different from what it was recently.

The district is currently predicting no funding increase from the state and a slight decrease in enrollment.

Some Republicans are not pleased with the Governor’s executive order.  On Monday night Governor Polis along with Democratic leadership announced how the state will allocate more than $1.6 billion dollars in federal CARES Act funding – some of which, as noted, will ease the cuts to higher education and K-12 schools.

However, The Denver Channel reports that GOP leaders objected to the governor’s order saying that it was issued without input from their side of the aisle.

State Senator Bob Rankin, a Republican from Carbondale, said in a statement that, for the governor to announce the allocation without so much as consulting the Joint Budget Committee, is not only a lapse in leadership, but has eliminated the people’s voice over how their money is spent.

Other GOP members accused Polis of going back on his statement made in April that the state legislature decides how revenues are spent.  U.S. Representative Scott Tipton, a Republican from the West Slope said that the federal Treasury Department should look into the governor’s executive order to see if it meets the law’s requirements.

The Governor said in his order that he has the authority to direct the expenditures, and he has worked in a bipartisan way with the federal delegation ad legislative leadership.

A newspaper photograph showing dozens of young people gathered Monday along the banks of Boulder Creek in Eben G. Fine Park has raised alarms at city hall and with county health officials. None of the sunbathers wore masks or practiced social distancing.

Boulder County Public Health Executive Director Jeff Zayach told the Daily Camera situations like the one at the west Arapahoe park not only violate state and local public health orders, but also put the community, businesses, and the local economy at risk. City Manager Jane Brautigam told Boulder City Council on Tuesday night that the police chief and Director of Parks and Recreation have been working together to address the issue.

No police citations were issued for public health violations – despite a possible fine of one-thousand dollars for such infractions.

Janitors and members of the Service Employees International Union staged a protest in downtown Denver yesterday saying that managers of large office buildings need to take care of the people who clean them.

Protesters circled the block around 1801 California Street – a high rise office building managed by Brookfield Properties.

The Denverite reports that the demonstrators blew car horns and waved signs in Spanish saying, “we want justice” as a small group chanted similar slogans on the corner.

A local leader of the SEIU said the pandemic has made janitorial services more essential than ever, and his union is demanding healthcare, personal protective equipment, higher wages and new training. The union represents about 2,400 janitors who work in about 800 buildings in the metro area. At least 80 percent of the union’s janitors are Latina women.

In an effort to get feedback from stakeholders, the state Department of Public Health and Environment has released preliminary guidelines for restaurants to reopen.

Under the proposed measures indoor seating must be eight feet apart, and all tables must have six or fewer seats. All employees must wear facial coverings and gloves. Customers when not eating or drinking would have to wear masks, and also as they enter or exit. And Restaurants would have to stop serving by 10 p.m.

On May 25, Memorial Day the state will decide if and when restaurants can reopen and under what rules.