Headlines January 4, 2021
Many Counties Move from Red to Orange on COVID-19 Dial
Today, all of the 33 counties that have been in Level Red on the state’s COVID-19 dial will move back down to orange. Under Level Orange, restaurants can allow customers back inside. Capacity limits will be capped at 25% or 50 people.
Governor Jared Polis made the announcement on Twitter last week. Denver along, with the rest of the Front Range, will be allowed to take small steps back toward normal.
Davin Helden owner of Liquid Mechanics Brewing Company in Lafayette told KDVR that it was a pleasant surprise to hear that they could go to Level Orange.
Helden had made investments in expanding the restaurant’s indoor taproom, and now with the move to Level Orange, he is hoping it will pay off, by allowing the brewery to have 20 tables instead of the nine they had before.
In Boulder County, the health department reported Sunday that there were 107 new coronavirus cases, but no new deaths. New cases of COVID-19 among Boulder County residents in the past two weeks is about 334 per 100,000.
Racial Justice Protesters Face Preliminary Hearings
Hundreds of protestors were arrested last summer during demonstrations in Aurora over the battle for racial justice. Two of them, Joel Northam and Lillian House face felony charges.
Next week there will be preliminary hearings in their cases – the first step in the cases against them.
Northam told 9News that the charges are not just an attack on him and House as organizers and on their organization–the Party for Socialism and Liberation¬–but an attack on a mass movement of thousands of people, families and community members.
Both House and Northam became well-known leaders of the protests in the fight for justice for Elijah McClain who died at the hands of Aurora police and first responders that brought thousands into the streets, week after week.
Very few of the protesters face charges as serious as Northam and House, half of which are felonies. If convicted House says she could be sentenced to 48 years in prison.
The most serious charges include engaging in a riot without a weapon, inciting a riot with damage, and attempted kidnapping of an entire precinct of officers in the Aurora Police Department.
The Adams County district attorney’s office alleges those charged with kidnapping “attempted to imprison” 18 officers.
House and Northam said they were unexpectedly arrested several months after the June and July protests. Both say that while they value their freedom from prison, they say this fight is for everyone’s freedom to protest.
State’s Unemployment Site Flooded with Claims after Mistaken Email Sent
Thousands of unemployed Coloradans jammed the state’s unemployment website yesterday as they followed mistaken instructions to request payment on January 3.
The Colorado Sun reports that many found themselves stymied by a system that would not let them log in or by a note telling them they weren’t allowed to request a payment.
And by late morning, the system was overwhelmed, with many users complaining they could not get through.
A spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said the mix-up was blamed on an email that erroneously instructed recipients to file for weekly payments yesterday.
Last week half-million people were sent the email reminding them they were required to make a request before the state put all claims on pause in order to move everyone to an upgraded computer system. But not everyone was eligible to make a request on Sunday.
The email had nothing to do with the end of extended or pandemic benefits, or the start of new federal benefits.
An upgraded computer system is expected to be available on Jan. 10.
Colorado’s Prison Population Drops
Colorado’s prison population has dropped significantly this year, but state analysts expect it’ll starting trending upward again soon.
There are two main reasons the population has fallen: the release of prisoners deemed to be low-risk; and, a recent law that reduced penalties on drug possession charges.
The Denver Post reports that after peaking at 23,000 in 2009, the state prison population has held steady at around 20,000 in recent years. But since February, it’s down even 4,000 more.
A state spokesperson said they expect the population to tick back upward after next year because there will be fewer prisoners deemed low-risk, since many have already been released in an effort to contain the virus which has ravaged the prison system.
Visitors Flocked to State Parks in 2020
Colorado state parks recorded a nearly 23% increase in visitors in 2020, even as data from November and December is still yet to be logged.
The Gazette reports that the increase comes even despite some closures due to the pandemic and price hikes at some parks.
At Castlewood Canyon State Park, near Castle Rock visitation was up more than 50% from what was a record year in 2017.
Lake Pueblo recorded the most visitors with a record almost 3 million from January through October.
The state’s other most popular parks were Chatfield, and Cherry Creek State Park.