Headlines August 9, 2021
Air Quality Continues to Be Exceptionally Poor
The weekend was marked by bad air quality in the metro area, as the level of contaminants on Sunday reached a level eight times above the amount recommended by the World Health Organization.
Wildfire smoke from California and other states caused Denver to be ranked as the worst city in the world for air quality on Saturday, and on Sunday Denver ranked second behind a city in Siberia.
Colorado has had weeks of bad air quality from wildfires in part due to a persistent ridge of high pressure. Paul Schlatter of the National Weather Service in Boulder told the Colorado Sun that there’s little wind closer to the ground that could blow the smoke away, so it sticks around.
The Front Range has also suffered from high levels of ozone this summer with close to 50 action alert days already this year– more than all of last year.
The National Weather Service has issued a hazardous weather alert, warning people to avoid prolonged outdoor activities, keep windows closed and check on those who have respiratory issues or are sensitive to the smoke.
The smoky conditions are expected to continue today and tomorrow.
Fairview High Students Sue Boulder Valley Schools Over Failure to Protect Them from Sexual Harassment
Two former students have sued the Boulder Valley School District alleging that authorities at Fairview High failed to investigate claims of sexual assault, and to protect students from facing a hostile environment.
The case was filed in federal court and also names Fairview Principal Don Stensrud.
According to the Denver Post, two former female students allege in the complaint that both the school and the principal repeatedly turned a blind eye to rampant sexual abuse and harassment. They also claim that school leaders fostered a culture that was permissive of sexual assault and that mistreated victims.
The case was filed about 4 months after a former football player at the school was convicted of harassment but acquitted of sexual assault; however, the new suit involves allegations about a lacrosse player who was a sophomore about 4 years ago. According to the filing, he has been charged with 8 counts of sexual assault and other crimes against three students.
The school district said in a statement on Friday that it’s committed to protecting students and preventing and addressing sexual harassment and discrimination, and creating safe and healthy environments. The principal did not respond to requests for comments from the Post.
Head of Denver’s Safety Department Will Take Action Against Officers Who Are Unvaccinated
The head of Denver’s Department of Public Safety is prepared to fire or discipline police, sheriff, and fire department personnel who do not get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Denver Post reports that last week the city’s health department ordered that all employees must have received their second shot by the middle of next month and provide proof they have done so.
Murphy Robinson, Denver’s director of safety, said he will do what is necessary to hold people accountable for compliance with the order.
The Police Protective Association, which has a membership close to 1,500 officers, earlier reported that only about 45 percent of those responding to a survey said they had been vaccinated. However, the union disputed the accuracy of its own poll.
LGBTQ Bars in Denver Require Proof of Vaccination
Meanwhile, almost all LGBTQ bars in Denver are starting to require proof of vaccination over concerns of the Delta variant of the coronavirus. A negative test result may also be used by patrons.
The Denver Channel reports that a growing list of businesses in the metro area are implementing such policies including Triangle Bar and X Bar among others.
One bar owner said they are hoping their approach will persuade the city of Denver that it’s more reasonable than shutting bars down again.
CDC Officials Concerned Over COVID-19 Breakthrough Rate in Mesa County
COVID-19 cases from the delta variant in Mesa County on the western slope have increased rapidly.
The Denver Channel reports that officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are concerned after seeing less effectiveness from vaccines in Mesa county compared to all other counties in the state.
The effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine against preventing symptomatic infection was estimated at 78% in Mesa County, compared to more than 10% higher for other Colorado counties.
Officials at the CDC did not identify a reason why the vaccine appears less effective there, but Mesa County has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state.
CDOT Settles with Companies over U.S. 36 Collapse in 2019
The state of Colorado has settled with three companies over the partial collapse in 2019 of U.S. 36, the main highway between Boulder and Denver. The Colorado Sun reports that CDOT has reached a $14 million agreement with three companies that will cover the majority of the cost to repair the eastbound lanes after a bridge collapsed.
The damage to the Denver Boulder turnpike tied up traffic for weeks.
Aurora Council to Consider Camping Ordinance
Lawmakers in Aurora are scheduled to consider an ordinance today that would allow officials to force unhoused people who camp on public property to stop doing so.
The city law, if passed would require people to move within 72 hours if there were openings in city shelters.
However, the proposal was blocked last week when a council study session resulted in a tie vote, which the Sentinel reports makes it clear that the proposal pushed by Mayor Mike Coffman did not have the support to pass it into law.
According to opponents of the bill, Aurora doesn’t have a clear picture of how many people without homes are currently living in encampments. It’s estimated that the number is at least in the hundreds, far above the city’s shelter spaces