Headlines December 1, 2021
Colorado Using Wastewater To Test For Omicron Variant
State health officials say that, despite a slight decline in the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19, they fear the new Omicron variant could change that.
The state has detected no cases of the new variant in Colorado, or in the U.S. as of yesterday. However, Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state’s epidemiologist, said at a news conference that there’s still much experts don’t know.
Officials are using three methods to detect the virus, including one that monitors wastewater to find virus particles in feces. This method can detect the virus in the community even if individuals are showing no symptoms. The Colorado Sun reported that toilets across the Front Range have served as an early warning system for outbreaks of the virus.
Other methods include testing at state and private laboratories, and genetic sequencing. Yesterday, over 1,460 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Colorado, which is a slight decrease.
Scott Bookman, the state’s incident commander, said that the safest thing a person can do is to get the vaccine and wear a mask when in indoor public spaces.
Longmont Council Will Return To Virtual Meetings Because Of Pandemic
The Longmont City Council yesterday decided to return to virtual meetings amidst concerns about the pandemic. A vote of 5 to 1 passed the motion to go back to online with Aren Rodriquez casting the sole no vote. According to The Longmont Times Call, city staff told council members they were well prepared to return to virtual meetings. Councilperson Tim Waters said that he felt going virtual would set the best example for the public. The first virtual meeting will occur on December 7.
Attorney Criticizes Denver’s Sweeps Of Unhoused Encampments
The City of Denver is being criticized for quietly increasing its efforts to prevent encampments of unhoused people from being set up in a downtown neighborhood. The Denver Post reports crews are clearing sidewalks in a 10-block area in the Five Points neighborhood at least three times a week. The city has posted signs marking the area as a permanent zone for encampment sweeps.
In the zone, unhoused individuals do not receive the seven day notice to vacate, a requirement that a federal court ordered earlier this year.
Andy McNulty, an attorney who sued the city against its camping ban, said that Denver officials are attempting an end-run around the court’s injunction. He said in a statement, “They are putting up a zone that essentially says you can’t exist here if you are an unhoused person.”
Last week McNulty and an attorney for the city appeared in front of a federal appeals court. According to The Denver Post, the city’s goal is to have limits on the camping ban removed.
Open Enrollment In Connect For Health Increases
Open enrollment for health insurance under the Connect for Health Colorado marketplace started November 1 and as of Monday, there’s been a 14% increase from the same period last year.
The Denver Gazette reports that three-quarters of the applicants qualified for help, an increase over the two previous years.
A spokesperson for Connect for Health said that factors leading to the increase in the number of people who qualify for assistance may include the impact from the state’s reinsurance program, and from federal pandemic stimulus money. She said two-thirds of people who sought but didn’t qualify for aid last year can do so this year.
Three Teens Charged As Adults In Aurora High School Shooting
The Arapahoe County District Attorney has charged three 16-year-old boys as adults for the shooting at Hinkley High School in Aurora about two weeks ago that sent three students to the hospital.
Each of the teens faces multiple felony charges, including attempted murder and assault. 9News reports that police said they are seeking a warrant to arrest a fourth 16-year-old for the assaults.
The incident was the second that week. A shooting outside Aurora Central High School occurred just days before. Since then, Aurora Public School officials have closed campuses during lunch and are providing additional security.
Level 1 Fire Restrictions In Forests Grasslands
The U.S. Forest Service has imposed a Stage 1 fire restrictions for forests along the Front Range which take effect today at noon. The warm and dry conditions and recent fires led to the action.
The Forest Service has banned all charcoal or briquette fires outside a permanent pit that the agency has installed. Smoking is also prohibited except in an enclosed vehicle or building.
The agency said in a release that the restrictions apply to Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest in the Clear Creek, Boulder, and Canyon Lakes districts, along with the Pawnee National Grassland. Boulder County has also imposed Stage 1 restrictions in western areas.