Denver issues stay at home order to fight virus spread

Shoppers queue up outside a Costco warehouse store as shoppers allowed in were limited to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus Monday, March 23, 2020, in Lone Tree, Colo. According to the World Health Organization, most people recover in about three to six weeks depending on the severity of the COVID-19 illness.
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER (AP) — Denver issued a stay at home order Monday limiting most people to going out only for essentials such as groceries, medication and exercise as officials try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Under the order from Mayor Michael Hancock, businesses that are not considered “essential” must be closed starting at 5 p.m. Tuesday until at least April 10.

The closures initially included liquor stores and recreational marijuana shops, but Hancock later amended the order to allow those businesses to remain open as long “extreme physical distancing” is in place. Residents flocked to liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries and queued in long lines shortly after Hancock issued the initial order.

Construction projects, mass transit and ride shares could still proceed.

The move came a day after Gov. Jared Polis ordered non-essential businesses to cut their in-person workforces by at least half and appealed to people’s sense of duty to spend as much time at home as possible rather than issuing an order.

Hancock said he understands Polis’ decision since parts of Colorado still have not seen a case of COVID-19. However, he said Denver, as the state’s most densely populated city and site of the most cases, needed to protect its residents and, by extension, the rest of the state since Denver hospitals often treat patients from around Colorado who need specialized care.

“We can’t let our hospitals get overwhelmed,” he said.

Minority Republicans in Colorado’s House of representatives responded by asking businesses to make their case for staying open at a state GOP website in case a statewide shelter-in-place order is issued. Polis has not ruled out such an option.

In other developments related to the coronavirus:

— Colorado’s health department said it was sending COVID-19 testing kits Monday to another mountain community as it works to learn the extent of the spread of the coronavirus in the state. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said the kits would be used for a drive-through testing site operated by the Colorado National Guard in Montrose County. It will serve about 100 high-risk patients who have been pre-selected by doctors for testing. About 6,200 people have been tested across the state, and 720 of them have the virus.

— The state said it is shipping equipment from the federal government’s strategic stockpile to communities around the state, including 49,200 N95 masks, 115,000 surgical masks, 21,420 surgical gowns, 21,800 face shields and 84 coveralls. However the state health department estimated that would only be enough to supply health care workers for about a day.

— Denver’s National Jewish Hospital, which specializes in treating respiratory diseases, said it was setting up a clinic to help treat those infected by the coronavirus or other acute respiratory illnesses as a way to relieve pressure on emergency rooms. Clinic patients will enter through a separate entrance and be examined in rooms with negative air pressure to keep germs from spreading.

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