Elderly woman in El Paso County with coronavirus first reported Colorado death

Tri-County Health officials put on their protective gear before interacting with those in line to get tested for the new coronavirus, Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in east Denver.
Philip B. Poston/The Aurora Sentinel via AP

DENVER (AP) — Colorado health officials said Friday an elderly woman with underlying health conditions has died from coronavirus.

The woman in her 80s lived in El Paso County south of Denver, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Her death is the first reported in the state related to the virus.

A statement released by the health department did not include any additional information.

“While we were expecting this day, it doesn’t make it any less difficult to hear and share this news,” said Gov. Jared Polis, who announced measures Friday to grow the ranks of doctors, nurses and other professionals in anticipation of an increasing coronavirus caseload straining the state’s health care system.

Polis said state officials will expedite the licensing of health-care professionals who live in Colorado and already have licenses in other states. State officials are also asking retired doctors and nurses and those who left the field to consider returning to help with the outbreak.

The Colorado National Guard has been activated and Guard medics are being trained, Polis said. Medical students are being asked to help with testing and clinical work.

An increase in health professionals will be needed as the number of coronavirus cases grows exponentially, and as health professionals treating those patients become infected themselves, Polis said.

“We are in the middle of one off the greatest public health disasters of our lifetime,” he said. “It’s critical for us to take it seriously.”

Polis called for the cancellation of events with groups of 250 or more people, unless organizers can guarantee participants are spaced 6 feet (2 meters) from one another.

He also called for an increase in testing, while saying the state’s 1,500 collected tests to date outpaces the national rate.

As of Friday, Colorado had 72 cases of the coronavirus. Eight people were hospitalized and three were in critical condition.

The state’s drive-up testing laboratory was postponed on Friday because of bad weather. Demand at the site has been huge, with hundreds of drivers waiting in line for three hours on Thursday. More than 650 tests have been collected there to date.

Denver Public Schools planned to close on Monday for three weeks. State lawmakers, now in the middle of a 120-day legislative session, were preparing to ask the state Supreme Court whether the state constitution allows them to recess and reconvene at a later date.

Lawmakers are also fast-tracking legislation that would allow political parties to delay and remotely conduct assemblies and conventions, as the parties prepare to nominate candidates for office this spring and summer.

Colorado canceled its high school basketball tournaments, and the Air Force Academy said it has begun dismissing its cadets amid the coronavirus spread.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.


This story has been updated to correct that the governor is recommending the cancellation of events with 250 or more people, not 200.

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