State health officials report third coronavirus death in Colorado

Lenora Vallejos cleans chairs at Bruce Randolph School on Thursday, March 19, 2020, in Denver.
AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A man in his 60s has become the third person in Colorado to die of the coronavirus, health officials said Thursday.

The man had been in contact with a woman in her 80s who was the first person in the state to die of the virus, said Michelle Hewitt, a spokeswoman for El Paso County Public Health. The woman had underlying health conditions and lived alone in the county south of Denver.

Hewitt would not confirm the relationship between the two and declined to release any other information about the man’s death. The other reported death was a man in his 70s who lived in northern Colorado’s Weld County.

There are 277 people who have tested positive for the virus statewide, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment.

For most people, the 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.

Health officials are prioritizing testing for health care workers and elderly people who have other conditions that could put them at risk.

“There’s obviously a great need, a great demand for testing that is struggling to be met across the country,” said Scott Bookman, incident commander for Colorado’s public health response to the virus.

He said the state is doing targeted testing for “epidemiological surveillance” in some communities where there is not enough information to understand the spread of the disease. He did not rule out ordering a near lockdown for certain communities or for the entire state.

“We are continuing to evaluate what the best strategy is statewide, and we will issue guidance and orders around those areas we deem to be the best for the public health and safety,” Bookman said.

The state has closed restaurants and bars except for takeout and delivery and is suspending in-person classes at all schools starting Monday.

San Miguel County officials issued a shelter-in-place order Thursday, allowing residents to leave their homes only for “essential activities” like visiting a doctor or buying groceries. It also allows for outdoor activity as long as people practice social distancing.

No one has tested positive for the coronavirus in the southwest Colorado county, which includes the popular ski destination Telluride, but the order said failing to comply with the restrictions “constitutes an imminent threat and creates an immediate menace to public health.”

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