DENVER (AP) — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Wednesday he is issuing a statewide stay-at-home order in an attempt to stem the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
Polis said he is taking this “extreme measure,” effective Thursday until April 11, because the restrictions taken to date haven’t been enough to reduce the spread of the virus.
“If we don’t take these actions that we are taking today, and frankly, if you don’t stay home, this will create a much worse economic disaster with greater disruption, greater loss of jobs for a longer period of time,” he said at a news conference.
People should only leave home when they absolutely must, he said, for grocery shopping, to seek medical care or to care for dependents, for example.
Polis said state officials have measured the effect of social distancing restrictions by tracking people’s cellphone location data, real-time traffic information and other such metadata sources.
“The bottom line is, I don’t have the comfort level that the existing extreme measures that we’ve taken to date are enough to buy us the time we need to save lives here in Colorado,” he said.
The order comes after six Colorado counties issued stay-at-home directives affecting nearly 3 million people to help slow the spread of the coronavirus and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed by patients. The Denver, Aspen and Telluride areas had previously issued stay-at-home orders.
As of Wednesday, 1,086 people in Colorado have tested positive for the coronavirus and 19 have died. The number of people hospitalized by the disease doubled overnight, and about 15% of people who were tested after showing symptoms have the coronavirus, said Polis, who has submitted a formal request for President Donald Trump to declare Colorado a major disaster area.
The governor also said he supported the $2 trillion economic relief deal that was moving through Congress, which would be the largest in U.S. history. The measure would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and help small businesses pay employees who are forced to stay home.
“When Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump agree, you know that it’s important,” Polis said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.
People did not seem to be taking previous warnings and actions, like the closure of restaurants, seriously, and false information, such as COVID-19 being akin to the flu, has persisted, Jefferson County Public Health executive director Mark Johnson said. He hopes the orders help make people realize how serious the outbreak is.
“This is truly the greatest public health crisis this nation has seen at least since 1918,” he said.
Meanwhile, medical staffers based at Colorado’s Fort Carson are being deployed to Washington State to back up doctors and nurses treating coronavirus patients in one of the nation’s hardest-hit areas. More than 300 members of the 627th Hospital Center will head to Washington to provide supplemental routine and emergency medical care to help free up Washington providers to focus on detecting and treating patients believed to have been exposed to COVID-19, Fort Carson announced Tuesday.
Within hours of deploying, the unit is capable of establishing a 148-bed full-service hospital even in the most austere conditions, according to The Colorado Springs Gazette. The hospitals can be in customized tents or repurposed civilian buildings.