Gov. Jared Polis said Friday he is urging the cancellation of large public gatherings in Colorado as an increase in testing for the new coronavirus shows there has been community spread of the disease in different areas of the state.
That includes the metro Denver area.
Any gathering of over 250 people should be canceled, the governor said. That is “unless they can successfully ensure the distance of 6 feet between parties.”
Several counties had already begun to limit gatherings on their own, including Pitkin and Eagle, which have been among the state’s hardest hit by the outbreak.
Eagle County public health officials, which includes Vail Resort and Beaver Creek ski area, issued an order this week limiting public gatherings to 50 people until at least April 8. The order doesn’t apply to schools, the airport and ski areas.
Anyone who violates the Eagle County order is subject to prosecution for a misdemeanor.
Public health officials already knew that the virus was spreading person to person in the high country and suspected it was also doing so in the Denver area, but now they have confirmation. Polis said there are several cases of community spread in the Denver area.
“None of this should be surprising. We said that this was likely a few days ago,” Polis said.
Polis said right now the community spread is limited, but that it’s expected to grow significantly in the coming days.
The announcement comes as there are now at least 72 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Of those, eight people are hospitalized, three of them in critical condition.
“It’s just a matter of time before we have our first fatality here in Colorado,” Polis said.