Early last week, Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency to open up funding and other resources in case they are needed, and the World Health Organization announced COVID-19, coronavirus, was officially a pandemic, spreading throughout the world. It’s here.
For the first time in history, the Colorado Legislature was suspended. The 72nd Session of the General Assembly will not reconvene until March 30. Coronavirus has taken over everyone’s life, livelihood, shopping habits, entertainment choices and topic of conversation.
A committee made this historic, bipartisan decision after many difficult conversations informed by public health experts, science-based research and a deep concern for our citizens.
House and Senate leadership jointly made the decision on March 13, the same day the first victim of the virus died in Colorado, a woman in her 80s from El Paso County with medical complications, one of 72 confirmed cases.
It is up to 135 now.
As the spread of coronavirus continues to expand, we have to practice social distance, staying six feet apart from each other to slow the infection rate. In the Capitol, as in most places of work, following those suggestions isn’t always easy.
What Colorado’s doingThe state of Colorado is working to stay ahead of this virus, looking out for the public health and safety of every Coloradan. Our state is testing more people than any other state in the nation, and has drive-through testing locations in critical areas, helping people in a safer, more efficient way. It is offering paid sick leave, wage replacement programs and unemployment insurance for the most vulnerable.
Members of more susceptible populations, citizens over 60 with chronic medical conditions, can renew their drivers’ licenses online to avoid crowds at Department of Motor Vehicles locations. Events with more than 50 people have been postponed, and we just passed a law providing more flexibility for participants in the political assemblies happening this and next month, to avoid crowds.
In addition, the state is making it easier for medical professionals licensed in other states to be licensed here as quickly as possible. Dozens of registered nurses from out of state arrived this week to help Colorado communities hit the hardest. Other professionals are being trained to administer the COVID-19 test.
We can all help prevent catching and spreading the virus by practicing social distancing and following some basic steps in good health: wash your hands with soap regularly, use hand sanitizer, eat healthy food, exercise outside, keep your hands away from your face, stay away from large crowds and sleep. Avoid close contact with sick people, stay home if you’re sick, cover your cough with a tissue or your inner elbow, and throw the tissue in the trash.
Where to get infoWe in District 59 can be proud of the efforts our counties have made to prepare.
Gunnison County has reported positive test results for the virus. Public schools have extended spring break and Western Colorado University classes have gone online. With reverse ID carding in place, people 60 and over are not allowed in bars or restaurants. The Health Department is emphasizing minimizing social contact, offering medical attention, and has been running through different scenarios, perfecting their local response.
Up to date information for Gunnison County is posted at www.gunnisoncounty.org/938/COVID-19.
San Juan Basin Health Department has issued a public health emergency; La Plata County and the city of Durango will follow their lead so more protective social distancing measures can be implemented. The department is closely monitoring La Plata and Archuleta counties, providing a comprehensive webpage, sharing information with community partners and establishing an emergency response plan specifically designed for pandemics. Many schools in both counties have extended their spring breaks and prepared for online teaching.
Fort Lewis College lengthened spring break, and students will be taking classes online for several weeks.
For updates, visit San Juan Basin Health at https://sjbpublichealth.org/coronavirus/.
The Ouray County Public Health Agency is preparing for what could be the inevitable by opening up constant chains of communication between residents, health care providers, schools, the state health department and the CDC. They are focusing on data collection and causes of residents’ illnesses, injuries and death. Visit Ouray County Public Health at https://ouraycountyco.gov/149/Public-Health.
Hinsdale and San Juan counties have clearly delineated their responses in the event COVID-19 hits there. Though small, they are high-risk areas for people over 60 living at high altitudes, and counties are paying close attention to their health. Health departments are working closely with multiple agencies and schools, offering education and medical help. Follow Hinsdale at www.colorado.gov/hinsdalecounty and San Juan at www.colorado.gov/sanjuan.
Please help. Follow recommendations about keeping yourself and your communities safe, be kind to one another and if you are a retired health provider, please consider coming back to work. Together, we’ll get through this, but we all need to do our part.
Barbara McLachlan represents State House District 59. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.