Colorado extends statewide school closure through April 30

Polis reiterates that stay-at-home order may also be extended, doesn't say how long


Gov. Jared Polis extended Colorado's statewide school closure through April 30, lining up with federal social distancing guidelines that the White House extended to the end of the month.

Polis' executive order that suspends in-person classes for all public and private P-12 schools was initially scheduled to end April 17, but he has acknowledged that it's “increasingly unlikely” that school will resume this spring due to the spread of COVID-19.

“I expect that many districts have made or are making decisions of whether to remain closed through (the end) of the school year,” Polis said at an April 1 news conference.

The governor also nodded to schools preparing to cancel in-person graduation ceremonies.

The question of how long Colorado's statewide stay-at-home order may be extended past its initial expiration date of April 11 is less clear. The order — which requires Coloradans to stay home except to leave for certain necessities, such as shopping for groceries or caring for a family member — went into effect March 26, and the effect it has on COVID-19's spread won't be clear until around April 7, due to how long symptoms can take to appear.

“We are going to look at the science and data in real time to find out when that can roll off and return to more normalcy,” Polis said. He added: “I hope and we all hope that that doesn't have to go through April 30.”

Earlier in the week, Polis said it's “very unlikely” that the order will end by April 11.

In public appearances, the governor has explained the stay-at-home order and other social distancing measures — such as closing schools and restaurants — as necessary to buy the state more time to build up its health care system to take on a surge of COVID-19 patients.

In a news conference call with reporters March 31, Scott Bookman, incident commander for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, didn't say exactly when the peak of the coronavirus' spread will be.

But at Polis' April 1 news conference, Bookman said health officials expect to see a surge of patients that will overwhelm hospitals sometime between April and July.

As of April 1, the state has counted roughly 3,300 cases of COVID-19 across 50 counties, with 620 hospitalized, 80 deaths and more than 18,600 people tested. There have been 17 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities.

The state is working with partners to expand medical capacity to places such as arenas, warehouses and dorms. The Army Corps of Engineers is working on establishing such temporary medical sites, which could look similar to New York's Central Park, where an emergency field hospital has been erected.

Facing what Polis called a “supply-chain crisis” for medical equipment, the state is working to order thousands — in some cases, millions — of masks, gowns, face shields and gloves, along with hundreds of ventilators. Those orders may come from places as far away as China, Polis said.

Through the state's earlier social distancing measures, such as shutting down dine-in service at bars and restaurants, Colorado has “successfully slightly delayed” the peak of the virus' spread, Polis has said.

Now, the state's number of cases is doubling roughly every five days, as opposed to the earlier rate of doubling every two days, Polis said.

The governor wants to establish the capability for mass COVID-19 testing in Colorado to more accurately quarantine rather than shutting down large sections of society. Such an effort could take weeks or perhaps months to be ready, he has said.

The state's current social distancing policies are “a mallet,” and Polis hopes to fight the virus “with a scalpel,” he said.


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