The City of Denver issued a stay-at-home order March 23, a day after Gov. Jared Polis urged people to stay home as much as possible but stopped short of giving an order.
In a statement about Denver's action, Polis said:
“Last week, San Miguel (County) issued a stay at home order for non-critical functions and additional isolation measures were also taken in Gunnison, Eagle, and Summit counties. Today the city and county of Denver issued a similar order.
"I’m strongly in support of these local efforts, and it’s extremely important that just as our state is acting boldly and urgently, that our county health departments are also taking strong actions ... taking into account local factors like population density and concentration of coronavirus cases, to best contain the spread of the virus.
"Thank you to Mayor Hancock and other local leaders making strong moves to reduce the spread of the virus in communities across our state.”
The state urged people to remain home except to buy food, obtain medication or health care service, or collect supplies needed to work from home.
The following are considered “critical” industries that are exempt from the order:
• Health care;
• Infrastructure, including utilities, fuel, public water, telecommunications, transportation and food supply chain;
• Businesses and organizations that provide for disadvantaged people, and those that provide necessities to the economically disadvantaged;
• Manufacturing, including food, beverages, chemicals, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, sanitary products;
• Retail, including grocery stores, liquor stores, farms, gas stations, restaurants and bars, hardware stores;
• Marijuana dispensaries (for medical or curbside delivery);
• Services, including trash and recycling, mail, shipping, laundromats, building cleaning and maintenance, auto supply and repair, funeral homes, crematoriums, cemeteries, and animal shelters and rescues;
• Warehouses and distribution;
• Child care;
• News media;
• Financial institutions;
• Public safety, including law enforcement, fire response, emergency medical technicians, security, disinfection, cleaning, building code enforcement and snow removal;
• Logistics, tech support or contractors with critical government services.
• And critical government functions.
After nearly two weeks of slowly escalating urgings and orders to curtail the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Jared Polis fervently asked Coloradans only to leave their homes when absolutely necessary — but he stopped short of ordering residents to comply the way several other states have.
“We are issuing the strongest possible guidance for individuals,” Polis said at a March 22 news conference.
That includes urging people to stay home except for essential purposes, such as buying food, obtaining medication or health care service, or collecting supplies needed to work from home.
The elderly and people with underlying medical conditions that put them at higher risk for COVID-19 should not leave home at all unless they need medical care, Polis said.
He also announced an order that requires “noncritical” workplaces to reduce their in-person workforce by 50% — by working from home or staggering shifts — by March 24.
The order generally excludes government and health care; agriculture; manufacturing of food, medical supplies and other essentials; groceries, gas and hardware retailers; and services such as trash removal and shipping, among others.
The executive order doesn't apply if employers can show that their workers are never within 6 feet of each other. It remains in effect until April 10 unless modified by another order.
Asked why he is refraining from issuing a shelter-in-place order — sometimes called stay-at-home orders, which generally require people to stay inside as much as possible — Polis said no law enforcement in any city or state can actually enforce such an order.
A “fear of the grim reaper” — that Coloradans' loved ones, or they themselves, may die — is what motivates people to comply, Polis said.
“The consequences are far beyond any that can be doled out by any law enforcement agency in the state,” said Polis, who also said the state wants to articulate its guidance in a way that gets the most buy-in, or voluntary compliance, from the public.
San Miguel County was the first county in the state to announce a shelter-in-place order that lasts through at least April 3, making an exception for obtaining medication, going to the doctor, getting groceries, outdoor exercise, or caring for a family member or pet. People are allowed to leave for work only at certain types of businesses.
A public health order by the state Department of Public Health and Environment, which accompanies Polis' executive order, urged people to only engage in those kinds of activities, similar to San Miguel County's list. It also urged people who are sick to stay home except to seek medical care — and, contrasting with its other, softer language, it issued a requirement for those who have symptoms of COVID-19.
They "must self-isolate until their symptoms cease or until they have a negative test result," the order says.
Polis announced the state is working toward a “mass testing” effort to detect COVID-19, the disease caused by a widespread coronavirus, to get a better hold on the crisis.
The ideal response to the pandemic would have been to have mass testing months ago to quarantine people as necessary, “rather than doing what we're doing now, which is moving toward quarantining a whole society,” Polis said.
The state aims to tailor its strategy to South Korea or Taiwan's successful containment and less like Italy, which has seen thousands of COVID-19 deaths and tens of thousands diagnosed.
“That day is not tomorrow and not next week, but we have the team in place” to set up mass testing, Polis said. It will likely be weeks or perhaps months until that happens, he added.
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