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Colorado buys millions of masks, gloves as virus surge nears

A passenger wearing a mask heads to the south security checkpoint at Denver International Airport as a statewide stay-at-home order remains in effect in an effort to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus Wednesday, April 1, 2020, in Denver. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER (AP) — Colorado is buying millions of masks, gloves and other personal protective items from Chinese and domestic manufacturers and is preparing a multi-tier system to cope with the imminent surge of coronavirus patients, Gov. Jared Polis said Wednesday.

But Polis insisted the purchases aren’t nearly enough with scarce U.S. government supplies and at a time when the supply chain crisis is global. That makes statewide shelter-in-place measures essential to sustaining Colorado’s health care infrastructure by slowing the exponential rate of spread of the virus.

Polis said at a news briefing that all equipment shipped to Colorado will be rigorously tested before being distributed. The state will continue its round-the-clock search for protective equipment, ventilators, beds and test kits until U.S. industrial capacity can meet demand, possibly this summer, he said.

For most people, the new 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.

Colorado on Wednesday reported more than 3,338 virus cases and at least 80 deaths. At least 13 of those deaths were in El Paso County, where older, vulnerable people were exposed to an infected woman at a bridge tournament and at living facilities. Officials set up a shelter for homeless people with symptoms and those who are recovering in the Colorado Springs City Auditorium.

More than 500 people are hospitalized in Colorado for the illness, and those patients need intensive ventilator care lasting, on average, between 11 to 20 days, said Scott Bookman, incident commander for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The biggest surge in cases could come anytime between mid-April and July, he said.

His goals include:

— Increasing critical care hospital beds from fewer than 1,900 today to 5,000 by April 18.

— Having in place ambulatory care units and freestanding emergency rooms to assist hospitals’ critical caseload.

— Having 2,000 beds for recovering patients at arenas and warehouses by April 18.

— Having 10,000 beds in hotels, dormitories and other lodging facilities for those in quarantine and the homeless by May 15.

— Having a safe patient transport system in place.

Also Wednesday, Colorado’s Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the Legislature, which suspended its 2020 session on March 14, can extend the 120-day session beyond an original May 6 end date. Democrats who control the body hailed the decision. Republicans had argued the Legislature must conclude after 120 consecutive days, or May 6, under the state Constitution. It’s unknown when the session will resume.


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