Southern Colorado ✅ 1 Custer County ✅ 6 El Paso County / ⚠️ 1 deceased
The Big Picture:
Monday, March 16, will go down as the day the Centennial State shut it all down.
On Tuesday, everyone grappled with what just happened.
To the public: Local health and political leaders say Pueblo is speaking with one voice.
What’s happening: That voice is very much built to respond to a disaster in the 1990s. There are websites with safety updates, press releases and communication through “the (news)paper” and the local cable access information. That system cracked Monday, when new public orders were being given on an hourly basis.
Behind the scenes: It has taken Pueblo County five days to ramp up its incident command communication. On Friday, leaders started with a news conference. Then, there was 48 hours without communication about who is most at-risk, where that risk exists and who should self-quarantine.
What happened: On Friday, Pueblo Health announced the first COVID-19 case. On Sunday evening, PULP received confirmation from Pueblo District Attorney Jeff Chostner that the COVID-19 positive man worked at the Pueblo Office of the Public Defender.
Crisis averted?: Pueblo Health said it performed an epidemiological study and contacted people who may have been in contact with the individual. On Monday morning, Pueblo Health told PULP it believed the public was at low risk of community spread.
The problem: This individual had potential contact with court staff, co-workers in the Public Defender’s Office, law enforcement, clients and others in the community. The incident command structure had to deal with a fast moving news day along with 72 hours of radio silence by health officials — the old system of informing the public was stressed.
What happens in Custer County can impact Southern Colorado’s healthcare capacity:
Custer County, the place where you feel at times like you can just reach out and touch the Rocky Mountains, is now the third county in Southern Colorado to see a COVID-19-positive case.
What happens next in Custer County will be crucial. Custer County has a medical center but it’s a rural clinic. For emergency medical care, a patient must go to St. Thomas More Hospital in Cañon City or facilities in Pueblo or Colorado Springs.
Should there be community spread or clustering of COVID-19 in Custer County, the region could see a stream of individuals needing more intensive care being moved to larger hospitals that could be at or over capacity already. Other rural communities could be sending their sick into the area’s hospitals, too.
Hospital beds and protective personal equipment aren’t the only issues. Transportation, flight-for-life, rural capacity and VA care capacity all come into play. Many health officials across the state and the county now hope measures such as social distancing bends but doesn’t break health care capacities like Southern Colorado’s.
Not one sad story, all bad stories: There isn’t one quote by one restaurant owner having one bad month that tells this story — it’s most businesses, all at once, all asking for support from their patrons. What quote or what story do you tell here? Everyone’s experience is bad. Everyone is in need immediately. Layoffs have already started. Go Fund Me campaigns have begun. The story on Tuesday turned into a story about every industry needing help at the same time.
Digital Dine-In Divide:
What we saw: eateries that were on GrubHub or had online ordering were at the least ready to accept carryout customers today.
It could take days for those without social media presence or digital ordering to set-up those accounts and weeks to get on delivery platforms.
Bars and dine-in only establishments are closed indefinitely, unless they offer to-go options.
Carryout eateries will have to manage staffing and reduced income. How will they do that? That is wait and see, right now.
“Can’t treat those we can’t see”
On Tuesday, Pueblo County Commissioner Chris Wiseman said he was concerned about the limited number of tests, highlighting that less than 100 people with COVID-19 symptoms were tested when he was updated.
“We can’t treat what we can’t see,” said Wiseman on the need to have more tests.
“We have voiced concern to the governor and on the federal level as one unified voice,” he said, speaking of leaders from the county, city and other health industry requesting aid.
While Wiseman praised how Gov. Jared Polis has handled the pandemic so far, he had strong words for the federal government saying, “I don’t want to get political but we aren’t getting the leadership we need.”
“We were ill-prepared at the federal level,” he said.
Beyond a lack of tests, Wiseman said he’s also concerned about the lack of equipment available to local health professionals.
Pueblo’s 2020 economy was better and then COVID-19 happened:
Pueblo City Council President Dennis Flores told PULP that the economy in 2020 has been looking good. In Pueblo, sales tax revenue was up 3% in January and 2% in February over last year.
Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar warned city departments to expect direct impact on revenues moving forward.
At the county, Wiseman wants to see the federal government infuse cash into the economy now.
PULP will have more on the economic outlook of Southern Colorado.
Monday March 15
Colorado Will Be Right Back
The Big Picture: Colorado has been put the big, “We’ll Be Right Back” sign on its door effectively Monday, March 16, 2020. The order by Governor Jared Polis closed restaurants to seating customers and shutdown the last remaining indoor public places to congregate. But we’ll have Grubhub and the outdoors.
How it went down: It started Monday morning in Colorado when Denver Mayor Michael Hancock closed dine-in restaurants and bars. Then came Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar’s warning to Puebloans to stay away from St. Patrick’s day celebrations. Somewhere in that time, the White House issued recommendations to limit public groups to 10 or more across the country.
Then, finally, came Governor Jared Polis closing restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters and casinos with a state health order. All of Colorado life altered for 30 days in the span of hours.
What does this actually do?
Still allows for takeout and delivery.
5 people can on the premises at once.
The must be 6 feet apart from each other.
The order does not apply to: grocery stores, markets, convenience stores, pharmacies, drug stores, food pantries, room service in hotels, health care facilities, residential care facilities, congregate care facilities, juvenile justice facilities, crisis shelters or similar institutions, airport concessionaires, and any emergency facilities necessary for the response to these events.
How long with it last? 30 days starting 8am on March 16.
Pueblo’s First COVID19 Case: Exposure from individual to public appears low.
The Story: The Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment said Monday, it doesn’t believe there is continued risk from the man who tested positive for COVID-19.
Sarah Joseph, Public Information Officer for Pueblo Health said, “We don’t believe there is risk from this individual.”
She said the department performed an epidemiological investigation contacting individuals and departments who might have had contact with the man. Pueblo Health suggested to these other agencies that the exposed areas in these buildings should cleaned over the weekend.
Joseph said that if Pueblo Health felt there was a greater health risk from this case they would have alerted the public on the specific locations this individual appeared. This is similar to El Paso County issuing a warning over the exposure at the Colorado Springs Bridge Center.
On Friday, Pueblo Health said the man was released from Parkview Hospital and self-isolated.
The Pueblo Office of the State Public Defender closed midday Friday. The office is located on the 2nd floor of Pueblo’s Historic Union Depot.
Sunday, March 15
The presumptive positive COVID-19 case in Pueblo worked Office of the Colorado State Public Defender, PULP has learned.
In an email to PULP, 10th Judicial District Attorney, Jeff Chostner confirmed the individual worked in the office but he did not specify what position the individual held.
“That is true regarding public defender,” Chostner said.
It’s so far unclear how the local justice system will respond and how many people may have come into contact with the man, who was presumed positive on Friday.
“We are monitoring any person who exhibits flu/cold symptoms,” said Pueblo District Attorney Jeff Chostner in an email to PULP. “With those limitations we are continuing operations and working with judiciary as to appropriate modification actions.”
Chostner said he will talk with Chief District Judge Deborah Eyler on Monday morning to come up with a plan.
The 10th Judicial Court warned individuals showing symptoms to stay at home.
On Sunday night, the Centers for Disease Control issued guidances to limit mass gathering to 50 or less for next 8 weeks. It would not include schools, institutes of higher learning or businesses.
Colorado advised on Friday to cancel gathering over 250 people.