DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis said Thursday two people have tested positive for coronavirus in Colorado, marking the state’s first cases in the global outbreak.
The governor announced both cases during a news conference. The first is a man in his 30s who was visiting from out of state when checked into a hospital in Frisco, where many of Colorado’s ski resorts are located, because of a possible respiratory illness.
Polis said he did not have any details about the second case, but said the two are unconnected.
The man had traveled to Italy the month before, but did not show any symptoms when he flew to Colorado on Feb. 29, Polis said. The man’s traveling companion also tested positive for the virus in another state.
The man is recovering in isolation in the Denver metro area, and the state health department is working with local public health agencies to identify anyone who could have been exposed to the man to monitor them for signs and symptoms.
“Like other states, we expected to begin seeing cases in Colorado and that is why we have been preparing for the past couple of months, in conjunction with local public health agencies and healthcare partners,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the state health department’s executive director.
The test results will be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation. The man will remain isolated until he is cleared by public health officials.
The outbreak that began in China has also hit hard in Italy, where the man reportedly traveled before going to Colorado. There have been 148 deaths in Italy caused by the virus as of Thursday.
The global march of the new virus triggered a vigorous appeal Thursday from the World Health Organization for governments to pull out “all the stops” to slow the epidemic, as it drained color from India’s spring festivities, closed Bethlehem’s Nativity Church and blocked Italians from visiting elderly relatives in nursing homes.
As China, after many arduous weeks, appeared to be winning its epic, costly battle against the new virus, the fight was revving up in newly affected areas of the globe, unleashing disruptions that profoundly impacted billions of people.
The U.N. health agency urged all countries to “push this virus back,” a call to action reinforced by figures showing about 17 times as many new infections outside China as in it. The virus has infected nearly 98,000 people and killed over 3,300.
The number of U.S. cases has grown rapidly as more labs started testing and guidelines for eligibility were expanded. There are now more than 200 cases across 17 states, with 12 U.S. deaths.
Colorado was relying on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct tests, but the state health department says it can now test up to 160 samples a day at its laboratory with results expected within 24 hours.
The state is also testing specimens from patients who have symptoms and have either been in contact with someone else confirmed to have the virus or have traveled to parts of the world where infection rates are high.