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CENTENNIAL – Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday said all Colorado schools will be closed to in-person learning until at least April 30, extending an earlier order by about a week.
The initial order, announced on March 18, was to expire on April 17.
Polis said the extension is needed to continue to delay when COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, peaks in Colorado. This will allow hospitals to prepare for a surge in patients.
“Right now, we simply don’t have the medical capacity – the hospital beds, the ICU units, the ventilators,” Polis said at a news conference at the state’s emergency operations center in Centennial.
There are about 3,300 confirmed coronavirus cases in Colorado, though officials warn there are likely many times more that infected with the disease. At least 77 deaths have been attributed to the outbreak.
More than 600 people are hospitalized with the disease. State officials said Wednesday they are looking at patient numbers to peak between sometime in April and July.
Polis said he would wait to decide whether to extend his stay-at-home order, which was issued last week and is set to expire on April 11. He said, however, that it’s likely to be extended, though he hopes it doesn’t have to be in effect until April 30.
“We are going to look at the science and data in real time to see when that can roll off,” Polis said. “It’s not a call we are going to make on April 1.”
Polis added: “It’s all about when we can provide the maximum degree of flexibility and economic activity at the minimum risk.”
Denver on Tuesday extended its stay-at-home order for the city until April 30, again taking more restrictive measures before the state. Mayor Michael Hancock announced a stay-at-home order for Denver two days before Polis decided to take action statewide.
President Donald Trump on Monday extended social distancing guidelines for the nation to April 30, abandoning his push to have the country functioning as normal by April 12, Easter Sunday.
“Nobody wants to get back a semblance of normalcy and jumpstart our economy more than you do and more than I do,” Polis said.
Colorado ramping up treatment spaceScott Bookman, Colorado’s coronavirus incident commander, joined Polis at Tuesday’s news conference and laid out a set of goals to quickly ramp up patient capacity.
Those goals include:
Freeing up 5,000 in-hospital beds for use by the most critically ill patients – those who need ventilators and dialysis – by April 18Setting up ambulatory surgical centers, freestanding emergency departments and critical access hospitals to handle patients who need intravenous fluids and medicine, and respiratory therapyBuilding 2,000 beds in arenas, convention centers, stadiums and warehouses for patients who need medical monitoring but not necessarily more intensive care by April 18Building 10,000 beds in hotels, dorms and skilled nursing facilities for asymptomatic people requiring quarantine, such as people experiencing homelessness, by May 15.“We have set some wildly important goals,” Bookman said.
Polis said the state is working directly with manufacturers in China to try to procure more personal protective equipment. He says the federal government has only supplied a fraction of the state’s requests.
The governor said he even explored sending a jumbo jet with state officials on it to pick up the goods.
The state has also ordered 750 ventilators to help fill its need gap, which the governor has said is in the thousands.
“At this point in the crisis, personal protective equipment equals lives,” Polis said. “Ventilators equals lives.”