Steamboat and entire state of Colorado now under stay-at-home order

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — On Wednesday afternoon, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued a stay-at-home order for the entire state.

People should only leave home when they absolutely must, Polis said, for things like grocery shopping, to get medication or seek medical care, to care for dependents or to exercise while following social distancing guidelines.

The order goes into effect at 6 a.m. Thursday and will last until April 11.

“If we don’t take these actions that we are taking today, and frankly, if you don’t stay home, this will create a much worse economic disaster with greater disruption, greater loss of jobs, for a longer period of time,” Polis said. “This order buys us the time we need to save lives in our state and slow the spread of the virus.”

Businesses deemed “critical” will be exempt from the order. In-person gatherings with people outside one’s residence are prohibited.

Asked why now, Polis said, “I don’t have the comfort level that the existing extreme measures we’ve taken to date are enough to buy the time we need to save lives here in Colorado.”

While the hope is to lift the order before April 11, Polis said he feared it could be after that date. Those decisions will be determined by hard data, he said.

“I think people care most about their lives and lives of loved ones,” Polis said. “That is why we are making appeal to do the right thing.”

This is about “collective responsibility for one another as a community,” said Routt County Commissioner Beth Melton. “We appreciate the governor’s leadership, and we are supportive of a statewide approach.”

Routt County’s legal staff is reviewing the executive order to determine exactly what this means for local residents, Melton said.

The governor’s order comes after a number of Colorado counties issued their own stay-at-home directives.

“What we know is, the only way we get through this is for everyone to do their part,” Melton said. “Stay home. Stay healthy. People’s lives are at risk, and we all have to work together to do what we can to protect the community.”

On Tuesday, Routt County began to take some of their own steps — issuing two public health orders related to restricting short-term lodging and social gatherings. But the county has been preparing to go further on a local level and preparing in the event of a statewide stay-at-home order.

Polis initially resisted a statewide order, but he said he changed his mind as Colorado’s death rate grew from 11 to 19 in a single day.

By the end of this week, when all orders go into effect, over 50% of the U.S. population will be under a stay-at-home order in more than 20 states.

“The most important and responsible thing for you to do, for your state, for your country, for the lives of those around you, and because it’s now the law of Colorado, is to stay at home unless it’s absolutely necessary through April 11,” Polis said.

On Tuesday, officials with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced that Colorado is now in the acceleration interval of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This means speeding up on “the upward epidemiological curve as the new virus infects susceptible people,” according to the Centers for Disease Control.

On Wednesday, three new cases of COVID-19 in Routt County were announced by officials, bringing the total to 10. The new cases include a female in her 50s, a male in his 30s and a female in her 30s.

Also on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Casey’s Pond Senior Living announced one of the senior community’s employees had tested positive for COVID-19 and is now self-quarantined and recovering at home.

Casey’s Pond is currently operating on “restricted status” in terms of visitors, which means visitation is only allowed in end-of-life situations. Everyone who enters the building, including employees, is screened in terms of temperature and symptoms, as well as travel history.

There have been nine outbreaks in Colorado at residential and non-hospital health care facilities.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the state health department reported 1,086 positive COVID-19 cases across Colorado with 8,064 people tested. There have been 19 deaths in the state related to COVID-19.

Next door in Eagle County — one of the worst spots in the state — there are 194 lab-confirmed cases as of Wednesday, according to Eagle County officials.

“We have been so disappointed at the lack of testing supplies,” Polis said.

The more testing, the faster the virus can be contained. However, with severe national limitations on testing supplies and strict criteria on who can be tested, tools like social distancing become more necessary to slow the spread.

Social distancing and keeping people at home are the “the best tools we have to keep from overwhelming the hospital system,” Melton said.

“What we are trying to protect are our most vulnerable populations,” Melton said. “And we are trying to protect our systems — and the ability of our health care system to provide care. Italy had to start allowing people over a certain age to die because they didn’t have the medical capacity to save lives.”

In terms of flattening the curve, as a community, Melton said Routt County needs to assume its trajectory is similar to other communities across the state, country and world.

“We have to attempt to cut that trajectory off with social distancing,” Melton said.

“First and foremost, any kind of order — whether local, state or federal — is only as good as people’s goodwill in following it,” Melton said. “We don’t want to have to rely on law enforcement to ensure people are doing what is necessary and staying at home.

“This is a really, really hard thing,” Melton added. “I don’t think any of us could have ever guessed we would be in this situation. There’s no question every person in this community is making sacrifices to protect public health.”

The economic sacrifices are now taking effect, and they are severe for many in the community. In addition, Melton said, one of the most difficult things is people are being asked to give up being with other people.

“Call your friends; text your friends and family,” Melton advised. “Reach out to each other. Although we have to stay physically distant, it is crucial to maintain social contact to get through this really challenging time. Everyone needs to take care of themselves and each other.”

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.

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