Colorado stay-at-home order likely to extend past April 11

Social distancing measures have 'slightly delayed the peak,' but more progress needed, Polis says

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Colorado's steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19 appear to be paying off, but the statewide stay-at-home order will likely be extended past its initial expiration date of April 11, Gov. Jared Polis said at a news conference.

The White House extended its social distancing guidelines — originally intended to last 15 days — to the end of April, President Donald Trump announced on March 29.

Released in mid-March, those guidelines include working from home, avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people and cutting optional travel. It also discourages “social visits,” among other actions.

Colorado has issued a number of public health directives along those lines, including its order mandating that Coloradans stay home except to leave for certain necessities, such as shopping for groceries, seeking medical care or caring for a family member.

“It's likely additional steps will need to be taken past April 11,” Polis said at his March 30 news conference. He added: “It's very unlikely that April 11 will be the date” the order ends, given the federal guidelines have been extended.

Polis again stated that schools will likely remain closed through the end of the semester.

“All school districts are under guidance that they should prepare for traditional classroom instruction to not return by the end of this school year,” Polis said.

As of March 30, Colorado's tally of COVID-19 cases rose to roughly 2,600 across 47 counties, with 414 hospitalized, 51 deaths and about 15,400 people tested. There have been 14 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities.

How deadly virus could be

Through the state's earlier social distancing measures such as shutting down dine-in service at bars and restaurants, Colorado has “successfully slightly delayed” the peak of the virus' spread, Polis said.

Public health officials hope to “flatten the curve” — a term that means smoothing COVID-19's spread out over a longer period of time, as opposed to seeing a spike in infections that exceeds the health care system's ability to prevent deaths.

It's estimated that one person with COVID-19 can infect three or four people with no social distancing in place, according to the governor's office. Without social distancing, the peak demand for intensive care unit, or ICU, beds could be 13,800 at the end of April or 11,600 in June, depending on how contagious the virus actually is.

Those estimates far outpace the state's current inventory of about 1,849 ICU beds. It hopes to add 1,000 beds by May and to add another 5,000 by the summer.

With enough social distancing measures in place — such as statewide closure of schools, no dine-in service at restaurants and bars, many people working from home and people avoiding gatherings — the state could see as few as 400 deaths by June, rather than the possible tens of thousands of deaths it could see in that time with no social distancing measures in place, depending on how contagious the virus turns out to be.

Because of the virus' incubation period — the time between when a person is exposed and when symptoms appear — the state doesn't know the impact of each social distancing action until about 12 days after each policy is put in place, Polis said on March 27. For example, the effect of the stay-at-home order — effective March 26 — should become clear around April 7.

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