Northern Colorado governments declare states of emergency due to coronavirus pandemic
City and county officials in Larimer County took action Friday to formalize their emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Fort Collins City Manager Darin Atteberry signed an emergency proclamation late Friday night.
Citing emergency declarations at the national, state and county levels, and the closure of Northern Colorado schools, the proclamation activates the city's Emergency Operations Plan.
According to city code, the plan's specifics will be determined by the disaster council, which is made up of the city manager, the deputy city manager, the mayor, the emergency management coordinator and other designated city staff.
“This has been a challenging week for our community and nation,” Atteberry said. “I have been in numerous conversations with health officials, operational staff, local partners and other city managers throughout the region and after consulting with the mayor and city council, I have issued this proclamation to formalize our emergency response and ensure access to necessary resources.”
City Council will vote to ratify the proclamation Tuesday.
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Fort Collins' response is similar to the city of Loveland, where City Manager Steve Adams signed a declaration of local disaster Friday.
Response at the city level followed action taken by the county Friday, which issued an emergency declaration for unincorporated Larimer County.
As of Saturday, Larimer County had identified only one positive case of COVID-19, the diseased caused by the new coronavirus. The health department announced late Friday that the Johnstown woman who tested positive had contact with an individual that had traveled to a country where COVID-19 is spreading person to person. That individual is also being tested for the new coronavirus and results are expected within three days.
The Johnstown woman is isolating at home and all close contacts that have been identified have been notified and are under home quarantine. On Saturday, her case was connected to a case out of Weld County. Both of these individuals are health care workers who work at facilities in Larimer and Weld counties.
As more individuals are tested, the health department said it expects to see more positive cases in the coming days and weeks. In the announcement of its emergency declaration, the county said "officials believe community spread is the next phase of this event."
During a crisis, the county can issue an emergency declaration or a disaster declaration.
“An emergency declaration is often used in advance or anticipation of the imminent impact of an incident that threatens our community. For example, an emergency will be declared before a hurricane hits to ensure all resources are available to the community,” Larimer County Office of Emergency Management Lori Hodges said. “A disaster declaration is reactive, signed after an event occurs when you have known damages and destruction. Larimer County signed the emergency declaration to assure all resources are available for this emerging threat.”
The declaration allows the county to access medical supplies from the state Emergency Operations Center and hospital supplies from the National Stockpile.
“As a county, we are trying to get ahead of community spread and mitigate risk to our residents. An emergency declaration shows that we are making our response the priority,” said Tom Gonzales, public health director for Larimer County Department of Health and Environment.
The county's declaration will be ratified by commissioners Tuesday.
During a Friday morning news conference, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis implored residents who feel ill to get tested — and not just people with a relevant travel history or severe symptoms, which had been the previous advice.
The value of testing more people is not so much to identify who needs treatment but to better understand the footprint of the virus in Colorado and help people know if they need to quarantine, Polis said.
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On Friday, Polis also announced a ban on gatherings of 250 people or more and restrictions on visitors at nursing, assisted living and intermediate care facilities.
“We all have a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable among us from contracting COVID-19,” Polis said in a news release. “It starts with staying isolated even if your symptoms are mild. We are all in this together, and we all have people we love who are particularly vulnerable — our parents, our grandparents, our aunts and uncles.”
The county health department echoed Polis' advice Friday, recommending that adults older than 60 and those with underlying health conditions avoid large gatherings.
As of Saturday at noon, the latest data available, 101 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in Colorado. Until Saturday, the state health department had classified cases as "presumptive positive" pending a re-test by the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC confirmed that positive cases no longer need to be sent to them by the state as their test is identical to Colorado health department testing. Therefore all positive cases are now classified as confirmed.
Colorado health officials on Friday announced Colorado’s first — and only — death, due to the virus — an El Paso County woman in her 80s with underlying health conditions.
As social distancing continues to be encouraged by elected officials and health leaders, many events and religious services in Northern Colorado have been canceled or postponed and some businesses have decided to close temporarily.
Schools in Fort Collins, Loveland and Windsor this week announced plans for closures to extend beyond spring break, with some implementing plans for remote learning.
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Jennifer Hefty is an editor at the Coloradoan. Reach her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @jenniferhefty. Support her work and the work of the Coloradoan’s 15 other journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.