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Officials believe Boulder County can be in position to move toward an easing of stay-at-home restrictions on May 9 if the county continues on its current path of physical distancing, increased testing and controlling the spread of new cases of the coronavirus

Boulder County Public Health Executive Director Jeff Zayach was joined by Frank Alexander, executive director of Housing and Human Services, for a Facebook Live discussion late Tuesday to explain the decision to delay adoption of Gov. Jared Polis’s “Safer at Home” initiative, which for many counties in Colorado — excepting most in the metro area — kicked in Monday.

One goal Zayach said he wants to see reached is the capacity to perform 500 tests a day.

“We know testing for Boulder County is big,” Zayach said. “We know that we need 500 tests per day, in order for us to move forward and feel comfortable.” Currently, he said, the county is averaging between 100 and 150 a day.

“We did find out this week that we have the availability to continue to expand slowly, as we move into the weeks in front of us,” Zayach said.

Zayach, who said physical distancing in combination with the wearing of masks in public remains critical to the county’s progress, cited long-term care facilities, where most of the county’s COVID-19 deaths have occurred, as a continuing major concern.

When clients of such places contract the coronavirus, he said, “They likely end up in the hospital, and they are on ventilators and are in ICU beds, and are usually there for a longer period of time,” which carries the potential of creating a surge situation, in which a hospital’s overall capacity is taxed to the limit or beyond.

Zayach pointed to St. Anthony’s North in Westminster being available for overflow patients, should there be a local surge of COVID-19 patients, as early as the second week of May as one development that gives local officials a degree of optimism.

Following the news conference, public health spokesperson Chana Goussetis said in an interview, “We have a huge ramping up to do. The good news is we made some headway this week, and we’re working with partners and we should be having a drive-through clinic in the county as early as Friday.”

Goussetis cautioned, however, that the testing facility is not going to be for the general public, but for patients of the county’s as-yet-publicly-unidentified partner.

One reason Tuesday’s news conference was scheduled, Goussetis said, is it was felt more explanation was needed for the public to understand its decision-making process in not lifting more restrictions sooner.

“We’ve gotten a lot of hate mail,” she said. “We’ve gotten  a lot of ‘thank yous,’ as well. But we’ve gotten a lot of folks questioning our decisions and our data.”

Alexander said there has been a high demand for help on housing issues, and advised people to be “reaching out for help, and getting support, early and often. We are here for the community, to provide everything that we possibly can,” and directed people to an array of resources available at his department’s web page.

He said his department has had between 15,000 and 20,000 requests for assistance from the public in the last five or six weeks. People are invited to do so, Alexander said, by texting 303-441-1069.

Just as epidemiologists speak of trying to flatten the curve of the pandemic’s spread, Alexander said, “”We are trying to flatten the curve on economic disruption.”

As the national death toll attributed to the coronavirus is poised to pass the number of Americans who lost their lives in the Vietnam War, Boulder County’s tally of those who have died remained at 34 on Tuesday.

Boulder County Public Health officials on Tuesday reported that in addition to 34 deaths, 531 county residents have tested positive or probable for COVID-19, and 119 have required hospitalization. A total of 203 have recovered, and county epidemiologists have 100 disease investigations ongoing.

Also on Tuesday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced the state had received $10.3 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to pay for additional epidemiological work and lab testing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding, according to a news release, is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or the CARES Act, which provides assistance to state, large city health departments, and tribal governments coping with the COVID-19 disaster. It is part of the CDC’s existing Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases cooperative agreement.

“This is fantastic,” Rachel Herlihy, the state’s epidemiologist said in a statement. “We have our work ahead of us to slow the spread of COVID-19, and this additional funding will allow us to bolster our testing, case investigation, contact tracing, and outbreak investigation work at a critical time.

State health officials also announced Tuesday that Kaiser Permanente is increasing COVID-19 testing for symptomatic member and non-member health care workers and first responders (such as emergency medical technicians, law enforcement, firefighters, and corrections officers) who are referred by CDPHE. Kaiser Permanente is also testing non-members referred by CDPHE who have been deemed essential to public welfare, officials said.

Kaiser Permanente, in partnership with CDPHE, has been conducting testing at eight tent site locations across the Front Range for member health care workers and first responders since March 27. They recently announced the ability to increase testing capacity at each location for non-members. Testing is available by appointment only and is intended for people who are showing symptoms.

Statewide, the death total through data compiled through Monday reached 736, with 14,316 people testing positive or probable across 56 of the state’s 64 counties. There have been 149 outbreaks at long-term care facilities. Also, 67,094 of the state’s 5.7 million-plus residents have been tested.

At the national level, COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday crept toward 59,000. For comparison, the National Archives puts the total of American lives lost in Vietnam at 58,220. That number includes 40,934 killed in action, but also categories such as accidental deaths, illness and homicides.

The U.S. has now seen more than 1 million people test positive for COVID-19.


For housing help in Boulder County

Comprehensive Resources: boco.org/COVID-19Housing

Boulder County Housing Helpline: 303-441-1206 (leave a detailed message); Or, text 303-441-1069.

Mediation services for Boulder, Gunbarrel, Nederland and surrounding area, Louisville, and Superior: City of Boulder Mediation Program has expanded to serve all listed areas, and now has an online form for requesting services. Phone: 303-441-4364; Email: mediation@bouldercolorado.gov

Mediation services for Longmont, Lafayette, Niwot and surrounding area, Lyons, and Allenspark: The City of Longmont Mediation Program has expanded to serve all listed areas. Phone: 303-651-8444

Source: Boulder County Department of Housing and Human Services

To schedule a test for non-Kaiser Permanente members:

Health care workers and first responders from any part of the state who are not members of Kaiser Permanente should first contact CDPHE at 303-692-2700 for initial screening. CDPHE will coordinate appointments for individuals who meet testing criteria.

All samples will be processed by the CDPHE state lab. Test results will be reported directly to each individual by the CDPHE.

Source: CDPHE and Kaiser Permanente