Boulder declares state of emergency as county sees first coronavirus cases

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Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

Sunday, March 15, 2020 (Updated Monday, March 16)

Saturday night, Boulder County announced its first presumptive positive case of coronavirus. By Monday morning, there were seven residents presumed to have the fast-spreading virus.

The news prompted Boulder to declare a state of emergency; city council has scheduled an emergency meeting for Monday at 5 p.m. to vote allowing virtual participation in business meetings. Members will also vote on cancelling all future meetings.

The first presumptive COVID-19 case was announced Saturday night as a resident in their 20s who had returned from an event in California where two people had tested positive. Boulder County Public Health Twitter account posted at 11:33 a.m. Sunday that two more residents in their 20s had tested positive.

Monday morning, BCPH put out a release that there were now seven cases in the county. The spread was attributed to national and international travel and ski areas.

The state health department has asked people who visited Eagle, Summit, Pitkin or Gunnison counties in the past week to minimize contact with others. Boulder County health officials urged all residents to stay home, avoid gatherings of 10 or more people, and remain six feet away from others when out in public. People should only venture out for necessities such as groceries or medicine, they advised.

With this new information, and the notice from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment asking people who visited Eagle, Summit, Pitkin, or Gunnison counties in the past week to minimize contact with others, Boulder County Public Health strongly recommends all residents stay home as much as possible.

“We are entering the most critical phase,” said Jeff Zayach, Boulder County Public Health director, in the release. “Never before has it been more important to heed the call to stay away from others outside of your household as much as you can.”

Releases did not say where in Boulder County the residents live. The cases are presumptive until results are confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control. There had previously been one case connected to Boulder County, a CU employee who resided outside the county.

Boulder declared a state of emergency on Saturday, giving the city powers to impose a curfew, place limits on large gatherings, close streets and sidewalks and force businesses to close.

The emergency declaration lasts for a week unless extended by a vote of city council. Mayor Sam Weaver on Sunday afternoon sent out a public email scheduling a Monday meeting to do so, as well as considering an ordinance to allow members of council and the public to call into meetings. Members of the public will not be allowed to attend; meetings are streamed online.

“If that measure passes, we will then connect with any Council Members who are not physically present and discuss further measures to mitigate the spread of the 2019-nCoV virus in our community,” Weaver wrote. “If we get through that discussion completely, then at the will of Council we may consider any business which had been scheduled for our regular Council meeting on March 17.”

Tuesday’s agenda includes a two-hour public hearing on formation of a library district as well as appointment of board and commission members. Boulder on Friday suspended all board and commissions meetings through March 29 and closed libraries, rec centers and senior centers.

Representatives for Boulder Library Champions, a group advocating for a district that includes several former library commissioners, requested the council postpone the discussion in light of the pandemic.

“Please dedicate all necessary resources to the important work ahead,” wrote spokesperson Tim O’Shea, via email. “We appreciate your service in helping to steer our community toward a healthy and safe outcome.”

It is likely Tuesday’s meeting will be postponed. Monday’s agenda also includes a vote to cancel all future council meetings until further notice.

Author’s note: This story will be updated as information becomes available. The best breaking news source locally is the Daily Camera, which is providing coronavirus content for free to readers.

Public Health officials ask residents to practice social distancing, including:

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Stay home or in a comparable setting as much as possible: work from home if possible; if you can’t work from home, maintain at least 6 feet of distance between you and your coworkers or customers.
  • Only go to public spaces for necessities such as groceries and the pharmacy.
  • Continue healthy, non-group activities like walking, hiking, jogging, cycling and other activities that maintain distance from other people.
  • Don’t gather in group settings; avoid gatherings larger than 10 people.
  • Maintain distance (approximately 6 feet) from others.
  • If you need to travel, use a private vehicle instead of taking buses, rideshares, flights, or other transportation that puts you in contact with other people.
  • Continue to operate critical business functions, such as delivery of goods and operation of businesses, with social distancing and additional safety measures in place.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Anyone feeling ill with symptoms similar to those associated with COVID-19 (e.g. fever, cough, shortness of breath) should:

  • Stay home, except to get medical care.

If you have a medical appointment, call ahead and tell them what your symptoms are. Otherwise:

  • Restrict activities outside your home.
  • Do not go to work, school, or public areas.
  • Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.

For information about actions and recommendations for Boulder County:

BoCo.org/COVID-19

Find more information, guidance and up-to-date case counts at:

— Shay Castle, boulderbeatnews@gmail.com, @shayshinecastle

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