By Faith Miller
- Gov. Jared Polis announced a statewide stay-at-home order effective midnight March 25. Under the order, Coloradans must stay at home except for necessary business. “Critical businesses” — like grocery stores, health care facilities and shelters — are exempt from the order. These businesses must comply with social distancing requirements.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment was reporting 1,086 cases of COVID-19 through March 24, including 122 in El Paso County, and 19 deaths across the state. Five of those deaths have occurred in El Paso County.
- Colorado lawmakers voted March 14 to postpone the legislative session until at least March 30 in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. But Democrats and Republicans disagree over whether they should be allowed to tack on extra days to the end of the session in order to make up for lost time.
State law says that the legislative session is only 120 days, and that has been interpreted in the past to mean consecutive days. Democrats, who hold the majority in the state House, Senate and governor’s office, want extra days added on after the end of the session, which is currently scheduled for May 6. Republicans want the session to end that day.
The Colorado Supreme Court will consider both arguments in making a decision. Briefs filed in the case were due March 24.
- As of late afternoon on March 25, the U.S. Senate was close to passing a $2 trillion COVID-19 relief package that would include direct payments to taxpayers, unemployment benefits and assistance for financially distressed businesses.
The New York Times reports that a final vote on the legislation was being held up by a group of Republican senators who objected to the expansion of unemployment insurance, while some progressives felt the bill was too lenient on corporations.
- The Pikes Peak Community Foundation’s COVID19 Emergency Relief Fund — created in partnership with Pikes Peak United Way and the Pikes Peak Regional Office of Emergency Management — had raised $517,000 for efforts in El Paso and Teller counties as of March 20. However, initial requests for funding from organizations was more than double that: $1.3 million. “It’s during times of crisis that our community stands together to support our city, and we are humbled by how quickly and generously our community responds to urgent needs,” Gary Butterworth, the CEO of PPCF, said in a statement. “However, there is still much work ahead of us as we support those serving the most vulnerable in our community.”
- El Paso County organizations that have received assistance through the relief fund so far include Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, Family Promise of Colorado Springs, Fountain Valley Senior Center and more.
- In order to accommodate restaurants providing curbside pickups and food deliveries, downtown parking in Manitou Springs will be free of charge until April 30, the city announced in a statement. The decision to not charge hourly off-street and on-street parking customers is directly aimed at helping stop COVID-19 by eliminating cashier and kiosk interactions,” the statement says.
- The Barr Trail Lot and the 400 blocks of Ruxton Avenue and Winter Street will remain paid parking, and residential parking areas will be “monitored and enforced as necessary.”
Colorado Springs has also made parking free in metered spots downtown and in Old Colorado City, until April 30.
- Local nonprofit Harley’s Hope Foundation, in collaboration with Colorado Pet Pantry, is offering assistance to pet owners impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The foundation says it can deliver dog and cat food for free to people in El Paso, Teller or Pueblo counties who are under mandatory quarantine, or at high risk of serious effects from the virus (people older than 65 and those with underlying medical conditions). To request food, call 719-495-6083 or email email@example.com.
Harley’s Hope also has $150 vouchers to help pay for pet medications. People who are currently unemployed due to COVID-19, or experiencing other financial hardships as a result of the pandemic, can fill out an application online. Applicants must provide veterinary verification and proof of financial need.
Finally, the foundation is looking for people who can foster animals for people who are temporarily unable to care for them. You can apply online.
- Don’t fall victim to Social Security scammers in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, warns the Social Security Office of the Inspector General.
The office says it has received reports of Social Security beneficiaries receiving letters in the mail that say their payments will be suspended or stopped unless they call a number listed in the letter. People who call the number may be prompted by scammers to provide personal information or payments, thus making them vulnerable to identity theft and other crimes. “Social Security will not suspend or decrease Social Security benefit payments or Supplemental Security Income payments due to the current COVID-19 pandemic,” the inspector general’s office says in a statement. “Any communication you receive that says SSA will do so is a scam, whether you receive it by letter, text, email, or phone call.” Those who do receive such communications should not respond. You can report suspected scams online.
- On March 24, the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing submitted an 1135 waiver request to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, asking for more flexibility in administering health care to people affected by COVID-19.
Such waivers can cut down on regulatory burdens in state-administered health care systems by, for example, temporarily suspending certain requirements for enrolling providers in the Medicaid network, or waiving requirements that doctors be licensed in the same state where they are providing services. Democratic and Republican members of Colorado’s congressional delegation signed a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, asking for swift approval of the waiver request.
- More than 300 medical workers from the 627th Hospital Center at Fort Carson will deploy to Washington state to help with the COVID-19 response. Evans Army Community Hospital “is working to minimize the impact” of the deployment on Fort Carson soldiers, family members and retirees, according to an announcement from the Army installation. People have an upcoming scheduled appointment should contact their primary care manager to confirm the date and time, the statement said
- As of March 25, Washington state had more than 2,460 reported cases of COVID-19 and 123 deaths due to the virus, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
- Project C.U.R.E., a foundation that distributes medical equipment and supplies around the world, will host a donation drive for personal protective equipment at UCHealth Park in collaboration with the Rocky Mountain Vibes baseball team.
- On March 25 between noon-4 p.m., Project C.U.R.E. will collect donations of the following items (unused and in unopened boxes), to be given to local hospitals:
• Eye protection and goggles
• Face shields
• Surgical masks
• Sterile and non-sterile gloves
• Disposable gowns
• N95 masks
• Sanitation wipes
• Personal wipes
UCHealth Park is located at 4385 Tutt Boulevard.
- Infinity Shuttle, a local transportation company, is using its shuttle vans to bring food to Sierra High School, and all of the elementary and middle schools in Harrison District 2, according to an email from owner Anthony Perez. The shuttles are also delivering food and supplies to people who can’t get to one of the schools or leave their homes.
To collect supplies for the effort, donation drives will be held between 9 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays at the following locations:
• New Life Church, 11025 Voyager Parkway
• Pulpit Rock Church, 301 Austin Bluffs Parkway
The following items will be accepted:
• Toilet paper
• Baby supplies
• Children’s cold medicine
• General toiletries
- The Air Force Academy’s North Gate will be closed to all traffic until further notice, according to a March 25 announcement.
The Academy, which has been closed to visitors since March 13, began offering remote classes and training to cadets on March 25.
- Disconnections of water service for Woodland Park customers will be suspended until further notice, the city announced in a statement. “For customers who are unable to make utility bill payments, the City is working on a case-by-case basis to provide payment options and arrange payment plans during the COVID-19 Virus pandemic,” the statement says. “It is very important for customers to maintain open communication with the Utility Billing team if they are unable to make their utility bill payments.” Woodland Park customers who need to discuss payment options and plans, or ask questions about utility bills, are asked to call 719-686-9680 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The city of Woodland Park is also waiving penalties on sales, use and lodging tax penalties for payments due March 20 or later, until Woodland Park City Council rescinds the local disaster emergency declaration for COVID-19.