As of April 16, COVID-19 cases in Colorado had risen to 9,047, and 1,755 people had been hospitalized.
Statewide, the death toll reached 391, and 43,307 people have been tested for the disease.
In El Paso County, the case count reached 708, and 49 people have died.
Gov. Jared Polis took additional steps Friday to stem the spread of the disease, issuing an executive order mandating that workers in critical businesses like grocery stores wear a facial covering such as a medical or cloth mask at all times while they’re working.
“Hopefully you’ve been seeing that already at your grocery stores,” Polis said during a press conference, “but we’re requiring that going forward. The more people wear masks at these critical places, the more lives will be saved and the sooner we can get the economy growing again.”
Polis asked that people continue to wear masks when they go to grocery stores or whenever they’re in proximity to other people.
He also talked about new procedures that will apply to residential facilities such as senior living communities and nursing homes. As of Thursday, 100 outbreaks of COVID-19 had occurred in these facilities.
Polis said care facilities will be required to develop a detailed isolation plan and submit it to the Colorado Department of Health by May 1.
“We want to make sure every health care facility has in place a plan where if somebody is showing symptoms of COVID-19,” they have a process for making sure the disease isn’t transmitted to other residents, he said.
The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment announced today that it will begin taking applications on Monday, April 20, for unemployment benefits for self-employed workers and others who are not normally eligible for unemployment.
Under the CARES Act, self-employed and gig workers will be able to apply online for unemployment benefits for the first time.
Additionally, the department said anyone who became unemployed directly due to COVID-19 and is already receiving unemployment benefits or will be approved for benefits, will receive an additional $600 per week without having to reapply. That $600 will be taxable, reportable income.
“Colorado’s Unemployment Insurance program — like all UI programs across the country — has been under unprecedented strain for the last month,” said Joe Barela, executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, during a press conference announcing new benefit rollouts that include unemployment to self-employed and independent contractors.
“On Monday we will be able to begin accepting applications for these new worker groups who previously were not eligible for regular unemployment, while we will also begin paying the extra $600 benefit provided under the CARES Act,” Barela said.
The department stood up a new online application system to begin taking these claims, Barela said. Colorado will be among the first group of states to accept applications and pay benefits.
“We don’t know what the volume will look like into our new system because not only do we not know how many gig workers are out there, we don’t know how many of them will apply for unemployment,” he said. “But we have expanded tools and on Monday will have systems in place to begin taking these applications and provide other resources.”
New claims that fall under one of the new allowed situations for unemployment will be taken through a new system. Claimants will submit claims, manage their benefits and request payment through this new online system.
This includes gig workers, independent contractors, self-employed and those who are out of work because of specified reasons directly related to COVID-19, including caring for a child whose school is closed or someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
Regular unemployment benefits will continue to be processed through the existing systems; anyone currently on unemployment does not need to take any action.
The CARES Act provides an additional $600 of unemployment benefits per week on top of a claimant’s weekly unemployment benefit. This additional benefit, known as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation or FPUC, does not require a claimant to take any action, is retroactive to March 29 and will begin hitting active claimants’ accounts as soon as next week for weeks of unemployment prior to April 15.
“We are working as quickly as we can to get these benefits into the hands of people who are in need during these unpredictable and unprecedented times,” Barela said.
The department also announced a new call center to take these new claims and a Virtual Town Hall to answer claimant questions.
A new 80-person remote call center will go live April 20 to help manage claimant questions and overflow from the existing call center by addressing questions directly related to CARES Act benefits.
More information about the unemployment programs can be found at Colorado.gov/unemployment.
Local shares of federal supplies: UCHealth Memorial Central hospital received just five ventilators from a shipment of 100 distributed statewide Thursday.
The majority of the Vyaire LTV 1200 model ventilators went to four hospitals in Denver. Memorial Central and hospitals in Grand Junction, Durango and Alamosa received five each, while two hospitals in Greeley each received five ventilators and Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo received 10 ventilators.
The ventilators were allocated to Colorado through the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and the Strategic National Stockpile.
The state of Colorado had requested 1,000 ventilators, a number that was later scaled down to 500. Those were not received. President Trump tweeted last week that the federal government was sending 100 ventilators “at the request of Senator [Cory] Gardner.”
According to a release from the state Emergency Operations Center, the ventilators were distributed to 11 hospitals initially but will be moved based on current needs. At the end of the pandemic, the ventilators will be returned to the state and eventually to the SNS.
Catholic Charities has been notified that it will receive a large shipment of critical baby items including diapers, formula and wipes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The delivery will be sent to the charity through the Colorado Department of Human Services’ Office of Early Childhood, Once the shipment is received, Catholic Charities will immediately begin distributing the items directly to families in El Paso and Douglas counties.
Families needing help should use the online emergency order form on the organization’s website.
Catholic Charities will share the items with partner agencies of the Early Childhood Council, including The Alliance for Kids, CPCD, and emergency child care centers.
No date has been set for the delivery but it could arrive as early as next week, according to a release from Catholic Charities.
“This delivery is a blessing as many of our clients and other families in need have had difficulty finding critical baby needs in stores during this pandemic,” said Kathy Thayer, vice president of Catholic Charities Family Services.
Soup for the soul: Pikes Peak United Way, the Pikes Peak Community Foundation and several other organizations and donors have teamed up to create a food bridge from local restaurants to people in the community who are in need of nutritious meals.
As of April 16, the Restaurateurs Who Care Fund has dedicated $17,500 to serve soup to families during the regularly scheduled food distribution 1-4:30 p.m. April 23 at Mitchell High School, 1205 Potter Drive. Participating restaurants are Jun’s Japanese Restaurant, Paravacini’s, Edelweiss German Restaurant, Motif, Sacred Grounds and Slinger’s Smokehouse & Saloon.
The fund was established April 6 to support delivery of nutritious foods to people in need as well as to bring revenue to independently owned restaurants and add to the cultural landscape of Colorado Springs.
“Food has been one of the top requests into our 2-1-1 line,” said Cindy Aubrey, president and CEO of Pikes Peak United Way. “This new partnership will support families and local restaurants. Pikes Peak United Way is uniquely positioned to distribute the funds and the soup. We’re grateful to everyone for stepping up to make this happen so quickly.”
Pikes Peak United Way and Care and Share Food Bank distribute fresh produce and canned goods to families in need every other Thursday at Mitchell High School.
Among the founders, partners and collaborators associated with the new fund are Jeff Cooper, The Rickard Petritz Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Woodford, The Dakota Foundation, How2Hospitality and Infinity Shuttle.
Grant applications: El Paso County Economic Development will begin accepting applications on April 20 for its Pikes Peak Enterprise Zone (EZ) Small Business Relief Fund.
The community based, grant-funded program provides financial assistance to small businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19 in the Pikes Peak Enterprise Zone. Unlike loans, small businesses awarded this grant won’t have to pay it back. They can use the funding for essential needs such as rent or mortgage assistance, utility payments, employee payroll and payment of fixed debts.
The deadline for applying for grants of up to $7,500 is May 1.
Find more information about the grants and how to apply or donate here.
‘We’re working’ logo: The Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado is offering accredited small businesses the opportunity to have a “COVID-19: We’re Working!” logo posted next to their BBB profile on the BBB.org website.
“Now that we are adding this logo to business profiles, consumers will know which businesses are open and who they can trust to conduct business with during this unprecedented time,” CEO Jonathan Liebert said.
To have the logo added, reach out to the BBB at 719-636-1155.
Flyovers: The Air Force Thunderbirds will be showing their support and appreciation for health care workers, first responders, military members and other essential personnel with a series of community flyovers following the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation Saturday, April 18.
The Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC is encouraging community members to show their support for the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Class of 2020 by displaying an American flag in their front yards through Saturday and taking selfies with it.
The photos can be shared on social media using the hashtag #USAFAGrad2020, along with a congratulatory message to help the cadets celebrate their big day. Handles for social media include @USAFA.Official and @ColoradoSpringsChamberEDC for Facebook; @USAFA.Official and @ColoradoSpringsChamberEDC for Twitter; and @af_academy for Instagram.