Gov. Polis declares state of emergency in face of coronavirus

Lily Wolfmeier

On Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency after the increased spread of the coronavirus in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 647 total cases of COVID-19 reported in the U.S. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 19 of those cases have been reported in Colorado, including a recent presumptive case in Larimer County.

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According to the executive order declaring the state of emergency, the state’s first priority is “protecting public health and our vulnerable populations” while “preventing the need for more drastic measures that result in social disruption.”

This order comes in the midst of other steps taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 this week. On Tuesday, Harvard moved its classes online and asked students not to return to campus after spring break. Several other universities have taken similar precautions.

Polis has taken other steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in his executive order. One such step is to encourage people who may be sick to stay home.

In the executive order, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment is directed to engage in emergency rule-making in order to ensure that workers in certain key fields will receive paid sick leave. There are also efforts taken to make sure that if state employees test positive for COVID-19 and need to be quarantined, the state can continue to function smoothly.

Further, the executive order also takes steps to ensure that employees who will be on sick leave have other ways to supplement their income. The CDLE will work to identify ways to replace the income lost during sick leave, possibly including unemployment insurance.

Other preventative steps outlined in the executive order address vulnerable populations. Under the executive order, the Department of Revenue will temporarily allow Colorado residents over 65, one of the most vulnerable groups, to renew their driver’s licenses online.

Additionally, workers who regularly interact with vulnerable populations, like older Coloradans, and those who have underlying conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19 will have access to paid sick leave.

The executive order does not solely address the concerns with paid sick leave and employment. The governor also directs the DPHE to open a drive-up lab in Denver so people who have a doctor’s note can be tested for COVID-19 starting Wednesday. This action is aimed at relieving some of the pressure on hospitals and other testing sites to treat the flood of people coming in for testing.

Lily Wolfmeier can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.