Editor's note: This page will be updated frequently but may not contain the latest information. Please refer to the sources listed throughout and at the end of the article for the latest updates on the outbreak.
As of May 18, 2020, Colorado has more than 21,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, with more than 875 deaths. Social distancing is advised to prevent further community spread. On April 21, after nearly four weeks under a statewide stay-at-home order, a flattening curve in the rate of the virus's spread allowed Governor Jared Polis to announce that a gradual reopening of many Colorado businesses would begin April 27, with industry-specific precautions. The city of Denver announced a different timeline when Mayor Michael Hancock extended his "stay-at-home" order for the city's 600,000+ residents to May 8. Polis had declared a state of emergency, still in effect, on March 10.
On March 5, 2020, state officials announced the first case of COVID-19 in Colorado. Six days later, as the virus continued to spread worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a pandemic, a designation reserved for global outbreaks of new diseases. The virus has a two- to fourteen-day incubation period, meaning infected persons will not show symptoms until between two days and two weeks after exposure. In Colorado, cases are heavily concentrated in urban counties, especially Denver, although rural resort and agricultural counties, such as Eagle and Weld counties, have also seen large outbreaks. The pandemic has deeply affected the state’s economy, with hundreds of thousands of unemployment claims submitted to the Colorado Department of Labor and Environment.
Recommendations and Testing
To prevent the community spread of the virus, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) urges everyone, even healthy people to practice proper and frequent handwashing, and to stay home (self-quarantine) as much as possible. Individuals who are infected but asymptomatic can transmit the virus to more vulnerable populations, including the elderly and those with chronic health conditions. If you believe you may have symptoms of COVID-19, the Colorado Department of Health & Environment has a set of instructions on its website.
In the first few days of the outbreak, Colorado was only able to test 250 people per day, but testing has since expanded to accommodate more than 100,000 tests. On March 19, 2020, San Miguel County became the first county in the United States to announce test availability for all of its residents, thanks to funding from United Biomedical, whose owners have a house in Telluride. On March 23, Aytu Bioscience, Inc., of Centennial, Colorado, announced FDA approval of a new rapid test for the virus for distribution to healthcare professionals across the country.
On May 19, Polis announced that the state now had sufficient capacity to test anyone with symptoms.
Discovered in the 1960s, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that include the common cold as well as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a coronavirus that killed 770 people worldwide in 2002–03. Coronaviruses infect humans as well as animals, such as bats and cattle. On January 7, 2020, Chinese officials first detected COVID-19 while investigating a cluster of pneumonia cases in China’s Wuhan province. The coronavirus responsible for the current outbreak was previously known to infect only bats. It is believed to have been transmitted to humans from a live-animal market in Wuhan province. The virus quickly raced through Chinese populations, infecting some 550 people and killing 17 by January 22.
On January 19, 2020, providers at a clinic in Snohomish County, Washington, identified the first COVID-19 case in the United States. The thirty-five-year-old man said he had recently returned from visiting family in Wuhan, China. The man was hospitalized with symptoms including cough, fever, nausea, and vomiting, but made a full recovery after twelve days.
The new coronavirus came to Colorado via a traveler who visited Italy, one of the hardest-hit nations during the pandemic. A man in his thirties arrived at Denver International Airport on February 29, then rented a car and drove to a condo at Keystone Resort in Summit County. The man, who is not a resident of the state, developed a respiratory illness and went to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco, where he became the first person in Colorado to be diagnosed with COVID-19. As cases continued to spread throughout Colorado’s heavily trafficked ski areas, many of the resorts decided to close their doors, sending economic shockwaves through ski resort communities.
Symptoms and Vulnerable Populations
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever and dry cough, but other cold or flu-like symptoms may occur as well, including nausea, vomiting, and loss of taste or smell. Many patients also report shortness of breath. As of April 19, 2020, the CDC states that the "United States nationally is in the acceleration phase of the pandemic," the fourth of six phases the institution has identified for a pandemic. The most vulnerable populations are older adults (with risk increasing by age) and those with underlying conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, or lung disease, as well as immunocompromised individuals, such as those with cancers or other debilitating illnesses that affect their immune system’s ability to fend off infection. While healthy adults are not likely to die from COVID-19, data from the CDC on March 19 showed that people aged 20-55 represent 38 percent of hospitalized patients in the US. Of the first 4,226 cases in the United States, 20 percent of those hospitalized were between the ages of 20 to 44.
The most reliable information on the coronavirus outbreak comes from the CDC as well as the Colorado Department of Health & Environment. Reliable media sources include Colorado Public Radio (CPR), which maintains an updated list of frequently asked questions about the disease and its impact on local communities. The Colorado Sun features a live-updated map of documented cases.