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 pandemic.
As of August 1, 2020, Colorado has more than 47,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with more than 1,700 deaths due to the respiratory disease. Although social distancing and mask-wearing have helped flatten Colorado's rate of infection, a slight uptick in recorded cases at the end of June led officials to urge Coloradans to continue these practices to prevent further community spread.
State officials announced the first case of COVID-19 in Colorado on March 5, 2020. 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, which is a novel form of coronavirus, 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 and its suburbs. 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 June 2, officials announced that anyone with symptoms could get tested at the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver. As of July 1, the state had tested more than 337,000 people, and its testing capacity increased to more than 5,000 per day. The following week, officials had to close the facility early due to overwhelming demand on labs, which they feared would cause a delay in getting results out to those tested. By late July, those who got tested still had to wait several days - in many cases, up to eight or more - to get results. Meanwhile, scientists at the University of Colorado began testing a faster, saliva-based test for broader community application.
COVID-19 is caused by a novel coronavirus. 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.
Coloradans spent nearly four weeks under a statewide stay-at-home order, until a flattening curve in the rate of infection allowed Governor Jared Polis to announce a gradual reopening of the state on April 21.
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. 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. Although rare, severe cases in healthy adults can also result in hospitalization and death.
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.