DENVER (AP) — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is suspending elective and non-essential surgeries to preserve medical equipment like ventilators and face masks that will be needed to treat patients with the coronavirus, which has killed at least four people in the state.
The state is looking at all possible solutions and resources “to reduce the severity and duration of the crisis,” Polis said Thursday. “Together, we will get through this.”
Rural and critical access hospitals are exempted from the order, which will take effect Monday and continue until April 14. It includes procedures that can be delayed without risking the patient’s health.
The order came as health officials reported the fourth death from coronavirus in the state.
The Otero County Health Department said Thursday the latest death was an elderly resident in neighboring Crowley County who had multiple chronic medical conditions.
Three other elderly Colorado residents — two from El Paso County and one from Weld County — also have died. Health officials have declined to release more information about the deaths, only that the two who lived in El Paso County had been in contact.
There are 277 people who have tested positive for the virus statewide, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.
Health officials are prioritizing testing for health care workers and elderly people who have other conditions that could put them at risk.
“There's obviously a great need, a great demand for testing that is struggling to be met across the country," said Scott Bookman, incident commander for Colorado's public health response to the virus.
He said the state is doing targeted testing for “epidemiological surveillance" in some communities where there is not enough information to understand the spread of the disease. He did not rule out ordering a near lockdown for certain communities or for the entire state.
“We are continuing to evaluate what the best strategy is statewide, and we will issue guidance and orders around those areas we deem to be the best for the public health and safety," Bookman said.
The state has closed restaurants and bars except for takeout and delivery and is suspending in-person classes at all schools starting Monday.
San Miguel County officials issued a shelter-in-place order Thursday, allowing residents to leave their homes only for “essential activities" like visiting a doctor or buying groceries. It also allows for outdoor activity as long as people practice social distancing.
No one has tested positive for the coronavirus in the southwest Colorado county, which includes the popular ski destination Telluride, but the order said failing to comply with the restrictions “constitutes an imminent threat and creates an immediate menace to public health."