Gov. Jared Polis, in a first-ever Sunday news conference, ordered non-essential businesses to reduce their on-site workforce by 50% by Tuesday, stopping just short of ordering a full-scale "stay at home" order.
He also said the state is short 7,000 ventilators to deal with those who become seriously ill with the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
The number of cases of COVID-19 in Colorado grew by more than 100 in the past 24 hours, to 591, with 58 people hospitalized. Seven people have so far died of the virus. Five residential and non-hospital health care facilities now have active cases, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The jump in the number of cases is the single largest-day increase since the first two cases were announced on March 5.
As of Sunday, more than 5,400 people have been tested.
At least eight states have now issued "shelter in place" or "stay at home" orders: Ohio, New York, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Connecticut, Oregon and New Jersey. Pennsylvania has ordered the closing of non-essential businesses, but that order is not a "stay at home" order.
Polis said Sunday that Colorado now has a critical shortage of medical supplies, including ventilators. The state is short 7,000 ventilators, Polis said, and he asked people to donate personal protective equipment to HelpColoradoNow.org, to the CDPHE or to local health departments. He said the donations are necessary because the state has received so little from the national stockpile. Polis also saluted the bipartisan effort by state lawmakers over the weekend to gather medical supply donations, including PPEs. The drive was led by House Majority Leader Alec Garnett of Denver and House Minority Leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock.
As to the executive order, Polis said state employees will serve as role models. On Monday, 50% of state employees will work from home, excluding those who work in 24-hour facilities, such as prison guards and youth corrections employees, he said. The order provides exceptions for employers who can prove their employees are spaced six feet apart, health care operations; critical retail, manufacturing and services; the news media, financial institutions and others that provide essential services.
Critical infrastructure employers include utilities, fuel supply and transmission, public water, telecommunications, transportation, hotels, organizations that provide services to disadvantaged people and those in the food supply chain. Critical manufacturing includes those who produce food, beverages, chemicals, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and sanitary products. Critical retail includes grocery and liquor stores, farms, gas stations, restaurants and bars for takeout or delivery, medical marijuana dispensaries, recreational/retail marijuana but only for curbside service; and hardware stores. Critical services includes trash and recycling, shipping, laundromats, child care, building cleaning and maintenance, auto supply and repair, warehouses and distribution, funeral homes, crematoriums, and animals shelters and rescue.
Polis said there isn't an enforcement authority over that order, but said the enforcement should come from the greatest authority of all, the Grim Reaper. The order issued Sunday says that employers should allow telecommuting as much as possible. If that isn't doable, employers should stagger work shifts.
With the latest announcement, Polis has ordered the closure of dine-in restaurants and bars, gyms, theaters, nail and hair salons, spas and casinos. Restaurants and bars can continue to operate drive-through, take-out and delivery food services. He also extended the closure order for downhill ski resorts and that K-12 schools to move to online learning.
He announced the development of an innovation team on Sunday, led by Brad Feld, co-founder of the technology accelerator TechStars. This adds to his announcement Friday of a team of experts designed to find solutions to help businesses and others affected by COVID-19 get back on their economic feet once the crisis is over.
Polis ordered Colorado into a state of emergency on March 10.