Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Thursday announced a new committee intended to ensure the city’s most vulnerable populations receive the care they need as the threat of the coronavirus lingers for the foreseeable future.
The committee's approach is focused on a three-phased strategy: identifying emergency basic needs, ensuring that community needs and available resources are “efficiently combined” through 2020, and restoring the city’s benefits and services “climate” to pre-pandemic operations over a two-year period.
Under the leadership of Hancock’s deputy chief of staff, Erin Brown, the mayor set up a social safety net team that will “help ensure the community’s connection to available resources and benefits, and maintain stability for these families,” Hancock said during a Thursday press conference.
“The team will have a foundation of providing equity to keep us focused on changing needs for our vulnerable and underserved communities,” he said, with “everything from housing, health, food, economic stability and security to caregiving and youth services. Our goal here is to shore up access to these supportive services so these families don't fall further behind.”
Hancock said support services for residents in need are especially important right now, because the COVID-19 crisis “has created an economic crisis.”
The social safety net committee is made up of city agencies, community partners, nonprofit partners, community advocates and health care professionals “to really help us think about what are the most important things that families need to make it at this time,” said Brown, who answered questions at the press conference.
Hancock also announced that the city’s mobile testing vehicle, dubbed “Wellness Winnie,” is now in motion to provide COVID-19 testing for anyone who can’t easily access it. A doctor’s note is no longer needed to be eligible for a test, which will consist of a nasal swab.
Personal identification is also not required, but a person's name and date of birth will be requested for record-keeping, and to confirm a person’s results, which will be returned within 24 hours. Testing appointments can be made by calling 3-1-1.
The city has also boosted its contact tracing capacity, with nearly 100 police department and city employees trained and redeployed to the city’s public health department, where they will collect contact tracing data for residents who have tested positive for the virus.
“While staff members will confirm the call recipient’s name and date of birth and will ask about symptoms, they will not request any form of payment or personal information related to income, social security numbers or family members,” the city said in a statement. “Residents are encouraged to answer their phones and respond to the questions asked. The contact tracing staff’s primary goal is to provide guidance on how residents, their families, and communities can stay safe.”
In other updates given during Thursday's press conference, farmers’ markets will be allowed to open as of this Saturday, but they will be required to operate “in a manner that prioritizes public health and safety, including implementing physical distancing and enhanced hygiene practices.”