Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Friday afternoon announced plans to immediately close city-owned venues in response to the climb in coronavirus cases and the first confirmed coronavirus-related death in Colorado.
His announcement comes in the wake of Gov. Jared Polis on Friday morning banning gatherings of more than 250 people, unless those venues can ensure people are spaced six feet apart or more.
As of 5 p.m. on Friday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment identified 77 positive cases of coronavirus in Colorado. Fifteen have been confirmed in Denver.
"These are not easy decisions," Hancock said in a Friday press conference. "This is the life of our city."
All venues — including the Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater and Visitors Center, the Denver Performing Arts Complex, the Denver Coliseum, McNichols Civic Center Building and the Colorado Convention Center — will be closed until April 12.
Hancock also announced the Monday closure of Denver's public libraries as well as the city's recreation centers until further notice.
The city's escalated response marks the second such public health order in Denver's history. The first was made in October 1918 amid the influenza pandemic.
Other venues, including the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and Denver Zoo, will implement their own policies, Hancock said, and Denver City Council meetings are expected, for now, to continue as normal.
The Denver Police Department also is adjusting its response to the outbreak. Police officers will begin taking some reports and statements over the phone instead of dispatching officers to gather information.
"To be clear," Hancock said, "this change will not impact the dispatching of officers to high-priority, emergency incidents."
“It’s out of an abundance of caution that we are implementing this process, which will allow the department to continue providing high-quality service and thorough investigations while helping to minimize the potential spread of the virus,” Denver chief of police Paul Pazen said in a statement.
Law enforcement officials are encouraging the community to use its online crime reporting tool for matters involving theft, vandalism, lost property, identify theft and more.
Additionally, the Denver District Court and Denver Jury Office are making their own adjustments in response to COVID-19, including proactively rescheduling hearings, pursuing telecommunication options whenever possible, and limiting the number of people in jury assembly rooms.
When asked whether the city’s focus is on testing, containment or social distancing, Denver health department’s executive director Bob McDonald said it’s all the above.
“Our focus is on everything that will get this under control and flatten that curve of people that are going to see our medical care providers,” he said. “That’s key with this.”
Despite state health officials confirming “community spread” in Denver, which currently has 13 COVID-19 cases identified so far, Hancock encouraged the community to help, when able, the city's most vulnerable populations, including the elderly.
“During this time, this is where the humanity of all of us rises to the top and to the forefront,” he said. “This is the time to ask, ‘What can I do for you?’ ”