On Monday, three new presumptive positive cases of coronavirus were declared in Colorado, lifting the number of patients to eleven. There was also indeterminate case that was being treated as positive, according to a press release from the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment.
As the ninth case was revealed Monday morning, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced the partial activation of the Office of Emergency Management's Emergency Operations Center in response to the spreading virus.
“The purpose of the Emergency Operations Center is to bring together all the resources of the city and county of Denver as well as our partner agencies for consolidated planning, public information and operational coordination,” OEM executive director Matthew Mueller said during the Monday press conference.
The focus of the emergency operations, Mueller said, is ensuring public health and safety; promoting protective measures and interventions; managing public information and messaging; identifying economic impacts to the city business and residents; as well as maintaining the continuity of government operations to provide “critical services that everyone in the city needs.”
Two presumptive cases have been identified in Denver, according to Denver Department of Public Health & Environment executive director Bob McDonald. The cases are pending confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Both cases, McDonald said, involve Denver residents who were exposed to the novel coronavirus during international travel: a man in his 40s who traveled to Egypt, and a woman in her 70s who visited Vancouver.
At least eight people are being quarantined in Denver as of Monday, Hancock said, although none are symptomatic at this time.
The ninth case, the state reported, is a female in her 50s from Larimer County who has been diagnosed with pneumonia. CDPHE and local health agencies are working to gather more information, and contact any individuals who have had close contact with the patient.
Last week, Hancock announced the creation of a task force to coordinate among public agencies as reports of presumed positive cases roll in. The task force is led by Denver’s public health department and the OEM.
As part of the city’s additional efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Denver’s health department will issue an order on Monday for all restaurants to post public health directives on hand-washing in their dining rooms or restrooms.
Beginning last week, McDonald said his staff is conducting “thousands and thousands of visits” throughout the hospitality industry to ensure business owners are helping patrons “be proactive by reminding people immediately upon entrance to thousands of facilities to wash their hands.”
Businesses in the hospitality industry will be issued orders to keep those reminders posted until further notice, he said.
Although Hancock said he is not anticipating hand-washing signs to negatively affect local businesses, he called Denver an "entertainment city," acknowledging that the city will undoubtedly feel an impact if people avoid eating out.
“If people don’t go to restaurants because of their concerns with COVID-19, we don’t get that back. In other words, when we get over the hump, you won’t say, ‘Because I missed going to the restaurant a month ago, I’m going to double up this week.’ So that’s revenue that’s lost forever in the city of Denver," Hancock said. "We have to prepare for that as a city. We have to think about how we can get the city through this difficult time.”
In addition to city officials reinforcing the importance of hand-washing and avoiding others who may be sick, they are also working to protect the health of vulnerable populations, including people experiencing homelessness.
“We have people with their boots on the ground right now going out … trying to connect persons experiencing homelessness with the city’s many, many services, which include the shelters that are available,” McDonald said. “We're trying to get them indoors, like we always do, because that's the safest place to be.”
For people experiencing homelessness who are not in shelters, he said, the city is providing hand sanitizers and will soon be distributing a map that shows where all hand sinks are available, in both the private and public sectors.
McDonald said the city is also providing guidance to all shelter operators in terms of how they can screen people coming into the shelters and how they might be able to isolate them, as well as working to provide additional hand sinks within the shelter system.
Additionally, Denver health officials are in the process of procuring more hand sinks and identifying where gaps are across the city to install more of them.
When Hancock was asked whether the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day Parade should be canceled as a preventative measure, the mayor said it is not being canceled at this time, although he said that he and parade organizers “may very well have some evolving conversations” later this week.
“We encourage folks who are not feeling well this weekend, if you’re planning and hoping to attend St. Patrick’s Day festivities, to stay home if you’re not doing well,” Hancock said.
He noted that the city will make sure hand-washing and sanitizing stations are available during the parade.
Later this week, Hancock and other city health officials will meet with restaurateurs, hoteliers in the city, schools and hospitals to “get a better sense of where everyone is, that there is a sense of confidence.”
Most importantly is “making sure we do not panic as a community,” Hancock said. “The city is still in full operation.”