Invoking themes of redemption and new beginnings, Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday urged Coloradans to avoid large gatherings as they celebrate the upcoming Passover, Easter and Ramadan holidays — just hours before state health officials announced 14 more deaths related to the novel coronavirus.
At least 1,162 people now have been hospitalized with COVID-19, the highly infectious respiratory illness causes by the virus, with total positive cases across Colorado exceeding 5,600. There have also now been 48 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities.
Colorado has confirmed 193 deaths from complications of the new coronavirus, including the state’s first person in their 20s to die of the disease. That comes the same day Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction announced one of its students, 21-year-old Cody Lyster, died from the virus.
The state health department announces daily totals of new coronavirus deaths based on what’s reported up from Colorado’s counties; though the deaths may be announced on a particular day, they may have occurred any time in the past and are just now being reported to the state.
Lyster played club baseball and was pursuing a degree in criminal justice, CMU President Tim Foster wrote in a letter to families. He died in Arapahoe County, where he had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, Mesa County Public Health said in a news release.
“The professors, friends and teammates of Cody Lyster will miss him dearly,” Foster wrote. “It is a sober reminder that we must do all that is in our power to stop the virus from unnecessarily impacting more Mavericks.”
While the death toll continues to rise, Polis expressed cautious optimism that if people practice strong social distancing, a version closer to normal life can return April 26 when the stay-at-home order is set to expire. He cited a slowing in the viruses’s spread over the past few days, with 226 new cases announced Wednesday totaling roughly half of the state’s peak one-day total from only six days ago.
But as the holidays near, people need to find new ways to practice their traditions away from others to continue this progress, Polis said.
“We hope spiritual fulfillment will be there for all of us,” Polis said at a news conference. “Even if traditions need to be adjusted, there is a real danger of this virus to congregants.”
This next week is critical for health experts to see the effects of the governor’s stay-at-home mandate, he said, which will give a better indication if Colorado is on the right track to meet the April 26 date for reopening some businesses. Polis would not delve deeply into the specifics of what would be needed for people to begin to return to a semblance of normal life, only that the state still needs more testing capabilities and will look at the number of hospitalizations and people on ventilators.
He expressed gratitude to the more than 5,000 people who have donated to the state’s COVID-19 relief fund, which has raised nearly $10 million, as well the 10,000 volunteers who have offered their services during the pandemic.
State and national experts have debated when Colorado’s peak will hit, with the Colorado Hospital Association on Tuesday pushing back on a prominent national model that predicts the coronavirus outbreak in the state has peaked and the state has no shortage of ICU beds.
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