- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 20, 2020

DENVER (AP) - Gov. Jared Polis and state health officials on Wednesday urged residents to celebrate the Memorial Day weekend responsibly by sticking to existing social distancing restrictions, wearing masks and staying in groups of 10 or fewer people to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

“This isn’t exactly a normal Memorial Day weekend. It’s a Memorial Day weekend in the middle of a worldwide pandemic,” Polis said. “It’s not the time for big family reunions and massive cookouts and celebrations” but about “solemnly honoring the fallen.”

Colorado has reopened campgrounds and transitioned from a stay-at-home to “safer-at-home” directive that has eased restrictions on retail businesses while urging residents to limit travel. It has flattened the growth curve of the virus and guaranteed there are enough intensive care beds at hospitals to treat the sick.

But that progress can easily be undone, said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Department of Public Health and Environment.

Colorado, Ryan said, is “a victim of our own success” in flattening that curve. “But we are not out of the woods,” she said. “The disease can easily get away from us.”



Ryan and other top health officials said Colorado’s top priorities include keeping those hospital beds open, getting students back to school in the fall, and preventing a second wave of the coronavirus during the November-to-March flu season.

The state has allowed 14 counties to adopt more liberal restrictions than state standards and is considering more requests, Ryan said. The Colorado School of Public Health estimates nearly 3% of the state’s population has had the virus, she added.

More than 1,200 people in Colorado have died because of the virus or while having it, and more than 22,000 have tested positive, the state says.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

Meanwhile, the Weld County sheriff’s office announced plans Tuesday to distance 89 inmates deemed vulnerable to COVID-19 from other inmates in the county jail following orders to do so from a federal judge.

Judge Philip Brimmer ruled earlier this month that Sheriff Steve Reams failed to take adequate measures to protect inmates and violated their Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment, the Greeley Tribune reported.

The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado on behalf of seven inmates who said they were susceptible to being infected with the coronavirus.

Medical staff screened inmates on May 13 and determined 89 were vulnerable, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Since the court ruling, the sheriff’s office has distanced newly admitted vulnerable inmates and vulnerable inmates already at the jail, enhanced sanitation measures, provided facial coverings and increased monitoring.

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