Headlines May 27, 2020

Headlines May 27, 2020

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    Headlines May 27, 2020 KGNU News

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The Rocky Mountain National Park is reopening today having been closed in March to prevent community spread of the coronavirus.

In March the Mayor of Estes Park wrote to the Secretary of the Interior requesting that the park close temporarily to protect the town from an influx of visitors and the possibility of community spread of the coronavirus. Travis Machalek, the Town Administrator for Estes Park says that in the intervening months a lot of work has been done at a state and county level so town officials are confident in things beginning to reopen.

“Certainly it’s a balance, as the park reopens we need to balance how the town operates safely,” said Machalek.

Restaurants around the state are beginning to reopen today under strict regulations. They can only operate at a maximum of 50 percent capacity but with no more than 50 patrons inside, and tables spaced six feet apart.

Following an announcement from Governor Jared Polis on Monday, Boulder issued an emergency order yesterday to get the ball rolling. Assistant City Manager Yvette Bowden explained the process to councilmembers on Monday evening.

“The city has waived administration fees, as you suggested,” said Bowden. The city has also waived the minimum parking requirement for retailers across the city.

Bowden says the new rules allow temporary outdoor seating areas on public and private property. That means Pearl Street between 9th and 11th, plus part of an adjacent alley on 10th Street north of Pearl will be closed to traffic as will the street used for events on University Hill.

The city hosted a webinar about the process Tuesday, now posted at the city’s website for businesses that missed it. It includes a streamlined process for the city to review applications from restaurants that want to participate with the goal of a three-day turnaround. That means some restaurants could be up and running by the weekend.

Contaminated water from the Suncor refinery north of Denver has been flowing into the South Platte River and Sand Creek. The Denver Post reports that a sheen of benzene and other chemicals first surfaced on Sand Creek on May 7.

In a message on the company’s Facebook page today, Suncor says it has been working to bolster the containment area from which the contaminated water is leaking. The company message said that the significant rain on Sunday, May 24 created higher water levels and increased flow in Sand Creek, and as a result, water breached the containment area.

The petroleum refinery in Commerce City has been criticized over the years for water and air pollution. In March it was subject to a $9 million settlement to resolve air pollution violations. That represented the largest payment over air quality violations that Colorado has ever required for one facility.

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State officials are saying that, although recent data shows the curve of infections from coronavirus has flattened, cases could rise around mid-August, when schools usually re-open.

Colorado Politics reports that health officials and a University of Colorado researcher said Tuesday that an estimated 170,000 Coloradans — both symptomatic and asymptomatic — have had COVID-19, or nearly 3% of the population.

The number of new tracked cases has been on the decline since late April, and cell phone data show Coloradans shifted to “stay-at-home” behaviors in March and April, which the researchers credit for reducing the spread of the virus.

Dr. Jon Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health said the state achieved approximately 80 percent social distancing during the governor’s stay-at-home order, and now the state is aiming for 65% social distancing during the current Safer-at-Home phase.

Even in best-case scenarios, the number of coronavirus cases and deaths will remain relatively level for months to come.

Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the executive director of the state department of health said that the data indicates that we’re still at the beginning of the epidemic.

The Colorado Legislature reconvened yesterday after pausing its session since March 14 due to the pandemic.

The Denver Post reports that the capitol building has been retrofitted with plexiglass partitions, signs that urge physical spacing, and a lot of hand sanitizer. The halls were uncharacteristically empty.

But lawmakers still had a lot on their agenda. One major new initiative may lead to the repeal the Gallagher Amendment to the state constitution. Some leaders said they have broad support to do that, but voters will have to approve the measure on the November ballot if the legislature passes the measure. The Gallagher amendment was meant to limit property taxes but has squeezed revenues and services at firehouses, schools and police departments across the state.

A different proposal that would require insurers to cover annual mental health wellness exams is being opposed by Governor Jared Polis despite bipartisan support. Polis wrote a letter last month saying he wouldn’t sign any more bills with insurance mandates after signing a bill to require insurers to cover infertility treatments.

Supporters of the proposal are concerned that Polis’s opposition could kill the bill at a time they see it as more important during the pandemic with people reporting high levels of anxiety, substance use and mental health problems.

The Colorado Department of Education released new guidance Tuesday to help school districts prepare to reopen for the fall semester, but officials stopped short of confirming that in-person classes will happen.

The Denver Post reports that the new guidelines cover a range of issues.  Schools may include remote learning, staggering student schedules, and conducting health screenings so students and staff can safely attend.

Both public and private schools will be required to follow health and safety precautions spelled out through Gov. Jared Polis’s executive orders. Those include requiring educators to wear face masks.

Dr. Katy Anthes, Colorado’s commissioner of education said the guidelines are subject to change should the circumstances around COVID-19 change.

The University of Colorado at Boulder released guidelines for the fall semester that begins August 24.

There will still be on-campus housing and in-person classes, but with new formats and guidelines to limit the risk of spreading COVID-19. Students will enroll in a mix of in-person, online and hybrid courses next semester.

All classes will move online starting with the Thanksgiving break.

Students who travel home for the holiday can stay there for the last two weeks of the semester, reducing the risk of transmitting COVID-19 between communities.

The Daily Camera reports that other new policies include mandatory safety training for everyone on campus, required wearing of face masks, and ramped-up coronavirus testing and contact tracing programs.

The university will change its code of conduct to require students to follow COVID-19 rules and public health orders, although sanctions for violations have yet to be determined.

Incoming first-year students will be required to take a course focusing on the epidemiology of COVID-19, mental health awareness, and student behavior expectations.

Beginning today, restaurants in the state can reopen after Governor Polis announced guidelines over the weekend. Establishments are allowed to operate at a maximum of 50 percent capacity but with no more than 50 patrons inside, and tables spaced six feet apart. Only parties of eight or less will be permitted.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is also allowing restaurants to reopen in his city, requiring employees to wear masks as well as diners except when eating or drinking.

A spokesperson for the Colorado Restaurant Association told the Denver Post that reactions from owners to the new guidelines was mixed. She said that while many are desperate to reopen, some will need more than two days to ramp up, order supplies, and hire back staff.

Others will likely not open their dining spaces at all due to the limits on the number of people they can allow inside.

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