Headlines May 4, 2020

Headlines May 4, 2020

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    Headlines May 4, 2020 KGNU News

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Higher Education officials in Colorado say they need another infusion of federal funding to weather the economic downturn due to the coronavirus.

In a letter sent to the state’s congressional delegation, 20 higher education leaders including Mark Kennedy, the President of the Colorado University system, and Colorado Community College System President, Joe Garcia, are requesting $47 billion in emergency support for higher education in the U.S.

The Daily Camera reports that Congress approved $14 billion in March and the state leaders say that was an essential first step.

But now, revenues to the state are expected to take a hit next year meaning funds for higher education will be cut.  Also lower enrollment and the possibility of continued remote learning will result in less funds coming in.

In the letter, the CU system is seeking permission for state governments to use federal relief funds to offset budget cuts. Currently, they can be spent only on new expenses related to the pandemic.

The head of Naropa, Chuck Lief, said that his institution needs additional federal funding to offset the impact of the sudden switch to remote learning.

In related news, the CU Boulder Staff Council is seeking layoff and furlough protections both for staff and contract employees.

The Daily Camera reports that the Council passed a resolution last month asking campus leaders to extend the same protections that are given to the classified staff to others.

Those protections include advance notice of lay-offs, the creation of a plan to absorb a laid-off employee’s job duties, and information about how a position was chosen to be laid off.

John Kelly, a co-chair of the Staff Council, said that time and time again they have seen that the first suggestions were furloughs for some of the lowest-paid employees such as housing and dining, and those working at events and conferences.  Kelly said they did not want to see the entire budget shortfall be put on staff.

However, University leaders have not committed to most of their requests.

Heather Martin, also a Council co-chair said that she hopes high-earning administrators will consider taking more pay cuts or give up bonuses beyond the 10 percent cuts already announced.

Counties along the Front Range of Colorado received almost $560 million in direct federal aid last month.

The Denver Post reports that now county officials must decide how to distribute the money for coronavirus aid and what to spend it on.

The half a billion dollars represents aid only to the five Colorado counties with at least 500,000 people or more that was received under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act – also known as the CARES Act. The other 59 counties in the state are out of luck for now.

The funds received under the CARES Act do not include other monies such as those from Housing and Urban Development, the Paycheck Protection program or loans from the federal government to businesses.

One of the problems for cities and counties that have received the emergency appropriations is that the federal government has not told them exactly how to spend them.

Jerry DiTullio, Treasurer for Jefferson County said that the biggest problem is that the rules and regulations are constantly changing.

Denver officials expect to receive final guidance from the federal government in the next two weeks.

Representative Joe Neguse, a Democrat from Lafayette, said that Congressional Democrats are considering legislation to send as much as $1 trillion to states and local governments including small towns.

Yesterday, state officials said that Colorado’s total number of deaths from the coronavirus rose to 842 but that does not include an additional fatality from Summit County.  As of yesterday, 722 people with the disease were hospitalized in the state.

Health officials warned that possible cases will begin to rise again as restrictions are relaxed.

Outside of the Denver metro area some businesses will be reopening on a limited basis as Governor Jared Polis’s safer-at-home phase kicks in.

Offices can reopen today, again outside the metro area, with a 50 percent reduction in staff. Child care facilities can also reopen if they are following best practices.

Businesses are still encouraged to allow employees to continue telecommuting.

The relaxed measures do not apply to Denver, Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Gilpin and Jefferson counties where stay-at-home orders are in place until May 8.

More people in Colorado have died from COVID-19 in less than two months than have died from influenza in any of the recent flu seasons.

The Denver Post reports that flu seasons are much longer, lasting almost two-thirds of the year as opposed to the two months of the coronavirus.

The number of fatalities from COVID-19 is currently the equivalent of 14 per day — four to five times higher than the average daily deaths in any of the last four flu seasons. More than twice as many people are hospitalized on average per day for COVID-19 than were with flu.

Glen Mays of the Colorado School of Public Health said that, while it is difficult to compare data directly, it’s clear the new virus is more contagious and more deadly than seasonal flu.

 

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Beginning May 9, every person older than 12 years of age will be required to wear a face covering when in public anywhere in Boulder County, where social distancing of 6 feet cannot be maintained.

Today’s announcement comes after a Public Health “Facial Covering” Order was approved over the weekend by the Boulder County Board of Health.

May 9th is the day after the county’s stay at home order expires. Boulder County follows a similar ordinance approved last week by Boulder City Council.

Boulder County’s order includes some exemptions, including people working alone in an office, anyone whose health would be negatively impacted by wearing a face covering, and children aged 12 years and younger.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock will not extend the stay at home order for the city that is due to expire this Friday.

The Denver Post reports that the city will instead slowly begin to relax restrictions that have been in place for over a month.

Residents of Denver will also have to wear facial coverings in public starting this Wednesday, May 6th.

Residents and employees will be required to wear face coverings while inside of, or waiting in line to enter, certain businesses, facilities or locations.

These include any retail or commercial business, at a bus stop or facilities offering health care services.

Other parts of Colorado without local extensions to the stay at home order entered the next step in the Safer at Home phase today. Starting today, offices can reopen at 50% reduced in-person staffing and child care facilities can also expand or reopen if they are following best practices.

Starting this morning, Clinica Family Health is offering COVID-19 testing to symptomatic members of the general public, not just Clinica patients. The testing site is located at 1735. S. Public Road in Lafayette. Tests are available Monday through Friday, 9am to noon. No appointment is needed. Testing is available to anyone currently experiencing coronavirus-type symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath) and who meets the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) criteria for testing: including health care workers with flu-like symptoms, those over 65 with symptoms and those with underlying conditions who have symptoms. More information is available at clinica.org

The Colorado legislature will NOT hear a bill that would have provided a type of public-option health insurance program in the state. The sponsors of the measure announced today that they were withdrawing the bill because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The move to withdraw the bill comes at a time when tens of thousands of Coloradoans have lost health insurance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also comes just days after another bill was withdrawn by Democrats. The Family Leave Bill was also withdrawn at a time when tens of thousands of workers in the state are grappling with little to no paid sick leave amidst the pandemic.

In an op-ed published today in the Denver Post, the sponsors of the bill that would have brought forward a Colorado Health Care Option said that their decision to withdraw the measure during the pandemic is “… an unwelcome coincidence that saw the very people struggling to afford health care be the first ones hit by a life-threatening health care pandemic.”


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