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Full Transcript of Governor Polis's Address:
Welcome everyone I want to introduce Lieutenant Governor Diane Primavera, Jill Hunsaker Ryan the head of CDPHE, Joe Borella from the Department of Labor and Employment Dr. Richard Hurley, he our state communicable disease epidemiologist Scott Bookman who is our incident commander for Covid 19 coronavirus Mike Willis the director of emergency operations and Sandhill Key the executive director of Department of Public.
Safety. Before I begin, I really want to thank everyone on our team at the state who's been.Involved with the containment effort at county health departments at hospitals for their tireless work to keep the people of Colorado safe. And I'm not just talking about the people behind me. I'm talking about public health officials medical professionals, all those who are on the front lines across our state as we face this crisis.
As you know, my team has been preparing for this situation for months Last Thursday, we announced the first positive case of novel coronavirus also known as co-ed 19 in the state of Colorado. As of this morning, we've confirmed 15.Positive cases in the state and another indeterminate case that we're treating as a positive.
In addition to the cases announced yesterday this morning, we have three more confirmed positives one of the cases in Eagle County that is the third case in the area and yesterday we sent personal protective equipment including mass for our healthcare workers from the states stockpile of over 600,000 m95 mass to Eagle County.
Another case confirm positive this morning is in Arapahoe. County the second case of the area. The third is in Gunnison County.The first case in the area we fully anticipate that in the coming days, especially as we work hard to increase our testing capacity that there will be more confirmed cases.
And we'll get we're going to get through this together, but the actions that we take in the next few days and weeks will really determine the trajectory of corona virus in Colorado. I've consulted extensively with public health officials and studied the response in other nations what's worked and what hasn't worked successful efforts to contain corona virus like inTaiwan and failures like in Italy.
And I'm basing our approach here in Colorado on what has been shown to work. Today in order to contain the spread of the corona virus to protect our most vulnerable populations and to maximize our chances of avoiding widespread disruptions the daily lives of Coloradoans and our economy and declaring a state of emergency here in Colorado.
Now, you might ask why this declaration? What it does is it gives us access to resources and more legal flexibility to take steps now to protect the most vulnerable and better contain the outbreak. Truly reducing the chances of the trajectory that has occurred in countries like Italy from occurring here in Colorado.
With this declaration we're also taking immediate action as well as action scheduled in the coming days and weeks to protect the public health with a focus on the most vulnerable populations. That means people over 60 as well as those who are amino compromised. I want to walk you through the steps we're taking and why we're taking them.
First are one of our top priorities we're working hard to expand testing capacity in Colorado so that eventually we can reach the point the sooner the better where anybody exhibiting flu-like symptoms can promptly get tested. We need more testing.Because the sooner that we can identify positive cases and hot spots regardless of the severity of the illness for any one individual the more effectively we can isolate those who test positive and we can limit and slow the spread of the virus in Colorado.
In addition to making more tests available, we know that people are more likely to get tested if they know they won't be penalized financially for exhibiting symptoms of the virus. That's why yesterday my department of insurance instructed insurers across the state to waive costs and fees associated with providing the test thatAlso applies to state employees As you know one of my most important goals as governor along with lieutenant governor Diane Primavera who's joined me here today has been to create a system where healthcare costs are not a barrier to people getting the care that they need.
Now, that's that's always true. It's always important but it's especially true when facing a public health crisis like corona virus. We don't want red tape to get in the way of people getting the test or the treatment that they need. That's why I'm proud to announce.It's starting tomorrow the Department of Public Health and Environment will be opening a drive-up lab for testing at our facility in Lowry to test anyone who has a note from their doctor stating that they need testing.
Let me repeat because this is important. You still need to doctor's order to get tested at our drive up lab at 8100 East Lowery Boulevard in Denver. So, don't don't go there. You need a doctor's order to get that test. And again, many of the doctors want to keep potential corona virus cases out of their practices.
That's why we are setting up starting to.Tomorrow This first drive through that will allow for testing. Now, let me be clear we will only be doing testing starting tomorrow at the Lowry facility not the CDP CDPHE Glendale facility. Don't go to the Glendale facility go to the Lowery Facility with a doctor's order to get tested.
Now, I'm focusing my efforts in the coming days as I have in the last few days of preparing additional safe testing locations that we will be announcing in the coming days, especially prioritizing standing up a testing facility in the high country by the end of this week.To prevent spread in our mountain communities and detect those who might have been exposed.
We also want to encourage the use of telemedicine as a tool Kaiser Permanente is the capability to have doctors screen folks virtually and provide a diagnosis allowing those exhibiting symptoms to get tested. I also want to encourage the continued important work at children's and you see health to develop deploy and scale effective local testing.
Now in terms of test kits the state currently has about 900 test kits and we're expecting many more from the CDC last night. I spoke one-on-one with Vice President Pence.And in that conversation, which lasted about 20 minutes, I stress the need for exponentially more testing in Colorado. We really need to significant significantly increase our capacity and I made a direct appeal for more test kits to be released to Colorado Vice President.
Hence quickly put me in touch with the head of the CDC Dr. Robert Redfield who I also spoke to last night Dr. Redfield made a commitment to me to fulfill Colorado's requests for 1500 additional test kits this week.Dr Redfield based on our conversation called me back later yesterday evening and conference in the CEO of LabCorp, which shared with me the good news that as of today LabCorp has testing capability for their entire physician network.
Now to be clear, the lab court tests have a three to four day turnaround. The tests we do in our state lab have a 24-hour turnaround but more testing availability is good even with a longer turnaround even though it might be temporarily disruptive for people's lives who test negative while they remain in isolation.
During those three or four days while they're waiting test results again LabCorp is offering that across their entire physician network, but that doesn't mean you should simply show up again call your physician call your doctor many practices many hospitals or either seeking to do them in certain locations or again the state location at Lowry but with lab course extensive network those tests should be widely available across Colorado again subject to the comfort level and precautions at a particular provider is taking to ensure that health care workers are not exposed.
Rest assured that we will continue the pressure on the federal government and I've had conversations with our congressional delegation as well to rapidly expand testing capacity and ensure the Colorado has enough tests that we can identify positive cases isolate them in quarantine others who may have been exposed. As I said before in the days ahead, as we test more Colorado's Coloradoans should expect a rise in the increase of positive cases.
Now testing more people is a very good thing. This test is a crucial tool in our efforts to slow the spread of the virus and to ensure that those individuals who have tested positive and need to isolate have the support they need during this challenging time. The bottom line is this the more people we test and the sooner we do it the better chance we have at successful containment.
In addition to expanding our testing capacity. I'm announcing with our emergency authority additional administrative actions to help contain the spread of the virus in Colorado. Today with the Declaration of this emergency. I'm directing the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.Engage in emergency rule making to ensure that workers in food handling hospitality child care health care and education get paid sick leave to miss work if they exhibit flu-like symptoms and have to miss work awaiting their testing results for novel corona virus.
This step not only helps prevent the spread of the virus but also inspires confidence for both tourists and Coloradoans that we are minimizing risks in our state, especially in professions, they could potentially be significant vectors for.Contagion For those workers who test positive and who lack access to paid leave we've asked Colorado Department of labor and employment to identify additional supports and wage replacement such as access to employment insurance.
Now again, so the paid leave would be for the period of the testing could be 24 hours could be the three to four days with LabCorp, but then we're looking at additional measures around unemployment insurance and wage replacement for a positive confirmations. So that people are able to make their rent and afford food if they are on.
Unable to earn any hourly wages while they while they the case of coronavirus has been confirmed.For those workers who test positive we feel that these steps are very important because for those who work with vulnerable populations for those who work in food services in the hospitality for those who work with older Coloradoans, it's absolutely critical that they are able to take that sick leave if they if they are ill.
When those workers lack access to paid sick leave, it poses a great risk to our ability to protect the public. Now the men and women in these professions want to do right by their fellow Coloradoans and stay home when they're ill but that's a very hard call when the loss of wages could mean missing rent or not put.
Ting food on your table I'm also requesting that the private sector of Colorado voluntarily offered paid sick leave to those who don't have it already. So that they can collectively be part of the solution and doing their part to contain the virus in Colorado and protect additional disruptions to our economy or way of life.
As far as state employees go we want to provide as much flexibility to ensure the state functions continue to run smoothly. We'll also keeping people safe. For state employees who may be either put into quarantine or isolation, they will have the opportunity to work from home in many classification.
Of state jobs and if they have that opportunity they should do so If workers fall ill and can't perform their duties, they will be able to use paid sick leave and the state will be flexed as flexible as possible with that paid leave. For instance, there are some impacted employees who cannot work from home that might mean prison guards it might mean some of the front lines CDOT workers and assisted living staff.
We're working to ensure that paid leave options for those who are ill help ensure that these workers can continue again to us pay their rent and put food on their table while preventing them from.Spreading the virus and being a threat to public.Health We're an additional step that we're invoking with our emergency, this is authority is we're asking the Department of Revenue to temporarily allow Coloradoans over the age of 65 of vulnerable population to extend their driver's licenses online to avoid having to congregate at Department of Motor Vehicle sites at this time.
Now some of you might not even be aware of this but in our state if you are 64 or younger, you can renew your driver's license online. If you are 65 or older you have to go in person. Now in normal times people can debate.That a law like that and I'm sure you can make a capable argument on either side you know people who oppose it might say why does it discriminate against seniors people who support it may say well we have concern that their eyesight might deteriorate and they should show up in person when they're 67 or 70.
But the prioritization and the reprieortization in a public health emergency like this is to say look the equations of the legislature and governors have made through the normal statutory process is temporarily different. And right now that priority is to make sure that people 65 and up.Are not in fact congregating a DMVs.
We have at least one instance of a confirmed corona virus case who visited a DMV in in Douglas County, and again, it's important to protect our most vulnerable populations. These orders both the wage order and extending the ability for people 65 and up to renew their driver's licenses online will both be reviewed on a 30-day basis.
There are 30-day orders and we will renew them as needed as long as this public health merge emergency lasts.Within the next day or two we will also be issuing guidance to schools and nursing homes on how best to protect their communities from spread as well as protecting our multiple vulnerable at our nursing homes.
Reaction quickly and decisively because the quicker we can contain the spread of coronavirus in Colorado the better will be able to protect our most vulnerable populations seniors and those with underlying health conditions. We have a lot of evidence from other areas that this has hit that shows that about 80% of people who get coronavirus can manage their illness on their own at home using over-the-counter medication, if desired to treat the symptoms.
But about 20% of the cases and a significantly higher percentage of older Coloradoans in Colorado's with chronic illnesses may have more severe case.May require hospitalization and yes, unfortunately in some cases it can be fatal. According to the statistics coming out of China and South Korea the fatality rate of the virus is significantly higher.
Among seniors. In fact, the rate grows with each successive age racket. We need to do everything we can to keep those most at risk safe.In addition to these specific actions that I've outlined today. I won't hesitate to use my emergency authority to take additional decisive actions to protect our most vulnerable populations as well as the facilities that serve them including nursing homes assisted living facilities.
Senior centers and health care providers that serve older Colorado's. Thankfully, we have not yet had any incidents in facilities that are focused on serving these populations but other areas that have experienced the outbreak have. That's exactly why we're taking these four thinking actions now to reduce the likelihood of these incidents in the future.
Our goal is not only to save lives but it's also to prevent the sort of widespread disruption that we're seeing in China and Italy and other areas of the world. We have the benefit of learning from the experience of other countries that are a few weeks ahead of us in successfully handling the outbreak.
The actions we're taking today the targeted interventions expanding our testing capacity are aimed at using these lessons to avoid broader disruption to our state and our economy. It's important for me to say that declaring a state of emergency.Does not mean that Colorado isn't open for business or recreation or tourism.
We are.Nor should this declaration cause more anxiety or a panic. In fact.Quite the opposite.We hope that these actions provide reassurance that we are aware of the risk and taking every reasonable step that we can to contain the spread of the virus and protect our most vulnerable.
For instance, we should all feel more comfortable eating out knowing that the chefs and waiters don't have to come to work sick.With proper containment we're hopeful that we can avoid major disruptions to economic activity avoid prolonged disclosure of schools and workplaces and avoid prolonged limits on transit and movement that we are seeing in other nations that didn't that quickly enough.
Most importantly, however, we all have a role to play in preventing this from spreading. There's only so much that any government can do. At the end of the day the success of our response depends on individual responsibility. It depends on the public taking this.Threat as seriously as our state and local health authorities are Truly the decisions we each make are collective actions will dictate how this plays out in the state of Colorado.
For those who are relatively young and healthy they need to recognize that this virus is a potentially lethal threat to older Coloradoans and those with chronic illness. Everyone should be practicing the comments step common-sense steps that are recommended by the CDC to protect yourself from from contracting to corona virus.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick avoid touching your eyes nose and mouth.Stay home when you are sick and keep your children home if they are sick. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue then promptly throw the tissue in the trash. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
And again very importantly wash your hands off and with soap and water for a period of at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom before eating after blowing your nose coughing or sneezing, you can't wash enough if soap and water aren't readily available use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with a lease of 60% alcohol content if someone in your home is sick avoid sharing dishes dishes drinking glasses cups and eating utensils or bedding after using those items wash them thoroughly with soap and water and then choose a separate room in your home.
That can be used to separate any sick household members from those who are who are healthy these are critical steps in individuals, but responsibility that are incredibly effective and preventing the spread of covid nineteen and I would also add her incredibly ineffective and preventing the spread of the seasonal flu and colds which are also in their high season.
Smart hygiene practices make us all safer and prevent further disruption to our state our quality of life and our economy.Now if a person is exhibiting symptoms of corona virus like a fever and coffee and shortness of breath and you haven't yet been tested the following steps should be immediately advised for that person number one that person should not attend public gatherings that person should increase distance for close contacts six feet is a minimal distance that can begin to reduce the risk of transmission which is mostly spread through coughing and sneezing through the air.
The person experienced symptoms should continue to practice basic hygiene like hand washing with soap and water or hand sanitizer during this period and the person should call a medical provider or nursing line before going into a health facility, once again, if you're exhibiting flu-like symptoms and and feel your risk for corona virus don't simply go into a health facility call your medical provider or nursing line before going in some of them have separate entrances some of them might write up an order for you to go to our drive through facility, there's a number of different things but again place yourself responsibly.
In isolation again avoid whether you wind up having the flu or coronavirus or cold, you don't want to spread that to others and you want to do your best to contribute to supporting the health of Colorado's if you're instructed to seek care follow the precautionary advice of the medical provider before going into health facilities to avoid spreading the virus your medical provider will evaluate you determine if testing is needed for influenza the the flu or other respiratory respiratory illness or corona virus and telemedicine is really an important tool.
The provider can make a diagnosis without a potential case coming in for an appointment and potentially exposing others so that's very important that first contact be on the phone or online now if a patient needs to be tested for covid 19, the medical provider has a number of options, they can collect a specimen from the patient's nose and throat and send the samples to the state lab or to lab corps or they can direct that the patient go to the CDP facility in Lowry that will be open again starting tomorrow or another commercial lab that's capable of doing the coronavirus diagnosis.
Now the state lab is. Prioritizing tests that meet the current criteria that you have a fever or symptoms of lower respiratory illness like a cough or shortness of breath and you've been in contact with someone who has had Kelvin 19 within 14 days of when the symptoms started. The patient has a fever or symptoms of lower respiratory illness and the patient recently traveled the parts of the world where the infection rates are higher or their severe acute lower respiratory illness without alternative explanatory diagnosis, right?
So if influenza has been ruled out that would be a priority category.For state testing. I want to thank the folks at our state lab who've been working in non-stop shifts close to 24 hours a day seven days a week to turn these tests around as quickly as possible.
The Vice President and the CDC are seeking to increase the supply of those testing kids to Colorado, but again our need is for an exponential increase in testing. We hope to accomplish that in three ways through the increase availability of testing through our state lab.Through the coming online of other providers like children's and UC.
Health that are working on this as we speak and finally through partners like LabCorp that might have a longer turnaround but are widely available through their network in Colorado. They work with almost every practice in our state for testing.I know that this is a challenging time not just for Colorado but for the United States and for the world at large that's why my team and I are working around the clock to keep people safe and to successfully contain the spread of the coronavirus to protect our most vulnerable populations to protect our economy and to protect the public health at large.
We'll continue to learn from and examine successful responses in other nations. We also learn from unsuccessful responses of what not to do and we want to implement the best practices here in Colorado.In a timely manner and you can expect that there will be additional announcements of additional steps in the days and weeks ahead to minimize the potential of severe disruption to our economy and to our lives here in Colorado.
I want to thank all of you for coming to this important announcement and we'll be happy to take some questions.