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Exactly five months after the first confirmed Colorado COVID case was announced, CoPIRG is calling for Colorado to shut down and start over. Since March 5, almost 48,000 Coloradans have contracted COVID-19, and 1,710 Coloradans have died from it and the number of deaths has been stubbornly consistent over the last few weeks.
“Colorado needs to hit the reset button,” said Allison Conwell, CoPIRG Advocate. “We’re five months into this pandemic. Our goal should no longer be to keep the virus at a level where it doesn’t inundate hospitals. Our goal should be reducing infection rates to a point where we can contain it and stop any more unnecessary deaths. The best thing for Colorado would be for as many of us as possible to not die from COVID-19.”
Guidelines by the World Health Organization indicate that test positivity should be under 5% to indicate that enough cases are being detected. A new paper from the Harvard Global Health Institute suggests a test positivity of 3% along with comprehensive contact tracking and tracing is needed to contain the spread of the virus. This lower test positivity rate is important to meet partly because 40-60% of the virus spread is due to people who do not show symptoms. There needs to be enough tests completed quickly and contact tracers to make sure that everyone who has been in contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 knows they could have the virus and self-quarantines.
Unfortunately, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado’s rate at which Coloradans are testing positive with COVID-19 has fluctuated between 2.72% and 5.09% from June 7 to July 26. The number of deaths has also been consistent in that time and has not trended down. In addition, according to COVID Exit Strategy, a non-partisan group of public health officials, Colorado is still struggling to test enough people per day to detect all new cases and is not meeting the group’s benchmark for the number of new cases per million people per day.
Based on the latest information, CoPIRG is calling for Colorado to start over. This comes on the heels of an open letter released on July 24 to America’s decision makers urging them to shut it down, start over, and do it right this time to contain COVID-19 and save lives. More than 1,000 health professionals nationwide, including 23 from Colorado, signed the letter. The letter stated that had we handled the virus like other nations, shutting down and staying that way until meeting public health benchmarks, “we could have prevented 99%” of deaths from COVID-19.
“We applaud Colorado for being one of the first states to shut down when COVID-19 was spreading across the country. Unfortunately, we failed to use the time we were given during our first shut down to get COVID-19 under control and our re-opening is leading to unnecessary infections and deaths. We must shut down, start over, and do it right this time,” said Conwell
CoPIRG is calling for the state to shut down and implement the following policies:
- Require mask wearing in all public indoor and outdoor places along with social distancing guidelines
- Re-enact the Stay at Home order
- Ban non-essential interstate travel
- Issue a mandatory quarantine period for people entering the state from COVID-19 hotspots
CoPIRG is calling for those requirements to stay in place until the following criteria are met:
- Test positivity rate is consistently lower than 3%.
- Enough daily testing capacity to test everyone with flu-like symptoms plus anyone they have been in close contact with over the last two weeks (at least 10 additional tests per symptomatic person). Currently, Colorado is testing only 44% of the people it needs to per day.
- A workforce of contact tracers large enough to trace all current cases.
- Enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep essential workers such as health professionals, emergency responders and grocery store clerks safe.
Federal support is key to helping states reach these benchmarks, and so far it’s been sorely lacking. That’s why CoPIRG is urging the Trump Administration and Congress to provide a national strategy and resources for ramping up testing infrastructure around the country and ensuring that all essential workers get adequate PPE.
When Colorado does begin to re-open, the state needs to get it right. That means opening a little at a time, one small step at a time. Those steps should be taken only at intervals long enough that there is enough time to see the effects.
“This is about saving lives. Telling the hard truths and making the hard calls now will save more lives later. That’s why we’re calling on our leaders to rise up to the challenge. Half measures will only lead to more suffering,” finished Conwell.
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