Denver’s stay-at-home order will be extended to slow coronavirus

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock told The Denver Post on Tuesday that he will extend his stay-at-home order to combat the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed seven people in the city.

“April 30 looks like it’s going to become the new target,” he said.

The official announcement will likely come Monday. Hancock said he’s speaking frequently with Gov. Jared Polis and either the governor will issue a statewide extension or the mayor will issue the order for Denver alone.

“He knows we’re ready to roll,” Hancock said of Polis.

Hancock first ordered residents to stay home from March 24 until April 10, closing nonessential businesses and public places in Denver and cementing social distancing recommendations with the possibility of legal enforcement.

Polis, initially resistant to doing the same for all of Colorado, followed suit two days later with a statewide order that’s effective through April 11. Hancock adopted the language of Polis’ statewide order Friday to eliminate confusion between the two stay-at-home directives.

The governor has said a statewide extension appears increasingly likely but he needs more data before making the decision.

President Donald Trump — once hopeful the country would reopen by Easter on April 12 — recently extended social distancing recommendations through April 30.

The stay-at-home order currently in place is effective at slowing the transmission of the virus, but it’s not effective enough, Hancock said. Some have been slow to embrace the changes, particularly young people and a few businesses.

Already police have made more than 3,000 contacts with residents, issued more than 600 warnings and written five citations for violating the orders, Hancock said. The overall goal is voluntary compliance with the law rather than legal enforcement.

Under the city extension, the details of the order will remain the same: Restaurants can still offer carryout and delivery. Denver International Airport will continue to operate, and group activities are prohibited in city parks. Liquor stores, marijuana dispensaries and firearm retailers are allowed to remain open, as well.

Since his initial order, Hancock has taken to Twitter to check in on residents, offer a few activity suggestions for those staying at home and review acceptable reasons to leave home.

City officials also closed certain roads and parking lots across Denver’s parks to further discourage social gatherings.

Reports of the virus’ spread slowing in national hot spots such as Seattle indicate that social distancing measures such as stay-at-home orders are effective. Polis said Monday it’s too soon to see the results of Colorado’s stay-at-home order, but the closure of restaurants and bars has helped.

Closing major swaths of the economy has steep costs, however. The unemployment rate in Colorado is expected to double in the next three weeks, and many who have lost their jobs or seen their hours cut back are worried about their ability to pay their rent or mortgage.

The restrictions also are cause for concern for domestic abuse victims forced to remain with their abusers.

Also, Denver is struggling to find enough individual spaces for those experiencing homelessless even as two positive cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, hit that population last week.

As April 30 nears, Hancock said, he and city public health experts will keep a close eye on Denver’s rate of positive tests, among other metrics, to determine whether the order should be extended further.

Once it’s time for the order to end, he said, he will look for ways to phase in social interactions safely rather than lifting the stay-at-home requirements all at once.

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