Colorado reports 18 additional coronavirus deaths as confirmed cases approach 3,000

Colorado’s coronavirus-related deaths jumped by 18 on Tuesday as public health officials announced that the state’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is approaching 3,000.

There have now been at least 69 deaths in the state related to COVID-19, the highly infectious respiratory illness caused by the virus, and 509 people hospitalized. Health officials also have reported 16 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities.

El Paso and Weld counties together have seen 25 of the state’s deaths, while seven people in Denver have died from the virus.

The 2,966 total cases of the new coronavirus come from 50 of the state’s 64 counties as the virus extends into all corners of the state. Nearly 17,000 people now have been tested, even as health officials say widespread testing is still needed. The state is working on mass testing, but has not yet achieved that capacity.

As hospitalizations increase, the state is searching for outside facilities in the event hospitals are overwhelmed by patients. One such place could be the 7,200-seat Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, said Mike Willis, director of the state’s Office of Emergency Management, in a conference call with reporters. He did not identify any other facilities under consideration.

“There’s been a significant effort to identify separate facilities to build alternate care facilities to prepare for the surge,” Willis said.

Despite states taking more serious measures regarding interstate travel, Colorado is not considering closing its borders, Willis said. Several states, including Texas, are now mandating quarantines for out-of-state visitors from certain places, and the question of strict border closures has been subject to legal debate.

In a sign of COVID-19’s spread, health officials confirmed Tuesday that the state’s top public health official, Jill Hunsaker Ryan, has been in isolation after the Colorado Springs Gazette reported that her husband tested positive for the virus earlier this month.

“Jill is working remotely at this time like many people in the state are,” Scott Bookman, the state’s COVID-19 incident commander, said on the conference call. “She is healthy and fully engaged. She will determine when to start working in person again while maintaining social distancing as appropriate.”

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