DENVER (CBS4) – The first death from coronavirus in Colorado was announced on Friday afternoon, a woman in her 80s in El Paso County. She had underlying health conditions.

Gov. Jared Polis spoke about the woman with regret. He also said that together, we are stronger.

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“We’re no stranger to adversity in Colorado. We’ve had fires, we’ve had floods, we’ve been tested before, we’ll be tested again. But Coloradans are tough. We’re resilient. We’re going to get through this together, and we’re going to come out on the other side for our health, for our economy, or for our way of life,” said Polis.

Earlier in the day on Friday morning, Polis confirmed 72 positive cases of coronavirus in Colorado and that three of those people are in critical condition in the hospital. The person who passed away was among those who was hospitalized. That number was updated on Friday evening to 77 cases.

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The state lab has completed test results on more than 600 people in Colorado since testing began on Feb. 28. in the state.

“We are keeping the eight people in the hospital in our thoughts and prayers,” Polis said. “We know that our medical professionals are providing the very best care.”

Polis also announced during a 45 minute news conference Friday morning that gatherings of more than 250 people are now temporarily prohibited in the state. That follows an earlier announcement by several counties in Colorado’s high country that no events there with more than 50 people will be allowed.

“We are in the middle of one of the greatest international public health disasters of our lifetime. An international declared pandemic by the World Health Organization. And it’s critical for us to take it seriously to protect our most vulnerable Coloradans and protect the ability of our state’s health care system to treat them and others who need treatment,” Polis said.

Watch the complete news conference:

Polis said four COVID-19 cases in the Denver metro area are instances of community spread cases. There were already several instances of such spread of coronavirus in Colorado’s high country.

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Polis said the majority of coronavirus cases across the state are mild, but he said steps are being taken to try to protect the most vulnerable members of the population — older Coloradans and people with underlying health conditions.

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He stressed that the news about the outbreak in the state in the coming days will “get worse before it gets better.” He said there are likely thousands of coronavirus cases in the state and those are people who either have not been tested or whose test results are still pending.

“It is just a matter of time before we have our first fatality here in Colorado,” Polis said.

Polis said approximately 90% of tests done in the state for COVID-19 have come up negative.

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Other important from the governor’s news conference are as follows:

– Drive-up testing for coronavirus that was scheduled to take place in Denver on Friday has been postponed due to the weather conditions. The testing will now take place early Saturday afternoon.
– A drive-up testing center is also being set up in Pitkin County.
– Doctors and nurses in Colorado who are retired or are not working at the moment are being asked to volunteer to help out during the crisis.
– The National Guard is being mobilized with some medics being trained to assist in the coronavirus testing.
– Warnings are out about heading to Colorado’s high country, where there are many cases of coronavirus. Ski areas are being instructed to make sure visitors are kept many feet apart from each other.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock provided new guidance to city residents and visitors in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak on Friday afternoon. He said that all public events that were scheduled to happen at all Denver-owned facilities through April 12 have been canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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Additional Information from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment:

  • Practice good hygiene. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. In the absence of soap and water, use hand-sanitizer; use your elbow or sleeve to cover coughs and sneezes
  • Stay home if you’re sick; keep your children home if they are sick. The illness can last for many days so make preparations now to work from home if possible.
  • We advise Coloradans to always be prepared for an emergency– like a large snowstorm– and have a plan for your family. Make sure to have 72 hours of key supplies on hand like medications, infant formula, diapers, pet food, etc. FEMA guidance for pre-pandemic COVID-19 preparedness is available on Ready.gov.
  • Stay informed with reliable, up-to-date information. People who have general questions about coronavirus disease 2019, can call CO HELP at 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911 or email COHELP@RMPDC.org, for answers in English and Spanish (Español), Mandarin (普通话), and more.