DENVER (AP) — Colorado is suspending in-person classes at all schools across the state, ordering longer ski resort closures and prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Jared Polis said Wednesday.
Polis’ executive order said the new restrictions on schools would take effect Monday and last until at least April 17. The state had allowed individual districts to decide whether to stay open, but distance learning was encouraged. Denver and some other districts have already suspended in-person classes.
Polis ordered the state’s ski resorts to remain closed through April 6.
“The science and data tells us this will get worse before it gets better,” he said. “We are in this together, and the state is taking the necessary actions to slow the spread of this disease.”
Earlier Wednesday, a relief fund and child care program was created for Colorado residents facing challenges from the coronavirus.
The state human services department and Office of Early Childhood are coordinating efforts to create an emergency child care system to help an estimated 80,000 first responders, healthcare workers and others whose jobs are essential during the pandemic and who have young children.
Dubbed the Colorado Emergency Childcare Collaborative, the public-private effort is seeking applicants who can help.
An effort called Help Colorado Now is designed to assist people who lost work because of business closures and economic disruptions or face other virus-caused hardships.
The site has raised nearly $3 million to date for medical and cleaning supplies, shelter services and aid for children and the elderly, Polis said. It’s seeking volunteers to help in everything from food delivery to child care. Volunteers are subject to state background checks.
Meanwhile, the state is being inundated with unemployment insurance applications from people forced out of work by the outbreak. Polis urged people to keep trying to submit those applications, and officials urged people to save their work on the applications.
More than 3,900 claims were filed Monday compared to the 400 filed the previous Monday, The Denver Post reported.
“We’re seeing one-day, or likely one-week and two-week, spikes like we never saw in the Great Recession,” unemployment insurance director Jeff Fitzgerald said Tuesday, adding that the increasing number of online claims led to technical problems, The Post reported.
The full effect of the pandemic on employment in the state remains unclear. In January, the unemployment rate was 2.5%.
At least 216 people in Colorado have tested positive for the virus, and two have died. Those numbers are expected to increase.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, and the vast majority recover. The elderly and people with existing health problems can get pneumonia or other serious illnesses.
The state Capitol was closed indefinitely to the public after lawmakers suspended their session until March 30.
Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and Democratic U.S. Rep. Jason Crow have self-isolated after reporting they met in Washington on March 11 with at least one constituent who later tested positive. It wasn’t known if their cases involved the same person.
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