“Everyone, please stay home. Please go out only for essential services. You may hang up Christmas decorations. But stay home.”
With these words, shared during a November 20 press conference, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock made it clear how much is going on in Mile High City’s battle against COVID-19 over the next several weeks. At 5:00 p.m. today, Denver will enter the Red level on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s dialing dashboard – a designation that introduces a number of serious new restrictions, but is not completely banned. Even so, Hancock insisted that people should only leave their homes when absolutely necessary, and otherwise squat for at least the next thirty days.
The reason? Denver will remain Level Red through at least Friday, December 18, Hancock said, and could stay that state longer if novel coronavirus data doesn’t moderate during that period.
“Colorado made a new top ten list,” he noted. “We have the sixth highest increase in cases and hospitalizations. That says something. For much of the country and the world, we are seeing the virus come back with a vengeance.”
Even so, Hancock sees politicians in Washington, DC missing the opportunity to act responsibly. He claimed that “the lack of a coordinated national response is forcing states, counties and cities to act independently and the refusal of Congress to help is simply shameful.” He added: “At a time of national crisis, the fact that some elected officials pursue conspiracy theories about the elections, democracy, and the masks debate is simply political.” Hancock, quoting a comment from a nurse on a newscast he had seen this morning, asked, “Would you rather wear a mask or have a tube stuck down your throat?”
The Level Red rules highlighted by Hancock included new requirements that offices only work with 10 percent of the workforce on-site, and less if possible. Gyms are also limited to 10 percent capacity, and all indoor events are disabled for the duration of the order. Likewise, indoor dining in restaurants is temporarily closed, although outdoor seating is allowed – but there will be a final call at 8 p.m. Otherwise, restaurants will have to focus on roadside pickup and delivery again, which can happen after 8 p.m.
Additionally, retail stores may still be 50 percent busy, which Hancock said was important due to a desire to go holiday shopping. But he strongly recommended against the urge to enjoy Thanksgiving with members of different households, suggesting that people “maybe get a little turkey this year and celebrate only with those you live with, then zoom in with your extended family and tell them that you look forward to it. ” I’ll see you very soon. “
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After vaccines are published and distributed, “we may meet again next year,” he said.
“I know you hate that. I hate that. But we’re doing our best to avoid a total shutdown of our economy … to protect lives and livelihoods.”
Bob McDonald, executive director of the Denver Department of Public Health and the Environment, echoed many of Hancock’s points during his own appearance and teased a new test location soon to appear in Ruby Hill Park. He hopes it will help speed up a process that had been developing rapidly by then. In recent weeks, waiting times have increased significantly. He also defended the move away from using the Pepsi Center as a testing center, noting that locations in areas more accessible to vulnerable communities have resulted in a 40 percent test increase among those who identify as Latinx, and to tripling the number of black residents.
In a question-and-answer session, Hancock and McDonald said the staff shortage did not appear to have affected the ability of local police and fire departments to do their jobs and that hospitals were not yet overwhelmed. But their overall warnings make it clear that many bad things can happen in the next month or more unless the epidemiological curve is bent in a better direction – as of now.
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Michael Roberts has been writing for Westword since October 1990 and has worked as a music editor and media columnist. It currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.