Governor Polis Press Conference, March 30, 2020
Governor Polis today held a press conference, similar to the press conference on Friday, sharing data on the need for personal protective equipment, the most up to date number of cases and deaths, and data on the effect of the restaurant and bar closures have had on social distancing. InGovernor Polis set the expectations that this will take a while and that COVID will be with us for days and weeks ahead. He thanked the school districts that have come back using online teaching, also saying that the likelihood is that remote learning will continue until the end of the school year. At the end of his opening, Governor Polis called for people to find new ways to reach out to people over phone, video, etc. saying that now more than ever it is important to connect. Throughout the press conference, both in the presentation, and in the questions and answer portion, he said that the bottom line is that people should stay home whenever possible and as much as possible.
In response to a question about the potential loss of revenue to the state, and about small businesses who are frustrated and saying that they may not be able to survive this, Governor Polis said that the state has to get through this in order to survive and for people to conduct business in a normal manner. The sooner people stay home, the sooner life will be able to return to normal. The state will take an enormous hit to its budget, there is some help from the Congressional relief package for states, but it won’t cover the state’s full loss.
The state posts their daily figures on cases, deaths, hospitalizations, etc. at 4pm every day, but he provided an partial update that Colorado has had 2,627 cases, 414 hospitalizations, it is present in 47 counties, there have been 51 deaths, and 15,364 tests have been administered. While this is the official number, the number of actual case is estimated to be several times higher. Testing is prioritized for clinical reasons, people who have symptoms, testing people who have been exposed, etc. Counties are also doing some of their own testing. Their testing processing is down to about 1.5 days.
He said if you are able to breath, and don’t need immediate medical attention, you are supposed to self-isolate. Even if people don’t have COVID, they may have the flu and are contagious. There are people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who were otherwise healthy but now need hospitalization due to COVID and may need ventilators.
He also gave an update on the needs for personal protective equipment to protect front line workers from contracting the disease. After 2-4 weeks industry will kick in and these will be easier to acquire. The state needs 694,207 N95 masks, they have delivered 417,540, leaving a deficit of 236,667. The state also needs 1,106,635 million surgical masks. They have held personal protective equipment drives. This is one of the reasons that they delayed elective surgeries. They need all of the personal protective equipment possible right now. Additionally, that frees up some hospital beds that would have been used.
Governor Polis explained why there is a lag in the data between where the virus is present, who has the disease, and the data on number of confirmed cases. Typically it takes 4-5 days after exposure to show symptoms, 8 days until its reported to Colorado, and 10-12 days from onset to ICU. The average ICU stay is 8 days. Because it takes around 10-12 days since exposure to reach the state data, it takes that amount of time, 10-12, days to see any effects of the social distancing measures. The fewer unnecessary trips outside, the more effective the measures will be and the sooner the return to economic normality.
He then gave an update on when impacts of the social distancing measures will show up in the data. The closure of restaurants and bars have started to show up in the data. The closure of all Colorado schools will show up around April 4. The stay in place order should show up in the data around April 7. In just one days’ worth of data, as the effects of bar and restaurant closures begin to show up in the data, the average doubling time is approaching 5 days. At one point the number of case was doubling every 2 days. He will be looking to see if the doubling time decreases after April 7 when the stay at home order will show up in the data. However, this is still an extremely contagious virus. One of the lagging indicators, the number of hospitalizations, will lag behind the number of cases. They will be reporting on the number of hospitalizations and how it was affected by the closure of bars and restaurants.
Traffic volume has gone down since the stay at home order was introduced. This is good, even though it is a proxy measure. Traffic data is showing a 60% reduction in the number of cars on the road, however, a 60% is not enough, it has to get up to 70-80%. The amount of interstate vehicles has declined by 400 vehicles. There has been a dramatic impact on the traffic on I-70 at the Eisenhower tunnel. It shows that people are not treating this as a vacation. This is the key area of success. He asked everyone to recreate in their neighborhoods, asking people to be active without driving out of the neighborhood. Because mountain hospitals are built to capacity to handle tourism, and there are much fewer tourists, these hospitals have greater capacity now to handle case of locals.
Marc Moss, from UC Health, gave an update on what it is like working against the pandemic on the front lines. There are 71 cases at the hospital, and 37 are in the ICU, and 33 of the 37 are on ventilators. COVID does not target only those with underlying health issues or elderly. Most of the people were healthy and had no previous major health issues. COVID patients can go from requiring a little extra oxygen to requiring a ventilator within a few hours. The critical COVID patients are at a beginning of a long recovery. Those who survive will remain on the ventilator for two weeks. New patients are being admitted at a faster rate than they are leaving. Health care professionals are starting to test positive for COVID-19. One of his colleagues contracted COVID-19. He said that the most effective measure people can take to slow the spread is to stay home. The medical community in Denver have been working together to help each other, and he thinks that they will have enough medical staff, however, New York has been asking for more doctors and nurse to help there. In speaking about how to effectively treat patients for COVID with medication, he said that there isn’t anything out there right now to treat COVID, but that the best way will be to enroll patients into clinical research trials. He has been in talks about how to get clinical trials going.