Gov. Jared Polis, echoing public health experts who believe COVID-19 will last a while, said on Friday that he expects the virus to continue through the summer and into the fall.
He also struck back at actions taken by Weld County commissioners, who announced Thursday they would reopen all businesses on April 27, ignoring some of the guidelines, known as "Safer at Home," Polis announced a week ago.
Weld County's version, Safer at Work, is intended for businesses and employers, according to an April 23 news release.
The county's guidelines include maintaining social distancing, including the use of masks, routine cleaning and disinfecting and personal hygiene. However, in contrast to the Polis administration guidelines, Weld County does not require businesses to employ a week of curbside delivery, and the guidance places no restrictions on reopening all businesses, including restaurants, bars and gyms.
Weld County Commissioner Mike Freeman told 1310-KFKA that "this will be for businesses, in general, to open across the board. I think the governor's been pretty clear all along that his orders are unenforceable.”
Polis' guidance has not yet set a date for the reopening of dine-in restaurants and bars, and gyms are limited to one-on-one personal training sessions only.
In a Friday news conference, Polis warned that Weld County could lose emergency funds. Buy-in on "Safer at Home" by local jurisdictions is important, he said.
Local county health departments have the ability to close businesses that violate health orders, he said.
He pointed out that both Eagle and Mesa counties have applied for permission to reopen; Eagle County has already done so and Mesa County should be granted that authority either Friday or Saturday.
"We've received no request" for reopening from Weld County, Polis said. "They do not have unilateral ability to jeopardize the health" of Weld County residents, one of the state's hotspots for COVID-19 cases.
According to April 22 data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 11 facilities and businesses in Weld County have outbreaks. That includes two jails, a dairy, the JBS meat packing plant in Greeley; the Mountain States Rosen plant in Greeley, which processes lamb; and five non-hospital health care facilities.
JBS has the largest outbreak, with 102 workers testing positive. The plant reopened on Friday but without testing all of its employees, as had been agreed to on April 10 with the Weld County public health department.
Residents at the nursing homes and jail inmates account for an additional 126 positive cases and 28 deaths, including 17 at the Centennial Healthcare Center, which has the second-highest death rate among those facilities in the state.
Polis said he will take whatever steps necessary to protect the health of Weld County residents. He said their guidance was "fine but not as thorough" as the state's. If they're planning a free-for-all, planning to allow restaurants and clubs to open, or businesses don't have to employ social distancing, that would be "a great danger."
Polis responded to a question from Colorado Politics about testing at those non-hospital health care facilities. The state, using the National Guard, has tested all residents and staff at three of the largest nursing homes in Colorado. Polis said that testing revealed 20 positive cases among the staff out of 900 tests. They will continue to do more testing with those facilities, he said.
This is a priority use of testing, to test asymptomatic workers at these non-hospital facilities throughout May. They intend to expand that testing across the state, Polis said. That also means doing more than one round of tests. "Once is not enough, we have to rotate back and do another round a week later," he said.
Polis said Friday he signed an executive order creating a board that will advise him and CDPHE on policies on social distancing throughout the Safer at Home phase and on enforcement.
On Monday, the governor said he intends to announce more guidelines on Safer at Home for the general public and for businesses.