COVID-19: Mayor Suthers declares local emergency

March 16, 2020

By: Faith Miller

Originally appeared in the Colorado Springs Independent

As the number of COVID-19 cases in Colorado continued to climb, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers declared a local state of emergency March 16.

“The declaration does two things; first, it makes the City eligible for federal relief funding as it becomes available; second, it provides authority for Mayoral regulations that can be put in to place rapidly to address the situation as needed,” Suthers said in a statement. “This should not be cause for further alarm, but a signal that our city continues to monitor the situation and respond in a prudent, efficient and effective manner in constant coordination with our partners at El Paso County Health and El Paso County.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment was counting 160 positive cases of COVID-19 as of 3 p.m. March 16, including at least four cases in El Paso County.

The state’s first death tied to the novel coronavirus occurred March 13, when an El Paso County woman in her 80s with underlying health conditions passed away.

According to El Paso County Public Health, the woman attended bridge games at the Colorado Springs Bridge Center between Feb. 27 and March 3. The county health department is asking people who attended games at the bridge center during that time to call a health provider if they’re experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 virus is a member of the coronavirus family of viruses, named for the crown-like spikes on their surfaces. Some coronaviruses lead to the common cold, while others — such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) and the virus that causes COVID-19 — can lead to more serious symptoms in some people.
Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, runny nose, cough and breathing trouble. For most people, the symptoms are mild, but older people and those with medical complications are at higher risk of developing more severe symptoms such as pneumonia.

Health officials ask that people having symptoms call a provider, clinic or hospital before visiting a facility in person.

The El Paso County
 Sheriff’s Office has added protocols to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus at the Criminal Justice Center. Although the sheriff’s office did not explicitly say whether it was implementing measures to reduce the number of admissions to the county jail (as some advocates have recommended), spokesperson Jacqueline Kirby said transports of inmates outside of the facility will be minimized.

In addition, “courtesy holds” (people being held on behalf of another jurisdiction) and transports to and from other jails will be accepted on a case-by-case basis, Kirby said in an email.

“Any inmates being released from the facility with symptoms will be advised to contact their primary care physician and educated on ways of preventing the spread of their illness,” she added.

Criminal Justice Center employees who are experiencing symptoms, or have a household member who is experiencing symptoms, will be directed to stay at home (or go home), Kirby wrote. The same goes for employees who are members of high-risk groups, such as older people and those with underlying medical conditions.

The jail has also stepped up the frequency of cleaning its facility, as well as items handled by inmates and staff, Sgt. Deborah Mynatt said in an email.

A COVID-19 screening tool at intake involves questions about travel, recent contact with someone that has traveled, and vital signs measurements, Mynatt explained. Depending on the results of the screening, an individual could be placed in isolation and monitored for symptoms of COVID-19.

Even if someone isn’t yet showing symptoms, but they meet other criteria based on the screening, they could be placed in the jail’s medical unit for monitoring, Mynatt wrote.

If all the chaos surrounding COVID-19 is affecting your mental health, you’re not alone. Here’s some suggestions from nonprofit Mental Health Colorado:

Stay busy and engaged in the necessary activities of life. Make a conscious effort to be present to your immediate tasks and surroundings.

Avoid consuming toxic amounts of information about things over which you have no control.

Be physically active, preferably outside, where the sounds and sights of the natural world, and the sunshine, can help put the drama of our human world in a healthier perspective.

Help someone who may feel alone. As immunocompromised and high-risk patients are being advised to stay home as much as possible, some of us may experience feelings of loneliness and isolation. Offer to run an errand for someone who is at higher risk of getting sick.

Take this time to call a longtime friend, chat outside with your neighbors, or send a care package.

As always, to speak confidentially with a trained counselor, you can call the Colorado Crisis Services line at 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255.

To reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, health experts urge people to:

  • Frequently and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, or use your inner elbow or sleeve.
  • Avoid directly touching frequently contacted surfaces, such as elevator buttons or door handles, in public spaces. (Use a tissue to cover your hand or finger if you have to touch something.)
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Stay home if you’re sick, and keep your children home if they are sick.
  • Clean surfaces in your home, and personal items such as cell phones, using regular household products.
Helpful resources:

For the latest COVID-19 information from CDPHE, visit

For updated case totals, visit CDPHE’s Fast Facts page.

If you have general questions about COVID-19, call the CO-HELP call line at 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911, for answers in many languages, or email for answers in English.