Community spread of coronavirus confirmed in the Denver area

Four people who have tested positive for novel coronavirus in the Denver area picked it up from someone (or something) else without knowing.

A photographer washes his hands. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A photographer washes his hands. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photos

Four people who have tested positive for novel coronavirus in the Denver area picked it up from someone (or something) else in the area, marking the first documented instances of local community transmission — when the disease spreads but the source is unknown.

“Community spread” indicates the disease is spreading widely and too quickly for testing to keep up.

Governor Jared Polis confirmed the community spread in a press conference Friday morning. Thirteen cases of COVID-19 have been found in Denver so far, plus one person who is being treated as having the disease after inconclusive test results, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Polis called the news “unsurprising” given that the disease is passed the point of containment.

Seventy-two people have tested positive statewide, with three in critical condition, Polis said. Eight people have been hospitalized.

“It is just a matter of time until we have our first fatality,” Polis said.

Colorado health officials have tested about 1,500 people statewide. Roughly one of every 10 people tested in the state have COVID-19, Polis said, adding that “many” Coloradans will get the new coronavirus, even if people experience mild symptoms or none at all.

Polis stressed the importance of personal responsibility to curb the spread of a disease that puts about 20 percent of the state’s population at risk.

“The fact that your symptoms are minor and you’ve overcome them doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t be devastating” to elderly people and people with compromised immune systems, Polis said.

If you’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 are over 60 years old and/or have chronic heart, lung, or kidney disease or diabetes, see a doctor and ask about getting testing done from a private lab.

If you’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 but are not sick, you should monitor your health and avoid public spaces for 14 days and refrain from going to work or school, public health officials say.

This story is developing.

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