Coronavirus updates in Denver from March 18: news you can use and slices of life in these weird times

It’s like your Twitter feed right now but with fewer trolls and more news.
9 min. read
People line up for their monthly allotment of groceries from the Twin Parishes food pantry in Cole. It’s the first time in 40 years they’ve had to do this outside. March 17, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

5:30 pm. RTD sees big ridership declines but hasn't cut service

RTD says it's seen a ridership drop of about 60 percent over fears of the novel coronavirus.

The transit agency is providing about 139,000 trips each weekday now, compared to nearly 350,000 at this time last year. That estimate is based on informal counts by RTD staff, the agency said in a release Wednesday.

That's likely causing a big hit to RTD's bottom line. Interim General Manager and CEO Paul Ballard told CPR News last week the agency has enough money in reserves to keep operations going for six and 12 weeks.

But RTD has yet to announce any changes to its bus and train services. One RTD board member, Shontel Lewis, has pushed the agency's leadership to start making reductions now -- and eventually shutting down temporarily. She also wants RTD to stop forcing drivers to work overtime.

"Let's stop subjecting our operators to these terrible working conditions when there are no riders to provide service to," she wrote in a letter to the board and senior staff.

The agency did say Wednesday it will suspend five-day advanced bookings on its paratransit service because it's seen so many cancelations in recent weeks. Effective Thursday, customers will only be able to book next-day trips.

The RTD board is set to meet next Tuesday.

-Nathaniel Minor, CPR News

4:47 p.m. 43 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Denver

According to the latest data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Denver has 43 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, but Governor Jared Polis has warned that any current number is an undercount because of the lag in testing.

Denver's cases comprise about 20 percent of the statewide total, which sits at 216.

Two Coloradans have died from the virus and 26 have been hospitalized, according to state statistics.

3:34 p.m. Five Points' Black American West Museum will close, at least for now

No cases of COVID-19 have been connected to the museum, but it will close through at least March 28, the cultural center announced.

"This action is taken in order to play their part in helping to reduce the community spread of the COVID-19 virus," a spokesperson said in an email.

2:44 p.m. Child hates coronavirus, draws masterpiece

2:38 p.m.  While grocery store shelves look sparse, the restocking efforts aren't. Supply chains aren't broken.

I just took a lunch-break trip to the grocery store but one-third of the stuff on my list wasn't in stock, which is fine. I get the need to feel food-secure!

The Natural Grocers on Brighton Boulevard. (David Sachs/Denverite)
The Natural Grocers on Brighton Boulevard. (David Sachs/Denverite)
The Natural Grocers on Brighton Boulevard. (David Sachs/Denverite)

Just a reminder that the supply chains are not broken and that grocery stores are constantly restocking. The Natural Grocers on Brighton Boulevard, for example, had a bunch of stuff in boxes waiting to be restocked that I would've liked to get. The stuff just wasn't on the shelves yet.

When I asked if they had frozen berries, one grocer calmly told me they did not, but would later today or tomorrow. This Natural Grocers will close at 7:30 tonight to focus on disinfecting and restocking.

12:44 p.m. Homeless shelters remain open for the outbreak -- and with a snowstorm approaching

As Denver anticipates a snowstorm moving in Thursday, shelters and services for people experiencing homelessness will remain open, the city government announced in an email to reporters.

The announcement comes despite state and federal orders for people to avoid contact with one another.

Anyone who needs access to a shelter can call 2-1-1 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday).

12:32 p.m. Denver Human Services buildings will close to the public to avoid spreading the virus but remain open for humans who need service

Denver's social services department will close to the public beginning Thursday "to protect the health and safety of the community and help limit the spread of COVID-19," the city's coronavirus communications team said in an email.

DHS is in charge of monthly benefits for the city's low-income and unhoused, including Medicaid, child and adult protection, and assistance with food, cash and evictions.

Staffers will "continue to offer critical support and safety services for Denver's families" online and via phone, according to the statement. Denverites can visit the DHS website or call 720-944-4DHS (4347) Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

What people can do without meeting staffers in person:

  • Apply for benefits (food, cash, medical, child care assistance, RTD Live)
  • Report changes
  • Submit documents
  • Check benefits status
  • Pay child support
  • Access information about rental assistance
  • Download applications for energy assistance and property tax relief

To report child abuse or neglect, call 1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1-844-264-5437).

If you suspect that an older adult -- or any adult that is considered "at-risk" -- is being abused, neglected, or exploited, call the Adult Protective Services hotline at 720-944-4DHS (4347).

12:10 p.m. Here's where Aurora Public Schools will give out free breakfast and lunch to-go -- to anyone 18 and under -- during its extended spring break

Aurora Publis Schools will provide lunch and breakfast for free at 16 locations around the city. The meals will be available for anyone, whether they are APS students or not, as long as they are 18 or younger.

Visit the APS website to learn when the meals will be available (they vary by location). Each location will only be open for 25 minutes at a time.

(Courtesy, APS)

"Although this may seem short, we believe this window will allow us to provide for a grab-and-go system while also helping us maximize the number of pick-up locations and serve the highest number of families throughout the district," the school district said in a statement.

APS will serve the meals through at least March 27 and will consider extending the program if and when the district closes for longer.

11:21 a.m. Advice from Denverite reader John Toole: See some other parks on some other walks

"My wife Marie and I have made touring Denver city parks part of our daily coronavirus response program," writes John. "Though we live near City Park, we are making a point of getting around town to other favorite parks and parks we've never seen."

The couple has recently toured Greenway Park in Stapleton and the Great Lawn in Lowry.

"What's great about the parks is you can get in your exercise, see other people and keep everyone at an appropriate social distance," John writes. "Parks used to be a big deal in America. Before trips to Disney, ocean cruises and widespread use of autos, this is how people enjoyed life."

10:27 a.m. Joanna Futch is inspired by sharing food with passersby

We've told you that a lot of people are being really, really nice right now. That includes this person in Clayton who has turned a little free library into a little free food pantry.

Give a little bit. (Courtesy, Joanna Futch)

Denverite reader Joanna Futch sent this picture in and said she was "inspired" by her neighbor.

10:20 a.m. Look elsewhere for that fresh cut: Floyd's is closing all of its Denver barber shops

All seven Floyd's 99 Barbershop locations in the city will close immediately, the company announced Wednesday.

"Floyd's must do our part to prevent the further spread of the Coronavirus for the long term good of our communities," said Jamie Repenning, Floyd's president, in an email. "We need to be part of the solution. This was certainly the hardest decision that we've had to make in the history of Floyd's."

10:12 a.m. East Colfax Neighborhood Association launches web page to help particularly vulnerable

The civic group representing the city's East Colfax neighborhood expects to "be hit particularly hard" by the expected economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organizers launched a web page today with a lot of links to services for people who need everything from food to help with utility payments.

The neighborhood is one of the city's most diverse, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics. About 28 percent of East Colfax residents are considered to be impoverished, according to Shift Research Lab.

9:51 a.m. Wolfie J. Anderson Campbell Jr. Esq. isn't down with the sickness

We're all working from the field or at home, including Denverite editor Ana Campbell and her cat, Wolfie J. Anderson Campbell Jr. Esq. He's a lawyer.

He is apparently ready to get the hell outside right meow. I don't blame him.

The feline yearn for freedom is becoming a theme.

9:27 a.m. The Capitol is closed to the public for the foreseeable future. Also here's something you might not have known about Colorado's seat of government.

The Colorado Capitol is closed to the general public indefinitely to abide by the state health department's social distancing guidelines.

Staffers and media are still allowed for now.

Legislators paused the entire 2020 session Saturday.

Admit it: You've always wondered why the building is two different colors. And now you can know.

7:20 a.m. Here are some resources for restaurant workers who've been laid off

Or are generally unsure of where their next paycheck is coming from. Know of more resources? Email [email protected]. And big thanks to reader Kimberly McClintock for this info.

Restaurant Workers' Community Foundation Announces COVID19 Crisis Relief Fund -- Restaurant Workers' Community Foundation

Resources for Restaurants and Workers Coping with the COVID-19 Emergency -- Restaurant Workers' Community Foundation

Donate to These Relief Funds for Restaurants Hurt by Coronavirus

6 a.m. People are still hunting for toilet paper

A small crowd gathered at the entrance of the uptown Safeway on 20th Avenue, waiting patiently for it to open. When it did, just after six, a man at the front of the line asked a manager: "Still no toilet paper?"

She shook her head, then he and another person turned around and left. Everyone else entered to shop.

People wait to enter the Safeway on 20th Avenue as it opens for the day. March 18, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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