Events






 

Bandimere Speedway family argues race track will close if forced to comply with public health orders

In an escalating legal fight between the owners of the Bandimere Speedway and public health officials, owner John Bandimere argued Wednesday in Jefferson County District Court that his family’s business would shutter if forced to limit crowd sizes to 175 people as the new coronavirus pandemic continues.

Rebecca Klymkowsky, an attorney representing Jefferson County Public Health, argued the pandemic presented a public health crisis that supersedes the race track’s desire to operate.

“It is not enough for Bandimere to say our attendees want to attend,” Klymkowsky said. “This is larger than Bandimere. It involves the entire community. It involves the entire country. When you consider it in that context, the public interest is in keeping individuals safe.”

The feud began July 2 when the health department sought and received a temporary restraining order against Bandimere. The order required the race track to limit its crowd sizes to 175 people per activity during its July 4 events and to follow social distancing guidelines. But the county health agency said the race track violated the order, which led to Wednesday’s hearing.

The fight has become a flashpoint in political arguments over whether people should be forced to comply with public health orders or allowed to make personal choices as the pandemic surges. The hearing, which was conducted online, drew an audience that sometimes led District Court Judge Tamara Russell to remind listeners to mute their microphones and to respect the court’s decorum rules.

During his testimony, Bandimere argued public health officials did not have better ideas for how the race track could operate safely, and although his family tried to put rules in place they couldn’t control individual behavior.

“I think that’s freedom,” Bandimere said. “It’s freedom to make choices for ourselves. It’s freedom to do things we feel are adequate for our own personal beliefs and our own activities we participate in.”

Randy Corporon, Bandimere’s attorney, argued that the county’s restrictions were unreasonable, improper and would shut down the race track.

“It’s paragraph after paragraph after paragraph, and subparagraph after subparagraph after subparagraph of things they’re asking them to do,” he said. “It will put this 62-year-old family business out of business.”

Bandimere said the speedway took precautions to protect the approximately 7,000 attendees who turned out for the July 4 event, including cutting attendance by about half of a normal holiday event, bringing in hand-washing and sanitizing stations, reminding guests to social distance and suggesting they wear a mask.

When Corporon asked Bandimere to describe what he saw in a photograph depicting fewer race fans than usual at the July 4 event, Bandimere said,”I see a lot of lost revenue.”

James Rada, a JeffCo public health employee sent to observe the track on July 4, said he saw attendees attempting to follow the rules but also witnessed guests gathering in crowds and wearing masks improperly. Employees occasionally failed to correct customers, Rada said.

Corporon called Rada a spy who was “trying to build a case” against the speedway. Instead, Rada could have corrected people himself or alerted employees or the Bandimeres to alleged health violations as they happened.

“How much do you want them to destroy their own business?” Corporon asked. “How can they have the big events they need to survive if they can’t put people in the seats?”

In his questioning of Mark Johnson, executive director of Jefferson County Public Health, Corporon noted that coronavirus deaths largely impacted the elderly and said there were plenty of better ways to protect the elderly than to close the race track.

Johnson agreed that the great majority at risk of dying of COVID-19 were elderly.

“Death is not the only thing we’re concerned about,” Johnson said. “We’re concerned about illness, the use of resources, overwhelming our healthcare system and concerned very much about young people who are infectious to older people. They go home, infect their parents or grandparents….Many people may not die, but they can get very ill and will take a lot of healthcare resources.”

The court hearing will resume at 8 a.m. Thursday, beginning with more testimony from Bandimere. As Wednesday’s hearing ended, Russell acknowledged the political and community issues surrounding the case but said she hoped attorneys came prepared to present legal arguments.

“I know you guys have a loyal fanbase,” Russell said. “But ultimately I have to focus on the legal arguments, not the ones that tug at your heartstrings.”


Judge orders Bandimere Speedway to limit crowd size at Fourth of July race, fireworks show

A district court judge in Jefferson County has ordered Bandimere Speedway to comply with COVID-19 public health regulations limiting the number of people who can be in the stands during the race and fireworks show planned for the Fourth of July.

The judge on Thursday granted Jefferson County Public Health’s request for a temporary restraining order requiring the Morrison racetrack to comply with state public health orders for outdoor events, which limit crowd sizes to 175 people, require six feet of social distancing between attendees and bar food service.

“We are pleased with the result, but can’t comment further because it is still pending litigation,” Ashley Sever, a spokeswoman for the health department, said in an email Friday.

Bandimere is scheduled to host the Brakes Plus Jet Car Nationals — which includes an evening fireworks show, one of the few in the metro area — on Saturday, according to its website.

Efforts by The Denver Post and other media to speak to Bandmere representatives this week have been unsuccessful. News of the temporary restraining order was first reported Friday by the Canyon Courier.

Mark Johnson, executive director of Jefferson County Public Health, previously had sent a letter to Bandimere alleging the track had been admitting too many fans in violation of state health orders meant to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Johnson said the racetrack has been selling tickets for all seats in all rows at its events, which would prevent any attempts at social distancing. He noted that some of the ticket packages come with buffet-style meals, also prohibited under the state health department’s rules over concerns diners will pass along the virus.

The letter from Jeffco Public Health ordered track officials to submit a plan to comply by 5 p.m. Wednesday. They failed to do that.

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As Colorado’s COVID-19 cases increase, teens and young adults see higher rates of infections

Coronavirus infections have increased among younger Coloradans in recent weeks, a trend that mirrors what is happening in states like Arizona, Florida and Texas where COVID-19 cases are surging.

Overall, the number of novel coronavirus cases in Colorado has increased slightly in recent weeks, but the state has not yet seen the same level of spikes in cases as some other states. As a result, public health officials are urging residents to forgo large gatherings to prevent Colorado from following in those states’ footsteps.

“We’re certainly at a critical point right now,” said Rachel Herlihy, the state epidemiologist, adding, “If we need to take action to potentially decrease transmission we’ll look into what those strategies need to be for Colorado.”

The number of new COVID-19 cases in Colorado rose last week for the first time since late April, and appear to be continuing that upward trend this week.

In the past four weeks, total COVID-19 infections statewide have increased by about 25%. But among children, teens and young adults that rate is even higher.

The rate of infection among those between the ages 10 and 19jumped 53.5% over the same period, according to a Denver Post analysis of data from the state health department.

The infection rate among those under 10 years old also increased by 47.5%. And for those in their 20s and 30s, the infection rate grew by 40.3% and 26%, respectively.

It’s unclear exactly why there has been an increase in the number of COVID-19 infections, but local public health officials have reported clusters of cases among teens and young adults in various counties.

Young adults and teens also are more likely to be mobile and interact with each other, which increases their risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus, according to public health experts.

So far, there are no indications that the racial justice protests that have taken place over the past month have led to a surge in COVID-19 cases.

In fact, one study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that during the demonstrations more people stayed home. So while the disease may have been transmitted during the protests, there was overall an increase in social distancing in the cities with civil unrest.

“That could change,” said Glen Mays, a professor of health policy at the Colorado School of Public Health. “But at this stage, I don’t think we have any strong evidence that protesters themselves encountered any heightened risk.”

The concern over social gatherings is such that Gov. Jared Polis earlier this week repeatedly discouraged Coloradans from coming together in large groups, including for July 4 celebrations. However, he made no move to the reverse the state’s reopening process, which could soon allow for bigger events.

“We’re not saying that individuals shouldn’t be out enjoying Colorado this summer,” Herlihy said. “But they should be doing it in a safe way.”

Rising cases among teens and young adults

Other states also have reported jumps in infections among younger people. In Arizona, almost half of the state’s cases are made up of people 20 to 44years old, according to the state’s health department.

Young adults and teenagers are at a lower risk of complications from COVID-19, but they can still face difficulties and hospitalizations from the disease. They can also be asymptomatic carriers, meaning they can transmit the virus to those who are more at risk of complications without experiencing severe symptoms themselves.

Herlihy has estimated that the asymptomatic rate among young people is about 50%.

So far, the outbreak in Colorado has affected older individuals at a higher rate than their younger peers. For example, individuals 80 and older make up just more than 3% of the state’s population, but account for 7.15% of cases and 53.5% of deaths, according to the state Department of Public Health and Environment.

A concern about these clusters of cases is that they indicate continued community transmission of the disease, said Eagle County spokeswoman Kris Widlak.

“What we’re trying to do is slow the spread,” Widlak said. “So if any group is spreading it more quickly, we have concern.”

Herlihy estimated that Colorado’s “R-naught” value, which reflects the average number of people infected by one person, likely surpassed 1 in mid-June. This means each person with the virus is potentially transmitting the disease to more people.

“Now is not the time to feel like the battle is won and that we can relax things,” Mays said. “We’re still at a very tenuous time.”

On Friday, the state reported 317 new cases of the novel coronavirus. Of those, 313 were for people who tested positive in recent days, while the rest were older cases. Overall, more than 31,790 people have tested positive for the respiratory disease COVID-19 since March, according to the state Department of Public Health and Environment.

Positivity rates have increased slightly, although hospitalizations for COIVD-19 have plateaued. On Friday, there were 129 people in the hospital with the disease across the state.

The health department also confirmed another seven people have died, bringing the total number of deaths due to COVID-19 to 1,482.

Counties report spikes in cases

The new cases among young Coloradans comes as local public health officials reported spikes in cases.

In Boulder County, more than 100 people tested positive for the disease following a mixture of college parties, protests and travel. In Eagle County, public officials also confirmed cases among teenagers and young adults following social gatherings.

San Miguel County officials reported a rise in cases in recent weeks, with 11 active cases as of Friday. While not all of the cases are related, teenagers are among some of those to test positive for COVID-19.

After one 17-year-old from Telluride tested positive, public health officials released a letter to parents asking families to take precautions — such as curbing their contact with others — if their child also had been at a social gathering the teen previously attended.

“We realize that teenagers are social beings and this pandemic is cramping their style,” the public health department wrote. “But we know we must collectively change our behaviors, to change the trajectory of this pandemic.”

 


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PHOTOS: Virtual Juneteenth music festival

A virtual Juneteenth celebration was held at Get Busy Livin Studios on Thursday, June 18, 2020. The event was hosted by local media personality Oren Lomena and featured live music, interviews with leaders of the black community and a variety of cutaways to live events happening in the city.


Drive-in concerts, movies part of ‘new reality’ for Saskatchewan entertainment

Evraz Place in Regina will host three drive-in concerts in one day, while Saskatoon's SaskTel Centre is already embracing drive-in movies.


Protests over George Floyd’s death roll continue the ninth straight night in Denver

A ninth night of protests over the death of George Floyd launched Friday with multiple marches and rallies taking place in the heart of Denver.

One newly formed group, Colorado Attorneys Against Police Violence, took over the speakers on the Capitol steps to announce their intentions to stand with protesters and denounce racism and police violence.

“We know you all are on the right side of history, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy,” LaQunya Baker, a Denver lawyer told the crowd.

While the first four nights of protests featured vandalism and looting among people on the streets and police firing tear gas and projectiles at protesters, recent nights have brought large, but calm crowds. Marches planned by various groups come and go from the Capitol grounds throughout the night.

Friday appears no different with at least one march planned to kick off at 8 p.m. with a schedule saying it will last two hours.

Two events in the metro area are planned for Saturday:

  • Blackout 2020 Aurora, sponsored by Say Their Names 5280 and 5280 Rapid Response Team, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Aurora Municipal Center, 14999 E. Alameda Ave., Aurora.
    https://www.facebook.com/events/267566430966524
  • #BlackLivesMatter student led protest, hosted by Denver Metro BLM, 4 p.m., Saturday, 18250 E. 51st Ave., Denver. https://www.facebook.com/events/285730689132418/


Tired of coronavirus doom and gloom? You’re not alone.

It’s been more than six weeks since our physical worlds began closing in on us, from school and business closures that marooned many at home to travel restrictions that put most of our big, beautiful state out of reach.

Even as much of the Denver metro area remains under a stay-at-home order through Friday, there are increasing signs of fatigue. Each day under the uncomfortable new normal brings a stream of urgent coronavirus headlines and updates — as well as signs that people need an escape, from Denver parks and foothills trails crowded with sun-seekers to busy aisles at suburban home-improvement stores, which never closed down.

Lucy East understands the reasons for the continuing call for masks, social distancing and other precautions. She and her husband, Jonathan, both civil engineers, are working from home in Wheat Ridge. They’re being careful by ordering grocery deliveries and keeping their toddler out of day care to limit the family’s exposure.

But the longer it lasts, the lockdown takes a quiet emotional toll. The couple’s daughter, Alice, turned 1 on Thursday. Her grandparents are eager for family time.

“It’s getting a bit harder as time goes on not to see friends and family, especially for a birthday,” East said.

At times, frustrations have boiled over, as when a post on the Nextdoor site in northwest Denver declared last week: “It’s time to get back to living life.” The post quickly was met with competing torrents of applause and indignation. A day later, it had been taken down.

The rest of the state, along with Douglas County, began transitioning last week to Gov. Jared Polis’ “safer-at-home” order, which allowed many businesses to reopen with certain restrictions. The order keeps certain social distancing measures in place, and Polis still is urging people to wear masks when out in public — though adherence to this is spotty, at best.

But even as the governor called for continued vigilance and sacrifice, a public health expert who’s helped develop state COVID-19 projections says it’s natural that people are letting their guard down.

“More as a human being, I understand how people over time are feeling cooped up and experiencing this restlessness,” said Elizabeth Carlton, an assistant professor at the Colorado School of Public Health. “As someone who’s worked on the modeling team, I think the message that came through really clear when we were in our last set of simulations is that the next phase of this epidemic in Colorado will really be defined by how well we can maintain a certain amount of distance from each other, as hard as that is.”

Uncertainty in the new normal

How long variations on this new normal will last remains an unanswered question. It’s unclear how much longer it will be before we can go to the movies, attend sporting events or gather to hear live music. Or how long before younger children, after adapting to remote learning, can simply play with their friends again.

A look at the little data that’s available shows plenty of people have skirted the rules at times, whether it’s tossing a frisbee or a football in a park — despite Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s order against group sports activities — or venturing outside the house for trips deemed “unessential” by government orders.

Google has released periodic reports tracking movement through aggregate location data from people’s mobile phones. Through late March, its data for Colorado showed significant drops in travel to several types of destinations, compared to baseline levels prior to state and local restrictions taking effect.

But as April progressed, Google’s latest report shows, the extent that travel declined compared to baselines was considerably less, especially for trips to shop, eat and seek entertainment. When it comes to visiting parks and other outdoor places, Coloradans went from a 12% average decrease from normal in the March 29 report to 15% above the baseline in the April 26 report.

Some people are eager to move on.

When Echter’s Nursery and Garden Center in Arvada reopened its doors for in-person shopping on Thursday, after limiting sales to pickup orders for weeks, Gerald and Sandra Grant were among dozens of people in a line outside that snaked along the sidewalk and into the parking lot. The Grants said they relied heavily on President Donald Trump’s near-daily press conferences, calling them “encouraging.”

When asked how they were coping with the lockdown, Gerald laughed.

“What lockdown?” he said, before his wife said: “We’re off lockdown now.”

Another measure of fatigue came in a study released last week by the Pew Research Center. When it comes to following coronavirus news, Americans seem to be bordering on burnout.

Pew found 71% of more than 10,000 U.S. adults it surveyed in late April said they needed regular breaks from the news, compared to 28% who said they needed to stay constantly tuned in. More than 40% said COVID-related news made them feel worse emotionally.

Early on, Lucy East said she followed the news incessantly. Then a wellness challenge from her employer encouraged East and her coworkers to limit their news intake to 30 minutes per day. She says doing that has improved her mental health.

But Allea Ryan of Federal Heights still tunes in to broadcast news daily and receives breaking-news alerts on her phone. She likes keeping up, especially since her daughter is considered an essential worker at Walmart.

“I think if we stop hearing about it is when I’d become worried,” Ryan said.

Grappling with “what life might start to look like”

People dance as guitarist Russ Grabski ...
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

People dance as guitarist Russ Grabski , right, play with their band The Good Kind as they perform in front of house belonging Lisa Cooper on May 3, 2020 in Gunbarrel. The group played in front of four different homes in the Boulder area to help alleviate the isolation caused by the coronavirus. The band kept their performances to groups of small friends that watched from their driveways most wearing masks and keep their distances from one another. The money the band raised from donations goes directly to There With Care that has been providing support for families during the critical phase of a medical crisis, easing their daily stresses with compassion and care.

Given the unprecedented nature of the pandemic response, psychologist Michelle Rozenman says any fatigue that develops often is rooted in prolonged stress, loneliness, guilt or exhaustion from new situations in people’s work or home lives.

“At this point, six weeks in, people have had an opportunity to see what life might start to look like,” said Rozenman, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Denver. “So whatever that means for them, however their routines have changed, if there’s a lack of consistency or structure, that may cause a problem.”

That upheaval has saddled children with anxiety and other challenges, too, she said, citing observations from her doctoral students’ remote therapy sessions with families in recent weeks.

Early last week, Polis acknowledged the pain brought by the stay-at-home orders. He took the tack of applauding the state’s residents for largely abiding by them. And he pleaded for patience, while announcing later in the week that his administration will put more emphasis on addressing the mental health effects of the crisis.

“There’s no easy answers here at all,” the governor said during his April 27 daily news conference. “We’re being challenged — we’re being asked to make sacrifices in our way. God willing, we should continue to be patient and treat each other with respect and love, knowing that better days (are ahead). … It’s a time not for anxiety, not for fear, but for justified caution.”

Rozenman said adults and children alike can enhance their mental calm in times like this by establishing routines, engaging in some kind of daily exercise, eating healthy food and getting consistent sleep as often as possible.

Carlton, the public health professor, urged common sense as restrictions are relaxed, adding that the onus would increasingly be on elected officials to “communicate what’s OK in addition to what’s not OK” to put people at ease.

As some models predict a second wave of coronavirus infections, she worries about limits in the public’s patience with social and physical restrictions.

“That has been a real big question that we’ve wrestled with,” Carlton said. “Nobody sees stay-at-home orders as sustainable for a very long period of time — or people will get restless.”

Join our Facebook group for the latest updates on coronavirus in Colorado.


Tired of coronavirus doom and gloom? You’re not alone.

It’s been more than six weeks since our physical worlds began closing in on us, from school and business closures that marooned many at home to travel restrictions that put most of our big, beautiful state out of reach.

Even as much of the Denver metro area remains under a stay-at-home order through Friday, there are increasing signs of fatigue. Each day under the uncomfortable new normal brings a stream of urgent coronavirus headlines and updates — as well as signs that people need an escape, from Denver parks and foothills trails crowded with sun-seekers to busy aisles at suburban home-improvement stores, which never closed down.

Lucy East understands the reasons for the continuing call for masks, social distancing and other precautions. She and her husband, Jonathan, both civil engineers, are working from home in Wheat Ridge. They’re being careful by ordering grocery deliveries and keeping their toddler out of day care to limit the family’s exposure.

But the longer it lasts, the lockdown takes a quiet emotional toll. The couple’s daughter, Alice, turned 1 on Thursday. Her grandparents are eager for family time.

“It’s getting a bit harder as time goes on not to see friends and family, especially for a birthday,” East said.

At times, frustrations have boiled over, as when a post on the Nextdoor site in northwest Denver declared last week: “It’s time to get back to living life.” The post quickly was met with competing torrents of applause and indignation. A day later, it had been taken down.

The rest of the state, along with Douglas County, began transitioning last week to Gov. Jared Polis’ “safer-at-home” order, which allowed many businesses to reopen with certain restrictions. The order keeps certain social distancing measures in place, and Polis still is urging people to wear masks when out in public — though adherence to this is spotty, at best.

But even as the governor called for continued vigilance and sacrifice, a public health expert who’s helped develop state COVID-19 projections says it’s natural that people are letting their guard down.

“More as a human being, I understand how people over time are feeling cooped up and experiencing this restlessness,” said Elizabeth Carlton, an assistant professor at the Colorado School of Public Health. “As someone who’s worked on the modeling team, I think the message that came through really clear when we were in our last set of simulations is that the next phase of this epidemic in Colorado will really be defined by how well we can maintain a certain amount of distance from each other, as hard as that is.”

Uncertainty in the new normal

How long variations on this new normal will last remains an unanswered question. It’s unclear how much longer it will be before we can go to the movies, attend sporting events or gather to hear live music. Or how long before younger children, after adapting to remote learning, can simply play with their friends again.

A look at the little data that’s available shows plenty of people have skirted the rules at times, whether it’s tossing a frisbee or a football in a park — despite Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s order against group sports activities — or venturing outside the house for trips deemed “unessential” by government orders.

Google has released periodic reports tracking movement through aggregate location data from people’s mobile phones. Through late March, its data for Colorado showed significant drops in travel to several types of destinations, compared to baseline levels prior to state and local restrictions taking effect.

But as April progressed, Google’s latest report shows, the extent that travel declined compared to baselines was considerably less, especially for trips to shop, eat and seek entertainment. When it comes to visiting parks and other outdoor places, Coloradans went from a 12% average decrease from normal in the March 29 report to 15% above the baseline in the April 26 report.

Some people are eager to move on.

When Echter’s Nursery and Garden Center in Arvada reopened its doors for in-person shopping on Thursday, after limiting sales to pickup orders for weeks, Gerald and Sandra Grant were among dozens of people in a line outside that snaked along the sidewalk and into the parking lot. The Grants said they relied heavily on President Donald Trump’s near-daily press conferences, calling them “encouraging.”

When asked how they were coping with the lockdown, Gerald laughed.

“What lockdown?” he said, before his wife said: “We’re off lockdown now.”

Another measure of fatigue came in a study released last week by the Pew Research Center. When it comes to following coronavirus news, Americans seem to be bordering on burnout.

Pew found 71% of more than 10,000 U.S. adults it surveyed in late April said they needed regular breaks from the news, compared to 28% who said they needed to stay constantly tuned in. More than 40% said COVID-related news made them feel worse emotionally.

Early on, Lucy East said she followed the news incessantly. Then a wellness challenge from her employer encouraged East and her coworkers to limit their news intake to 30 minutes per day. She says doing that has improved her mental health.

But Allea Ryan of Federal Heights still tunes in to broadcast news daily and receives breaking-news alerts on her phone. She likes keeping up, especially since her daughter is considered an essential worker at Walmart.

“I think if we stop hearing about it is when I’d become worried,” Ryan said.

Grappling with “what life might start to look like”

People dance as guitarist Russ Grabski ...
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

People dance as guitarist Russ Grabski , right, play with their band The Good Kind as they perform in front of house belonging Lisa Cooper on May 3, 2020 in Gunbarrel. The group played in front of four different homes in the Boulder area to help alleviate the isolation caused by the coronavirus. The band kept their performances to groups of small friends that watched from their driveways most wearing masks and keep their distances from one another. The money the band raised from donations goes directly to There With Care that has been providing support for families during the critical phase of a medical crisis, easing their daily stresses with compassion and care.

Given the unprecedented nature of the pandemic response, psychologist Michelle Rozenman says any fatigue that develops often is rooted in prolonged stress, loneliness, guilt or exhaustion from new situations in people’s work or home lives.

“At this point, six weeks in, people have had an opportunity to see what life might start to look like,” said Rozenman, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Denver. “So whatever that means for them, however their routines have changed, if there’s a lack of consistency or structure, that may cause a problem.”

That upheaval has saddled children with anxiety and other challenges, too, she said, citing observations from her doctoral students’ remote therapy sessions with families in recent weeks.

Early last week, Polis acknowledged the pain brought by the stay-at-home orders. He took the tack of applauding the state’s residents for largely abiding by them. And he pleaded for patience, while announcing later in the week that his administration will put more emphasis on addressing the mental health effects of the crisis.

“There’s no easy answers here at all,” the governor said during his April 27 daily news conference. “We’re being challenged — we’re being asked to make sacrifices in our way. God willing, we should continue to be patient and treat each other with respect and love, knowing that better days (are ahead). … It’s a time not for anxiety, not for fear, but for justified caution.”

Rozenman said adults and children alike can enhance their mental calm in times like this by establishing routines, engaging in some kind of daily exercise, eating healthy food and getting consistent sleep as often as possible.

Carlton, the public health professor, urged common sense as restrictions are relaxed, adding that the onus would increasingly be on elected officials to “communicate what’s OK in addition to what’s not OK” to put people at ease.

As some models predict a second wave of coronavirus infections, she worries about limits in the public’s patience with social and physical restrictions.

“That has been a real big question that we’ve wrestled with,” Carlton said. “Nobody sees stay-at-home orders as sustainable for a very long period of time — or people will get restless.”

Join our Facebook group for the latest updates on coronavirus in Colorado.


Tired of coronavirus doom and gloom? You’re not alone.

It’s been more than six weeks since our physical worlds began closing in on us, from school and business closures that marooned many at home to travel restrictions that put most of our big, beautiful state out of reach.

Even as much of the Denver metro area remains under a stay-at-home order through Friday, there are increasing signs of fatigue. Each day under the uncomfortable new normal brings a stream of urgent coronavirus headlines and updates — as well as signs that people need an escape, from Denver parks and foothills trails crowded with sun-seekers to busy aisles at suburban home-improvement stores, which never closed down.

Lucy East understands the reasons for the continuing call for masks, social distancing and other precautions. She and her husband, Jonathan, both civil engineers, are working from home in Wheat Ridge. They’re being careful by ordering grocery deliveries and keeping their toddler out of day care to limit the family’s exposure.

But the longer it lasts, the lockdown takes a quiet emotional toll. The couple’s daughter, Alice, turned 1 on Thursday. Her grandparents are eager for family time.

“It’s getting a bit harder as time goes on not to see friends and family, especially for a birthday,” East said.

At times, frustrations have boiled over, as when a post on the Nextdoor site in northwest Denver declared last week: “It’s time to get back to living life.” The post quickly was met with competing torrents of applause and indignation. A day later, it had been taken down.

The rest of the state, along with Douglas County, began transitioning last week to Gov. Jared Polis’ “safer-at-home” order, which allowed many businesses to reopen with certain restrictions. The order keeps certain social distancing measures in place, and Polis still is urging people to wear masks when out in public — though adherence to this is spotty, at best.

But even as the governor called for continued vigilance and sacrifice, a public health expert who’s helped develop state COVID-19 projections says it’s natural that people are letting their guard down.

“More as a human being, I understand how people over time are feeling cooped up and experiencing this restlessness,” said Elizabeth Carlton, an assistant professor at the Colorado School of Public Health. “As someone who’s worked on the modeling team, I think the message that came through really clear when we were in our last set of simulations is that the next phase of this epidemic in Colorado will really be defined by how well we can maintain a certain amount of distance from each other, as hard as that is.”

Uncertainty in the new normal

How long variations on this new normal will last remains an unanswered question. It’s unclear how much longer it will be before we can go to the movies, attend sporting events or gather to hear live music. Or how long before younger children, after adapting to remote learning, can simply play with their friends again.

A look at the little data that’s available shows plenty of people have skirted the rules at times, whether it’s tossing a frisbee or a football in a park — despite Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s order against group sports activities — or venturing outside the house for trips deemed “unessential” by government orders.

Google has released periodic reports tracking movement through aggregate location data from people’s mobile phones. Through late March, its data for Colorado showed significant drops in travel to several types of destinations, compared to baseline levels prior to state and local restrictions taking effect.

But as April progressed, Google’s latest report shows, the extent that travel declined compared to baselines was considerably less, especially for trips to shop, eat and seek entertainment. When it comes to visiting parks and other outdoor places, Coloradans went from a 12% average decrease from normal in the March 29 report to 15% above the baseline in the April 26 report.

Some people are eager to move on.

When Echter’s Nursery and Garden Center in Arvada reopened its doors for in-person shopping on Thursday, after limiting sales to pickup orders for weeks, Gerald and Sandra Grant were among dozens of people in a line outside that snaked along the sidewalk and into the parking lot. The Grants said they relied heavily on President Donald Trump’s near-daily press conferences, calling them “encouraging.”

When asked how they were coping with the lockdown, Gerald laughed.

“What lockdown?” he said, before his wife said: “We’re off lockdown now.”

Another measure of fatigue came in a study released last week by the Pew Research Center. When it comes to following coronavirus news, Americans seem to be bordering on burnout.

Pew found 71% of more than 10,000 U.S. adults it surveyed in late April said they needed regular breaks from the news, compared to 28% who said they needed to stay constantly tuned in. More than 40% said COVID-related news made them feel worse emotionally.

Early on, Lucy East said she followed the news incessantly. Then a wellness challenge from her employer encouraged East and her coworkers to limit their news intake to 30 minutes per day. She says doing that has improved her mental health.

But Allea Ryan of Federal Heights still tunes in to broadcast news daily and receives breaking-news alerts on her phone. She likes keeping up, especially since her daughter is considered an essential worker at Walmart.

“I think if we stop hearing about it is when I’d become worried,” Ryan said.

Grappling with “what life might start to look like”

People dance as guitarist Russ Grabski ...
Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

People dance as guitarist Russ Grabski , right, play with their band The Good Kind as they perform in front of house belonging Lisa Cooper on May 3, 2020 in Gunbarrel. The group played in front of four different homes in the Boulder area to help alleviate the isolation caused by the coronavirus. The band kept their performances to groups of small friends that watched from their driveways most wearing masks and keep their distances from one another. The money the band raised from donations goes directly to There With Care that has been providing support for families during the critical phase of a medical crisis, easing their daily stresses with compassion and care.

Given the unprecedented nature of the pandemic response, psychologist Michelle Rozenman says any fatigue that develops often is rooted in prolonged stress, loneliness, guilt or exhaustion from new situations in people’s work or home lives.

“At this point, six weeks in, people have had an opportunity to see what life might start to look like,” said Rozenman, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Denver. “So whatever that means for them, however their routines have changed, if there’s a lack of consistency or structure, that may cause a problem.”

That upheaval has saddled children with anxiety and other challenges, too, she said, citing observations from her doctoral students’ remote therapy sessions with families in recent weeks.

Early last week, Polis acknowledged the pain brought by the stay-at-home orders. He took the tack of applauding the state’s residents for largely abiding by them. And he pleaded for patience, while announcing later in the week that his administration will put more emphasis on addressing the mental health effects of the crisis.

“There’s no easy answers here at all,” the governor said during his April 27 daily news conference. “We’re being challenged — we’re being asked to make sacrifices in our way. God willing, we should continue to be patient and treat each other with respect and love, knowing that better days (are ahead). … It’s a time not for anxiety, not for fear, but for justified caution.”

Rozenman said adults and children alike can enhance their mental calm in times like this by establishing routines, engaging in some kind of daily exercise, eating healthy food and getting consistent sleep as often as possible.

Carlton, the public health professor, urged common sense as restrictions are relaxed, adding that the onus would increasingly be on elected officials to “communicate what’s OK in addition to what’s not OK” to put people at ease.

As some models predict a second wave of coronavirus infections, she worries about limits in the public’s patience with social and physical restrictions.

“That has been a real big question that we’ve wrestled with,” Carlton said. “Nobody sees stay-at-home orders as sustainable for a very long period of time — or people will get restless.”

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