Pueblo is a rough town. Not in a bad way. Pueblo is a town that has weathered some hard times and come through better than anyone could have imagined. In the seventies, it lost two of its biggest employers---thousands of jobs just disappeared---but it soldiered on; reinvented itself. So, maybe, instead of calling it rough, calling it tough or resilient is a bit more accurate. Once again, as an invisible and deadly enemy, COVID-19, sweeps Colorado and the nation, Pueblo’s showing its grit.
Since the coronavirus settled over the State, more than 11,000 cases have been reported with just over 600 deaths. Southern Colorado’s largest city has somehow managed to contain cases to just over 130 with only nine C-19 deaths. These numbers will certainly change but Pueblo is not in immediate danger of losing control, said Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment, Josh Gallegos.
“We’re following the Governor’s advice and all executive orders,” said Gallegos. “We are pushing individuals to wear a cloth covering over nose and mouth and are giving guidance to all our services.”
The city has also opened up testing. Last week the health department set up testing at the Colorado State Fairgrounds for anyone in the community if they are exhibiting signs of COVID-19. Testing is encouraged for anyone showing signs of the virus, including coughing, shortness of breath and fever at or above 100.4. The site can handle up to 250 tests a day. Testing will continue at the fairgrounds each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday through the end of May. Testing is free and insurance is not required.
“What we’re going to lean on is proxy-indicating,” he said. Proxy-indicating is a means of gauging the number of ventilators in use. “That will allow us to get a better idea if we’re seeing a curve or peaking.”
The health department reports that of the confirmed cases of COVID-19, three cases have been detected in children under the age of nine and 16 have been reported in individuals 80 or older. The largest group of COVID-19 positive cases has been in the age group 50-59. The county has tracked 21 cases in this category.
Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar announced via video message on Friday that Pueblo, along with a number of Colorado cities and towns, will relax its shelter in place policy. “While more commercial activity will be permitted,” said Gradisar, “we are not going back to business as usual.” The city’s chief executive said taking a cautious approach will minimize the risk of “overwhelming our medical professionals and hospitals.”
He warned against any complacency and urged Pueblo citizens to continue practicing social distancing. The Mayor has authorized the opening of offices at fifty percent capacity “if social distancing can be maintained.” Beginning Monday, May 4th, city offices will be reopening but, said Gradisar, under strict guidelines. Employees will be “wearing masks and members of the community visiting city offices will be required to wear masks.” Anyone using public transportation will also be required to wear a mask.
For the past several weeks, the Sheriff’s Department has served as the command post for COVID-19 coverage. “We’re working with community partners,” said Gallegos. They include local hospitals, city and county government, the school district and medical response teams. A COVID-19 hotline has been established for anyone in need of information. The number is 719.583.4444.