Elbert County, COVID-19 Update - April 15, 2020
There are no new cases of COVID-19 to report in Elbert County. Our current count of confirmed cases remains at seventeen.
Today’s update will focus on the public health issue of housing insecurity. Secure housing, along with access to employment, healthy foods, quality education, social supports, and reliable transportation, are several of the most important social determinants of health. A recent study by eviction defense lawyers (https://bit.ly/2VxCKfw) is warning that more than 450,000 Colorado renters are at risk of being evicted from their homes in coming months when guidance against removing tenants expires, putting depth to the economic crater caused by COVID-19 lockdowns and layoffs. The authors focused on evictions data corresponding with past high unemployment spikes to illuminate Colorado’s near future. It assumes state unemployment could hit 25 - 30%, reflecting the dire predictions of other economic analysts. The Colorado Apartment Association, which represents landlords controlling more than 400,000 housing units in the state, created a task force to respond to the economic crisis and has encouraged owners to work out new arrangements with tenants whenever possible. They have also encouraged members to waive late fees and put off any eviction efforts until at least April 30. However, many owners face their own economic crunch and may not get any relief on their own property mortgages that will still be due.
Caring for Homeless Population
At a time when we are asking everyone to stay home to avoid interpersonal contact I am asking everyone to think about those who don’t have homes to go back to, and who often spend the night at facilities in the metro area where social distancing is more difficult. In order to meet the needs of those experiencing homelessness, Governor Polis is mobilizing 250 Colorado National Guard members to support existing shelters in the City and County of Denver with staffing shortages, to support local emergency operations centers, to help expand capacity by using rec centers, hotels, motels and other lodging facilities, and deploying additional emergency resources through various state agencies as needed. Additionally, the Governor has formally requested hotel and motel owners in the state to enter into agreements to temporarily house those without access to homes at this time. The need for non- congregate rooms is urgent as there is a real potential for currently sheltered people to be forced into large scale, dangerous facilities or back onto the streets. Rather than have hotels and motels lose money on vacant rooms, Governor Polis is urging the owners of these facilities to contract with local governments to stop the spread of the virus and bring in revenue at the same time. If you are aware of a person experiencing homelessness and exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, they can be tested at two hospitals in Aurora – UCHealth on the Anschutz Campus and also Aurora Medical Center. If they test positive for the virus, there are hotel/motel resources available for isolation that are being coordinated by Aurora Police Department. I understand this isn’t a perfect solution, however given the dearth of hotel lodging options in Elbert County this may be a potential option for local individuals and families experiencing homelessness while fighting a COVID-19 infection.
In a related note, if your role includes working with homeless populations the Colorado Health Foundation has scheduled several upcoming Zoom calls to offer guidance and support. They are coordinating efforts with the CO Department of Local Affairs’ Division of Housing. The biweekly calls will be convened on Wednesday April 22, Wednesday May 6, and Wednesday May 20. Calls are scheduled from 10:00 - 11:00 a.m. If you would like to join the calls please contact Amy Duggan at ADuggan@ColoradoHealth.org.
Dwayne Smith, MEd, MCHES®, CPST
Administrator, Elbert County Public Health