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'Top Priority Is Keeping Our State Safe': Gov. Polis Announces Coronavirus Action Plan

DENVER (CBS4)- The State of Colorado is preparing for the possibility of coronavirus. There are no known cases of coronavirus in Colorado.

Colorado is raising its emergency preparedness to the second highest level which is intended to prepare as much as possible for COVID-19.

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A total of 37 tests have been conducted in Colorado and of those, eight are pending.

Gov. Jared Polis gathered with his team at the state Capitol on Tuesday morning to announce measures taking place to protect Coloradans.

State health officials said it is possible that there were already mild cases in the state.

"It is possible that mild cases are going undetected by the medical system and spreading," said Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment executive director Jill Hunsaker Ryan.

There is no vaccine.

Polis encouraged best practices that include washing your hands and staying home from work and other public places if you're feeling sick.

He said Colorado's readiness includes 650,000 N95 masks and the capacity to test 160 people per day- free of charge.

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The State Communicable Disease Epidemiologist with the CDPHE explained that a sentinel surveillance network is being set up and specimens that test negative for influenza and other respiratory viruses will be tested for COVID-19.

"To try and get to that unrecognized level of transmission that could be occurring," said State Communicable Disease Epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy.

She also stressed that if you have symptoms of coronavirus, including fever, coughing and shortness of breath, "it is important to call ahead before going to see a doctor or an emergency room."

Polis said he talked with Vice President Mike Pence to request funding for a staffing surge and to bypass the red tape for emergency preparedness grants.

"This is not a declared State of Emergency, but those things would be considered in consultation with the GEEERC (Governor's Expert Emergency Epidemic Response Committee) if there were a severe outbreak as those emergency powers could also be authorized if there was a significant forest fire or other natural disaster. We would be very thoughtful but also decisive about doing what we need to do to keep people of Colorado," said Polis.

The GEEERC is made up of 19 experts in health and disease and public safety.

Polis also suggested people have 72 hours of food and water on hand in order to be prepared.

He also made it clear that this is not a state of emergency, "if the condition elevates to a level where we need to take more decisive action, we're prepared to do that."

This announcement from Polis comes one day after Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced the creation of a coronavirus task force that will coordinate among public agencies as the virus continues its spread across the country.

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"We are taking the concern around coronavirus very seriously, but it's important, also, that we not panic," Hancock said during a news conference in his office Monday afternoon.

The coronavirus outbreak, first detected late last year in central China, has infected 90,000 people worldwide and killed some 3,100 of them. No one in Colorado has tested positive for the virus in Colorado.

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