Pueblo's annual cannabis institute conference postponed

As Colorado Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency Tuesday, Colorado State University-Pueblo has postponed next month's Institute of Cannabis Research 2020 Conference.

Polis told a news conference at the Capitol that he has directed the state to pursue financial measures to help health, food, nursing home and state employees to stay home if they get sick — rather than expose others to the virus because they're worried about losing their jobs.

Polis said he's seeking more testing capacity, and he announced that the private diagnostics firm LabCorp now is performing coronavirus tests that complements state and federal testing.

“In order to slow the spread of the disease, some of the most effective measures we can take as a state is to test more people, so that those who test positive can be isolated from the general population,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Colorado Senate President Leroy Garcia said the legislative emergency preparedness committee meets tomorrow to ensure that the state’s plans are effective.

Details of the executive order Polis signed Tuesday include:

• Directing the state Department of Labor and Employment to engage in emergency rule-making to ensure workers in food handling, hospitality, child care, health care, and education can get paid sick leave to miss work if they exhibit flu-like symptoms and have to miss work awaiting testing results for COVID-19.

• Proving support for workers who test positive and lack access to paid leave, like unemployment insurance. "When those workers lack access to paid sick leave, it poses a great risk to our ability to protect the public," Polis said.

• Ensuring that the state's functions continue to run smoothly. For employees who may be put either in quarantine or isolation and can work from home, they should do so. If these workers fall ill and cannot perform their duties, they would be able to use paid leave. For impacted employees who cannot work remotely, like correctional officers, the administration is working to ensure paid leave options.

• Asking the Department of Revenue to temporarily allow Coloradans over the age of 65 — a vulnerable population — to extend their driver's licenses online to avoid having to congregate at Department of Motor Vehicle offices.

Polis also encouraged the private sector to voluntarily offer paid sick leave.

Garcia, a practicing paramedic and Pueblo Democrat, asked residents to take a commonsense approach to preparing for the virus.

“Coloradans should keep with their normal daily routines, taking extra precautions to protect their health, including regular hand washing, avoiding close contact and face-touching, using at least 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer and most importantly staying home if sick,” Garcia said.

The actions come as the number of positive cases in Colorado reached at least 17 as of 6:30 p.m. Tuesday — five days after the state announced its first presumptive positive case. The designation for cases means they still need confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One case had an indeterminate result but the state is announcing it as a positive, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The closest case to Pueblo is a case in the Colorado Springs area.

The Institute of Cannabis Research at Colorado State University-Pueblo announced Wednesday it rescheduled its annual conference, previously set for April 4-6, to protect the health and safety of guests and the campus.

"We do intend to reschedule the conference for some time over the summer (tentatively August 2020), but are working on the logistical details that would impact the specific date. We will notify you as soon as possible when a new date has been determined," the institute said in a statement. "If you decide to attend the conference later this summer, we will hold what you have paid in registration fees unless you request a refund. If you cannot attend the conference, we will reimburse the registration fees that you have paid. Alternatively, you can find a substitute to attend the conference in your place."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

rlopez@chieftain.com

Twitter: @lopezricardojr