Yesterday afternoon, Gov. Jared Polis took his biggest step yet in the response to the hockey-sticking COVID-19 global pandemic, as cases and fatalities in Colorado rapidly increase–a statewide stay-at-home order obliging most of us to stay in our houses except for designated essential trips. As our readers know, Polis’ statewide order came shortly after Republican lawmakers assailed a stay-at-home order issued by the Tri County Health Department for its jurisdiction of Adams, Arapahoe, and Douglas counties. The Denver Post updates the controversy we covered yesterday:
A Republican Douglas County commissioner, however, said authority for such decisions rests with the health department under state law. [Pols emphasis]
The Tri-County order was superseded Wednesday afternoon when Gov. Jared Polis issued a statewide stay-at-home order, but the argument over local control remained.
The six Colorado lawmakers — including Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert of Parker and House Minority Leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock — sent commissioners a letter Wednesday, saying they learned that the health agency was issuing the order despite opposition from at least two Dougco commissioners. Sen. Jim Smallwood of Parker, who said he tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, also signed the letter.
Like we said yesterday, the irony of Sen. Jim Smallwood signing this letter after he traveled to California following the adjournment of the General Assembly and contracted COVID-19 somewhere along the way is probably worth its own blog post. What this group of Republican lawmakers didn’t seem to understand is that health departments have the authority to issue such orders under state law–meaning if these lawmakers don’t like health departments having such authority, they’re the ones who can change it. In the end, all this off-base grandstand against Tri-County Health accomplished was to scare Colorado citizens into second-guessing emergency public health orders.
Folks, that’s really bad.
So, bottom line is, social distancing is kinda the norm out here. We’ll tolerate that.
Shutting down large gatherings. We get it.
Locking us in our houses? Not so much.
I’ll be at work tomorrow. You can find me there.
— Kevin J. Grantham (@SenatorGrantham) March 26, 2020
This is former Senate President Kevin Grantham, responding to Gov. Polis’ statewide stay-at-home order yesterday evening by more or less declaring he’s going to disregard it. Grantham is now running for for a seat on the Fremont County board of commissioners, and we assume he’s decided a little coronavirus civil disobedience is a political net positive. Earlier this week, House Minority Leader Patrick Neville actually invoked the words “civil disobedience” to forecast the response to the statewide order issued yesterday. And up in Weld County, as the Colorado Times Recorder reports, politically promiscuous Sheriff Steve Reams says it even more plainly:
Maybe it’s just me but I’d rather take my risk with the virus then socialism. [Pols emphasis]
After conservative media spent weeks downplaying the threat of the COVID-19 outbreak and echoing President Donald Trump’s repeated denial of the severity of the crisis, by all estimates the pandemic is on a trajectory for the worst-case side of the scenarios that have been plotted by experts looking at the disease’s spread. The economic devastation resulting from the effective shutdown of large parts of the global economy is very serious, but it’s happening because the loss of life from not containing the spread of this pandemic would be far worse. Politically, a campaign to “resist” measures to contain the virus is only sustainable among people who don’t know–or don’t want to know–the truth.
Sheriff Reams’ selective enforcement of the law based on his opinion is well-documented in relation to gun safety laws. But resistance to the emergency orders issued from the governor down to health departments with the clear statutory authority to do so by local Republicans is irresponsibility that could have much bigger destructive impact than refusing to take a suicidal individual’s guns under the “red flag” law.
Some people who take their advice, or their family or friends, will die. It’s not hypothetical, it’s arithmetic. And that escalates this from cheap-shot political rhetoric into something that should outrage every single Coloradan regardless of your politics.