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April 21, 2020 03:46 AM MDT

The Hardest Calls: Gov. Polis Weighs Life And Death Decisions

  • by: Colorado Pols
Gov. Jared Polis (D).

As a team of Denver Post reporters detail for us, yesterday Gov. Jared Polis outlined a process by which the state of Colorado will begin to reopen the mostly-shuttered economy at the end of April after over a month of mandatory stay-at-home orders in place–orders which appear to have definitively turned the tide against the COVID-19 pandemic, though at great cost to the economy here in Colorado and across the globe.

The first stage of Colorado’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic is ending, but the second phase will be far from a return to normal life, Gov. Jared Polis said Monday as he laid out expectations for how the state will reopen after his stay-at-home order expires Sunday.

Coloradans will need to shift from staying at home to being “safer at home,” Polis said, outlining how the state’s order will morph into strong recommendations for residents with restrictions on the businesses that are able to slowly reopen in the coming weeks.

Polis said he expects retailers will have the option to reopen with curbside pickup beginning April 27, and then will be able to reopen to limited numbers of in-store customers on May 1, as long as they have social-distancing policies in place.

As Marianne Goodland of the Colorado Springs Gazette reports, there is increasing evidence that the stay-at-home orders have been highly effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in this state:

Officials with the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Colorado School of Public Health presented that data in a conference call with reporters Monday afternoon. “We did well,” said Dr. Jonathan Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health. “We’ve reduced the contact rate to 75%” and the curve — a measure that shows the peak of infections and when that peak takes place — is going down.

Despite the news that social distancing has begun to show results, the officials said that 65,000 to 75,000 Coloradans likely have contracted COVID-19, well above the 10,098 cases listed by CDPHE for Monday.

But as 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark pointed out last night, there’s a problem: one of the key preconditions previously voiced by Gov. Polis himself for reopening the economy as well as the consensus of health experts fighting the pandemic, widespread available testing for the disease to enable informed decisions from the statewide to the individual level, has not been met.

This undeniable change in the stated criteria for reopening Colorado’s economy cannot help but create legitimate concern that the pressure to do so is overcoming the best advice of public health officials battling the pandemic, which is to keep stay-at-home orders in place until ubiquitous testing and the containment strategies testing facilitates become feasible. As history shows, premature loosening of restrictions on public life can unleash a second wave of disease worse than the first.

Throughout this unprecedented emergency, we and every other responsible editorial voice have rejected the armchair quarterbacking of qualified experts by politicians who either don’t understand or don’t value the lives at stake. There is no question the tremendous damage being inflicted on the economy by this pandemic is a very serious crisis all its own, and requires intervention no less robust than control of the disease itself. At some level every medical expert also understands that economic devastation is also a public health threat. But the lives that would otherwise be lost have to come first.

What we can say is that the overwhelming trust Coloradans have for Gov. Polis right now shown in available polling is based on his perceived diligence in responding to the crisis, and overriding attention to public health before politics–even when it would be very tempting to focus on the Trump administration’s vast incompetence. Gov. Polis doesn’t need low-information protesters endangering themselves and others to know that getting Colorado functioning again economically is secondary in importance only to stopping the pandemic itself.

These are the hardest calls any leader has to make. The polls say Gov. Polis has earned the trust to make them.

And we must all now hope for the best.


23 thoughts on “The Hardest Calls: Gov. Polis Weighs Life And Death Decisions

  1. What concerns me is the news headlines & TV teasers will have as a primary message something like "shutdown's over," which seems likely to lead to reactions like "yee-haw, I can do anything I want!" Hopefully those spreading the message will make it easy to understand April 27 is not meant to be carte blanche laissez-faire.

    1. We are not climbing A PEAK we are traversing a MOUNTAIN RANGE.  As good mountaineers, we need to be ready for many ups and downs and dangers before we reach the other side.  The only way to stay safe is to select your terrain carefully and use caution when proceeding.

  2. I've praised Polis for his handling of this.  But this is a mistake.  Too soon and too much trust placed in a public that has demonstrated it's not necessarily that compliant

    1. Making the announcement when the day's report shows 376 new confirmed cases and 27 new confirmed deaths (neither hinting at a a declining trend) and the day after a small group protested Polis' "tyranny," is not a way to minimize the risks. 

      1. Tough call for sure John.  It's a damned if you do and damned if you don't choice.  By doing a soft opening, the public can see if it is doable or not.  I feel for the employees who will be required by their employers to return to work.  Sweden has kept their infection rates down with limited economic activity.  The grocery stores and pet stores have stayed open so we could survive so maybe now it's time to take another step and see if folks have learned the lessons of social and physical distancing while they were watching Gilligan's Island reruns.  We will see.

  3. I'm not thrilled with his handling of the virus.  He was slow to shut down the state and did it only after Mayor Hancock preceded him.  He was very docile about the 100 respirators and now, just after the demonstration in Denver, he's talking about opening businesses again.  He looks very nervous about offending conservatives.  Not a pretty picture in my book.

    1. Grading on the curve . . .

      . . . the current media heartthrob, Darling Cuomo, didn’t start getting his shit together until around April 1.

      . . . and then there’s President Pandemic.


    2. Working from uncertain data and with no testing available I think he did a really good job with the info at hand. And the proof is in the numbers, they shut down growing infections pretty fast.

      1. Call it a ??? . . .

        Hunch — an often hopeful guess at a predicated outcome in the face of insufficient or uncertain actual evidence.

        On March 25, Gov. Polis issued Colorado’s shelter-in-place order. The two days prior to that Colorado had new confirmed case counts jump up significantly to 189 (on March 23), and 175 (on March 24). Total confirmed cases on March 24 were 1,081.

        New cases as reported for the last seven days for which we have the most current information available:

        4/13 281
        4/14 302
        4/15 353
        4/16 326
        4/17 367
        4/18 264
        4/19 331

        WEEK 2,224

    3. I want to know why Colorado's per-capita testing rate is #11 from the bottom. At a cumulative rate of 8.24 tests per thousand people, we are less than a *quarter* of New York's rate (33.4 tests per thousand people).

      Wyoming even has us beat, at 13.2 tests per thousand. Something is wrong with this picture, and I would like to know what the State of Colorado is planning on doing about it.

      Data – raw testing numbers from and estimated 2020 state populations from Wikipedia.

        1. Note that I said "per capita" so population is factored out. And, if that was the explanation, our testing rate should have been much better than New York's, not worse. I don't know what the explanation is. Maybe the T**** administration is playing favorites (quite likely!) Maybe it's something else. But without understanding, we won't be able to fix it.

          1. ‘Twas duly noted.

            New York has been pandemic central — god only hopes they’ve been doing massive testing. (And, even then — 33 tests per thousand, best in the nation, is woefully inadequate.  Fucking Ttump!)

            Wyoming at 13.2/1,000 means they’ve conducted a yee-whopping total of about 8,000 tests?  (A woefully inadequate number.  Fucking Ttump!)

            Colorado at 8.24/1,000 means they’ve conducted about 46,000 tests, or more than 5 times as many as Antelopia.  (A woefully inadequate number.  Fucking Ttump!)

            (And, yes, the whatevah number outta’ Antelopia is way closer to “2”, than it is closer to Colorado’s 46K — so maybe “2”, plus or minus, by rounding, or something?)

            Per capita — right.  Gotcha’.

            Any way you cut it — Fucking Ttump!

            So maybe Ttump does have favorites — the moron is still fucking us, and them, all.

              1. Actually, the only way to make America great again was to impeach and convict Trump.  Not re-electing him will just make America tolerable again.

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