BY FREDA MIKLIN
By May 9, retail stores, personal service providers, and offices were allowed to open with restrictions to keep people from getting too close to each other or sharing germs. The state is carefully collecting and making public highly detailed data that will be used to determine whether restaurants can reopen for inside seating, which Governor Polis has pledged to announce by May 25. If the number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations remains stable, restaurants will be allowed to start to open three to six days later. About restaurants, the governor said on May 15, “They need inside dining to be economically viable. As long as the data holds up in terms of the plateau and the disease being in abeyance, while they are likely to open at reduced capacity indoors, we want to find ways they can expand tables outdoors… on sidewalks, even in parking spaces, to make sure that people are better spaced, in a safer environment, to help get these restaurants through this difficult economic time.”
Polis is making data-driven decisions and the data he is using is publicly available on the website covid19.
colorado.gov. Besides the number of coronavirus cases and fatalities by county, the site contains detailed outbreak data for every nursing home, meat-packing house, jail, and big box store across the state. It can tell you how many hospitals are facing shortages of staff and/or personal protective equipment. You can even find out how many critical care ventilators are in use for the hospitals who submit reports (363 ventilators are in use as of May 17 at 12:22 p.m. out of 1,082 available.)
When it was pointed out recently that the Colorado Department of Health and Public Environment (CDPHE) was including deaths of people who had COVID-19 but died of something else in the total number of fatalities they were posting on the covid19.colorado.gov website, Polis publicly took responsibility for the mistake and immediately changed the procedures, saying “Nobody behind a desk should ever second guess a coroner or an attending physician who lists a cause of death on a (death) certificate. They (CDPHE) need to report to the people of Colorado how many people died of COVID-19. People are not very interested in, nor should they be, how many people died with COVID-19.” As of May 17 at 4:00 p.m., there were 878 fatalities in our state that had the virus listed as the primary cause of death; 254 of those were in Arapahoe County.
To help ensure that the infection rate data being used by the governor to make decisions is reliable, 32 community testing sites have been opened around the state. A map of their locations is on the website covid19.
colorado.gov. Polis announced that anyone with symptoms can get a free test there. In response to a reporter’s question in a press conference on May 15, the governor said that there are around 5,000 tests being performed at those 32 sites combined daily, but that they could do up to 8,500 to 10,000 tests daily, if necessary. Those totals do not include tests done in doctors’ offices and hospitals around the state.
As part of his ongoing effort to use any and all available means to minimize the impact of the coronavirus on Coloradans, Polis visited President Trump at the White House on May 13. After being given a 20-minute COVID-19 test and being found not to have the virus, Polis met with the president and told Trump that things were going well in Colorado because “People are being responsible. It’s that individual responsibility that’s going to make sure we can stay on this trajectory and hopefully open restaurants by the end of May.”
After their discussion, which also included Governor Burgum of North Dakota, a reporter asked Polis about the politics of meeting with Trump. He responded, “I owe it to the people of my state who elected me to work with any president to make sure we can save lives and get our economy going…we value our relationship with the federal government.”
During the White House meeting, Polis acknowledged and thanked Senator Cory Gardner for his help in getting coronavirus tests from South Korea and thanked President Trump for the federal government sending tests to Colorado’s nursing homes. Trump brought up the United States Space Force during the meeting, but was noncommittal. Two days later it was announced that United States Space Command will stay in Colorado for at least the next six years, welcome news to our state and its economy.
On May 17, Governor Polis appeared on Fox News Sunday and said he “expects schools to open (in August) in a hybrid (combining in-person and online learning) environment.” He explained, “There’s a critical link to reopening schools and reopening the economy. There are many single-parent families and many families in which both parents work.” Regarding the continuing need to maintain social distancing at school, Polis said, “All the medical experts have told us the biggest risk when it comes to kids is their parents, grandparents, teachers, etc.”