Governor Jared Polis's September 25 press conference focused less on specific details of the COVID-19 crisis and more on delivering verbal valentines to residents of the state's Western Slope; the event took place at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.
However, Polis did divulge that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment today counted 709 new positive cases of the novel coronavirus, the highest daily total since the 868 calculated on July 27...and that was the second highest since the start of the pandemic.
Polis noted that the state's positivity rate currently stands at 3.3 percent per 100,000 people. That's below the 5 percent mark considered a warning sign for public health officials, but the rate has been creeping upward since Labor Day, owing to an increase of infections among college students and others under the age of 25.
The problem is less severe at Colorado Mesa University than at institutions such as the University of Colorado Boulder, where in-classroom instruction was suspended for at least two weeks. CMU hasn't entirely escaped the effects of the virus, though; on September 17, the CDPHE reported an active outbreak related to a sports team there, with one positive staff case and eleven positive student cases. Still, Polis used the school as a positive example of how administrators can prevent disease spread from overwhelming a campus.
"I think what CMU is doing well is providing good social experiences in a safe way for students: outdoor concerts every week, a lot of activities that can be done safely outside, restricting students to their own dorms and restricting cross-dorm contamination, and extensive surveillance testing," he said. "Several hundred students a week are getting tested, and that's important so we can see the level of the virus before it takes off."
He added that "telling a student not to have fun never works. It's more about having fun in a reasonably safe way."
Joining Polis for the press conference were state senator Kerry Donovan and state representative Janice Rich, both of whom represent the Western Slope. They spent their time before the microphone touting assorted pieces of legislation passed by the Colorado General Assembly earlier this year that have provided relief for small businesses and residents in their districts.
During a question-and-answer session, Polis managed to avoid directly responding to an inquiry about moving last call for alcohol to midnight statewide, arguing that such decisions are a matter of local control dictated in large part by where specific municipalities land on the state's COVID-19 dial. Those in the Protect Our Neighbors phase (such as Mesa County, where Grand Junction is located) have greater flexibility than ones still in the Safer at Home category (such as Denver); bars in Protect Our Neighbors counties can stay open as late as 2 a.m., depending on whether the municipalities in which they are located approve returning to that pre-pandemic standard. Denver bars, meanwhile, are held to a last call at 11 p.m.
Polis also revealed that efforts are continuing behind the scenes to establish safety protocols for the opening of ski areas across the state, and endorsed bipartisan legislative efforts to address transportation and infrastructure issues, including the possibility of a new alternative east-west route that could be used in the event of a closure at Glenwood Canyon, as happened over the summer because of the Grizzly Creek fire.