No Dingers for Polis in COVID Mask-Order Debate

Governor Jared Polis with Colorado Rockies mascot Dinger during a weekend vaccination event at Coors Field.
Governor Jared Polis with Colorado Rockies mascot Dinger during a weekend vaccination event at Coors Field.
The timing of Governor Jared Polis's November 23 press conference about COVID-19 in Colorado was decidedly awkward. Mere minutes before, several metro counties had announced that they would be jointly imposing a mask-and-vax mandate starting tomorrow, November 24 — and Mayor Michael Hancock was among the officials to specifically say the action was necessary because no statewide order in regard to face coverings and immunizations has been issued.

Polis avoided these subjects as long as possible, but he was hampered by having little new to say — and reporters were soon pitching him questions on the topic. His responses delivered a lot more swings and misses than hits.

At the outset of the event, Polis offered up information from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The stats showed 2,655 new hospitalizations related to COVID-19 on November 22, with hospitalizations at 1,576 — but Polis has been playing games with the latter number for months. The CDPHE combines the number of patients with both confirmed and suspected cases of the virus into a single total, but Polis tends to count only those with a confirmed diagnosis. This tactic lowers the department's overall patient number by several percentage points.

Of the 1,576 patients with confirmed COVID cases, Polis noted that 1,320 are unvaccinated.

From there, Polis repeated information he's covered in several recent press conferences. For instance, he noted the state's efforts to add 500 new hospital beds to the close-to-overwhelmed system by mid-December; touted the availability of monoclonal antibody treatment, which can reduce hospitalizations by as much as 70 percent if given shortly after symptoms arise; and offered safety tips for Thanksgiving that included testing for unvaccinated dinner guests.

When he ran out of stuff to reiterate, Polis invited inquiries from journalists, who naturally wanted to talk to him about the new mask-and-vax mandate in metro Denver. He responded by admitting that such regulations are "not something we're considering as a state," since he's supportive of local control.

At one point, Polis noted that governors across the country have employed different tactics in regard to face coverings — some making them a requirement in public indoor spaces, others trying to ban their use entirely. He framed his decision to let counties and communities make their own rules as the most respectful and equitable option available.

Given the pre-Thanksgiving timing, he also talked about things for which he's thankful, including the wonders of Colorado. But he seemed even more filled with gratitude when the press conference was over.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts