COVID-19 Update: Addressing Economic Disasters Amid Virus Fight

Colorado Governor Jared Polis as seen in a video recorded earlier this week.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis as seen in a video recorded earlier this week. YouTube
During an August 26 press conference about Colorado's response to COVID-19, Governor Jared Polis spent relatively little time discussing the novel coronavirus itself in light of upbeat data that's been free of significant spikes over recent weeks. Instead, he and an array of guests focused on negative economic impacts and a new tool to help small businesses in the state mitigate them to a greater degree — a grant program launching Monday, August 31, dubbed Energize Colorado.

According to Polis, authorities counted 194 new COVID-19 cases in Colorado yesterday, August 25 — a considerable dip from the previous 24 hours, when more than 300 were recorded. Moreover, the 146 people currently hospitalized as a result of the disease is at the lower end of recent figures. Still, Polis stressed that "almost every day, we're losing Coloradans to this pandemic" — currently 1,835 of them — and after expressing his condolences to victims' friends, family members and loved ones, he urged residents to continue wearing masks in public, maintaining proper social distancing, and avoiding large groups, particularly in light of the impending Labor Day weekend.

Next, Polis shared updates about the eight large fires and multiple smaller blazes that continue to burn across the state, noting that the Pine Gulch fire has now consumed more than 135,000 acres, making it the second-largest in Colorado history. Fortunately, that conflagration is currently 47 percent contained, but firefighters have less command over others, particularly given the dry, hot conditions in many locations. The governor expressed his hope for more rain soon.

At that point, Polis pivoted to Energize Colorado, a proposal passed unanimously during the most recent session of the state legislature, which offers $25 million in targeted loans to small businesses with 25 or fewer employees. Each enterprise can apply for up to a $15,000 grant and $20,000 in low-interest loans, bringing the total amount available for each to $35,000. The application process, which opens on the 31st, is touted as far less labyrinthine than the one for the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which helped many struggling operations but left others empty-handed. According to one of the original bill's sponsors, Senator Faith Winter, folks should be able to complete all the forms in just fifteen minutes.

In addition to Winter, speakers addressing the new website included Senator Jeff Bridges and former DaVita health care chairman and CEO Kent Thiry. Their participation was clearly meant to underscore the public-private partnership that made Energize Colorado possible.

Following lots of congratulations and kudos, Polis mentioned the two other major items on the agenda: the creation of a temporary task force to make recommendations related to evictions, with the goal of helping as many people as possible remain in their homes, and a tease about long-awaited guidelines for in-person visitation at senior care and residential facilities, which are scheduled for release later today. The public will have two days to comment on the document before a final version is delivered early next week. While such centers will have the ability to embrace the concept or not, Polis believes the state's advice strikes the proper balance between keeping vulnerable seniors safe from infection and allowing them a break from the enforced isolation that many of them have endured for months.

In a subsequent question-and-answer session with journalists, Polis maneuvered around an inquiry about whether he would issue a statewide mandate that every resident get a hoped-for COVID-19 vaccine by saying the real issue once one is approved will be how to prioritize who gets it first, given the anticipation of limited supplies. He suggested that front-line workers, individuals over sixty, grocery workers and law enforcers would likely be first in line.

Additionally, Polis dismissed suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that asymptomatic people who may have come into contact with a potentially infected person skip testing. He portrayed this tip as intended for use in places where testing supplies are limited, whereas Colorado is currently in a position where it could double the number of tests currently being conducted. He also hinted that a saliva test created by experts at the University of Colorado Boulder, designed to offer results in as few as 45 minutes, is in the process of being validated and could be available for use in a week or two.

On a non-coronavirus topic, Polis denied that his characterization of vandalism during an August 22 clash between Denver police and violent shit-stirrers as "criminal terror" prioritized property over people.

"While we all strongly support the right of people to engage in free speech and protest," Polis said, "it's also important that a responsibility comes with that — to avoid injury to people or to property. We want to make sure we continue that proud American tradition of vibrant political discussion and how we can have a more just society, and at the same time making people feel safe in their homes and in their businesses."
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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