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COVID-19: MSNBC Rips Polis Over Colorado's Early Opening

Today, May 4, is another benchmark in the safer-at-home program launched by Governor Jared Polis in the wake of COVID-19, with counties that haven't extended their stay-at-home orders (as Denver and several other metro jurisdictions have through May 8) scheduled to allow previously shuttered offices to reopen at a staff capacity of up to 50 percent.

Polis is expected to talk up safer-at-home policies at a forthcoming press conference. But in the meantime, he continues to be ripped on both sides, albeit for very different reasons. Protesters like those who gathered at the State Capitol on May 1 accuse him of dragging his feet in lifting restrictions, while pundits on MSNBC, national cable's progressive bastion, argue that he's doing so too quickly.

Shortly after Polis offered a May 1 update to Coloradans, MSNBC's Steve Kornacki helmed an extended segment on the state's reopening protocol — and two public-health commentators suggested that the approach was dangerous, particularly given that testing on demand is nowhere close to being a thing here yet. As they spoke, a thumbnail U.S. map graphically identifying Colorado as the only state in the Mountain West with more than 10,000 confirmed positive cases hovered in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. (The current Colorado case total, updated at 4 p.m. on May 3, shows 16,635 cases, leading to at least 842 deaths.)

Then, over the weekend, NBC's online outlets blasted out a report headlined, "Republicans are reopening. And so is this state led by a Democrat." The theme? While Polis is talking more responsibly than GOP governors in states such as Georgia, he's moving at a similarly speedy pace.

To counter that narrative, Polis has been issuing a slew of executive orders. On April 30 came the order forbidding evictions in the state through May unless there's a public-safety risk, as well as one that extended the ability of restaurants, which remain closed to on-site dining, to offer alcohol to go and for delivery. Then Polis issued an order that allows "food trucks to operate at Colorado’s rest areas to support truckers and the movement of commercial vehicle activities," notes a May 2 news release. "The goal of the Executive Order is to help truck drivers have access to affordable meals on the road."

This announcement was followed by a much more somber message on May 3, in which Polis mourned the passing of 66-year-old Aurora paramedic Paul Cary, who died on April 30 after traveling to New York City, where he volunteered to work at one of the nation's COVID-19 hot spots. "Paul Cary served his community, and his country, heroically, and I am incredibly saddened by his passing," Polis said. "During a time of great need, he selflessly volunteered to travel thousands of miles from his home to help others. He risked his own health and safety, and stepped up to do what he could. This is a difficult time for so many Coloradans, and so many Americans. I can never express just how grateful I am for people like Paul, and all our emergency responders who are on the front lines of this virus. Paul dedicated his life to the service of others, and he will be greatly missed."

Two days earlier, Polis had eulogized another notable victim of the novel coronavirus: former state senator John Taylor, who'd died the previous week. "I am deeply saddened by the loss of Senator John Taylor," Polis wrote on May 1. "It’s a wonderful thing to see the outpouring of love and admiration from those who knew him best. He is being remembered as a true statesman, and a strong advocate for rural Colorado and our state’s strong military presence. This is a difficult time for all Coloradans, made no easier by the loss of so many members of our communities. Senator Taylor will be greatly missed."

The juxtaposition of positive and negative developments in this state has spurred a similar blend of responses to Polis from Twitter commentators locally and across the country. Steve Hilton, author of the book Positive Populism, cited a Wall Street Journal op-ed that lauded Polis's actions amid a blast aimed at MSNBC "shutdown fanatics." In response, one tweeter wrote, "I’m as conservative as you get, and live in Colorado. Very proud of our Governor and the responsible approach he is taking. Makes me think maybe not all Dems are ignorant of economic benefits and needs of capitalism in our country."

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On May 1, when many personal-services purveyors were able to reopen, another added: "I live in Colorado — today got haircut, mani/pedi, car tires rotated, Garden center 4 spring flowers, etc. EVERYONE out shopping & living life! Now need restaurants open so we can sit out on patio Friday night w/margarita. Cheers all!"

But there were plenty of naysayers, too, including one who opined: "So hopeful about your high regard for science, @GovofCO @jaredpolis, but you did not 'show your quality'.... Colorado should not be reopening until testing has been done...especially since our state case numbers continue to climb...DISAPPOINTED is an understatement."

Another observer split the difference: "Let’s hope COVID19 numbers don’t go up, let’s hope if they do it’s manageable, let’s hope if it’s about to be unmanageable the right thing is done quickly. Let’s hope neither side spends a lot of time saying I told you so...."

Meanwhile, in Denver, Mayor Michael Hancock has revealed that a mandatory mask-wearing order will go into effect for most public places in the city on Wednesday, May 6. Polis has praised businesses that require masks but has stopped short of requiring their use by customers.

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