During a July 28 press conference about Colorado's response to COVID-19, Governor Jared Polis said he wouldn't sit idly by and allow events like an unauthorized rodeo in Weld County that attracted approximately 4,000 people this past weekend to take place just because commissioners there are defying his mandate about mask use and other public-health orders. At the time, however, he didn't offer specific examples of how he would prevent such gatherings from happening in the future.
In a pandemic update today, July 30, Polis filled in the gaps by revealing that the Colorado Attorney General's Office had issued a cease-and-desist order against the rodeo's promoters. Of course, such efforts could wind up being a bureaucratic version of Whack-a-Mole — but the action was clearly meant as a warning to entrepreneurs in Weld County and elsewhere not to assume that they're immune from state action.
Early in his remarks, Polis mentioned that 46,204 positive cases of the novel coronavirus have been registered to date in Colorado — a big number, but one that has not yet overwhelmed the state's health-care system. "We are doing okay by the national standard. We have kept things safe enough where we're able to live life, and kids are going back to school in many places, and youth sports and camps are happening and we're able to go to work," he said, crediting Coloradans' diligence when it comes to wearing facial coverings, social distancing and other health-related recommendations.
At that point, Polis contrasted the risky conditions at the Weld County rodeo with the grand opening of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum in Colorado Springs, which he attended earlier today; the get-together included only about eighty participants, all of whom wore masks and followed best practices. This led to an extended metaphor in which he personified COVID-19. According to Polis, the virus can win by sickening and killing Coloradans, but also if it "holds us back from living our lives" — and both of these prospects can be defeated through responsible behavior.
Polis also stressed that the young people he sees as having been largely responsible for a spike in cases and hospitalizations over recent weeks may have a lifetime of health problems related to COVID-19 even if it doesn't cause them to spiral into a life-or-death scenario, including diminished lung capacity, neurological issues and heart problems. "This isn't something you want to get," he reminded them.
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After thanking Ikea for a $1 million donation targeting COVID-19 relief in Colorado, Polis invited questions from journalists. One of the first involved a lawsuit filed by owners of bars and restaurants to block his order temporarily stopping liquor sales at 10 p.m. "It's outrageous bars have to close at 10 o'clock and we can't have our normal nightlife," he acknowledged, then added that so is the fact that he can't go to Colorado Rockies games. "Everybody knows this intuitively: The state of inebriation, of getting drunk, is inconsistent with social distancing," he asserted, and as a result, the 10 p.m. last call is "the least bad choice of many bad choices — one that will allow the economy to stay open and people to stay reasonably safe and avoid further setbacks that would lead to great loss of life and great damage to our economy."
On the subject of in-person learning for Colorado students, Polis voiced general support for its feasibility without mentioning the decision by Denver Public Schools to stick to remote learning only through mid-October. He also said that the sweep of homeless encampments in Denver yesterday, July 29, was "great" and praised Denver Mayor Michael Hancock for taking the step. "I was deeply troubled by the dangerous health situation in that area," he admitted, citing "loose needles and shootings nearby." However, the governor also emphasized that breaking up the camps was not a solution for homelessness, and encouraged mayors in cities across the state to work with housing providers and others to come up with ways to improve the situation.
After summarily rejecting a Twitter suggestion by President Donald Trump that the November election be delayed and promoting mail-in voting as a way to reduce voter fraud and increase participation in a safe way, Polis talked generally about the notion of fans being able to attend professional sporting events in Denver; while protocols have yet to be worked out, he said that he supported the idea when conditions allow.
And when he was asked if an apparent plateauing of cases and hospitalizations in the state has him feeling optimistic, Polis resisted the urge to take a victory lap, saying, "Give us a few more days."