During a September 1 press conference updating Coloradans on the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Jared Polis pushed back on attempts by political conservatives and others to suggest that data related to deaths from the novel coronavirus has been artificially inflated.
"There's been some confusion about this," Polis noted during a stop in Pueblo on a day-long tour of sites in southern Colorado. "When people die of COVID-19, it's often of the symptoms of COVID-19: pneumonia, organ failure. People are making a lot of hay, saying, 'They died from pneumonia or organ failure.' Well, they were perfectly healthy until they got COVID-19."
In addition, he continued, "it's important to reflect on independent or pre-existing conditions — and age itself is a risk factor." Otherwise healthy Coloradans in their seventies and eighties "and, to a lesser extent, sixties" who contract COVID-19 are hospitalized at a much higher rate than their younger peers, he emphasized — "far greater than a cold or the flu or anything else, which is why those are very dangerous comparisons to this virus."
Early on in his talk, Polis shared some of the latest statistics from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment: 57,775 confirmed positive cases since early March, 351 new cases today, 144 people currently hospitalized and a positivity rate of 2.89 percent, well under the 5 percent mark that concerns public-health authorities. He noted, however, that the positivity rate in Pueblo is 4.7 percent, and it's 4.2 percent in El Paso County, which is anchored by Colorado Springs.
The reason for these higher positivity rates, Polis suggested, is a shortfall in testing in those areas, since positivity rates tend to fall when the number of analyses increases. To that end, he promoted "free, quick and easy" testing sites at the Pueblo County Fairgrounds and the Citadel Mall in the Springs, where Polis was swabbed in the hours before he met with the media.
Among Polis's other stops on September 1 was Fort Carson's Patriot Elementary School, where he was pleased to see kids back in classes and wearing facial coverings for safety. On a similar topic, he lauded a local company called ActivArmor, which is now manufacturing what he described as "3D printed transparent masks that allow people to see faces and lips" — a huge benefit for folks such as speech therapists.
Polis introduced a series of guests, including former member of Congress Betsy Markey, now serving as the Office of Economic Development and International Trade's executive director; Department of Local Affairs Executive Director Rick Garcia; Representative Daneya Esgar and Colorado Senate President Leroy Garcia. During their respective times in the spotlight, the quartet discussed the importance of aiding individuals struggling with housing costs and helping the economy recover from the blows struck by COVID-19.
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During a subsequent question-and-answer session, Polis was asked for his reaction to Colorado College announcing that it would be moving to fully online instruction during its first block of 2020, following ten positive COVID-19 tests. Polis hadn't heard about this development, but said the decision underscored the importance of cohorting — dividing students into smaller groups so fewer individuals have to be quarantined and isolated and others can continue going to classes as usual.
When another reporter asked for his response to news that 67 people associated with Overland High School in Aurora have been ordered to quarantine after a teacher at the facility tested positive, Polis suggested that the move is "what success looks like," because "failure to take these precautions would lead to an entire school having to convert to an online format" — something he predicted would happen sometime in the near future, in spite of best efforts to prevent such occurrences.
On a less serious note, Polis touted Pueblo's slopper-eating contest, which debuted at last year's Colorado State Fair and will be taking place virtually this year, on Saturday, September 5. According to him, the competitive-eating event focusing on open-faced cheeseburgers smothered with green chile will "highlight the culinary aspects of why Pueblo chile is the superior chile — consistently superior to Hatch chile."
This amusing poke at New Mexico's famous export was a refreshing reminder of a time before anyone had heard of COVID-19, and one of the region's hottest topics was which state had the most incendiary green chile.