Governor Jared Polis's May 4 COVID-19 press conference stands out from those that preceded it in part for his multiple references to Star Wars and today's "May the Fourth Be With You" tie-in. But arguably the biggest news came in an answer to a question submitted through social media: Polis revealed that restaurants, which he had previously suggested might be open in many parts of the state by mid-month, are now likely to remain shuttered for the next three weeks, if not longer.
"We don't have that date," Polis said in response to the constituent who encouraged him to let eatery owners know when they'll be allowed to offer on-site dining again more than a day in advance. "Yes, restaurants need to know about a week before they open" so they can inform waitstaff and the like, he added — "but we need to look at the data over the next couple of weeks. So whether it's late May or June 1, we need to make sure we get the guidelines right. We want to make sure it's done safely and inspires confidence."
At the outset of his remarks, Polis paid tribute to Paul Cary, a 66-year-old first responder who died on April 30 after volunteering to help COVID-19 patients in New York City. The governor suggested that a proper tribute to Cary and his fellow health-care professionals would be to "take this crisis seriously by wearing masks in public and in stores and continue social distancing. This is what we owe to those who are risking their lives on the front lines of this tragedy."
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Next, Polis shared early figures from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment regarding the current case count (16,870) and death toll (848). The number of cases is likely several times higher, he noted, but because of increased testing options, we should have a better idea about the actual spread of the virus down the road. Also showcased were graphics showing that the daily growth rate of COVID-19 cases stood at 1.4 percent yesterday, May 3, with the pace of hospitalizations ticking up by just .1 percent on that same day.
As for testing, Polis said it would soon be available through private-sector hospitals and health-care facilities, local community-based testing sites, and state collaborations with private sector partners such as Kroger and Safeway, in addition to targeted testing aimed at outbreak sites that are often home to those at high risk for the virus. Doctors will remain the "gatekeepers" for those wanting to be tested, though. Requests to create testing locations have come in from 59 counties to date, he said, with 40 settings already approved; they'll be listed on a new map accessible at the covid19.colorado.gov website.
Today, as part of Polis's Safer at Home program, offices are being allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity in parts of the state that haven't extended their stay-at-home orders (unlike Denver and other counties in the metro area). He encouraged anyone who sees violations of workplace safety to promptly report them to local authorities, since such flaws put everyone's life at risk.
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"Having a humanitarian crisis and mass deaths on our hands is not a valid option," he stressed. "We have to, and we are, finding a better way to engage in the activities we need to as people in as safe a way as possible," fulfilling social, psychological and economic needs without overwhelming hospital capacity.
According to Polis, the Safer at Home policies were established after consulting with 35 retail associations, 1,100 personal-services purveyors, 300 chambers of commerce or similar organizations, 350 health-care facilities and hospitals, 300 colleges or junior colleges, 340 child-care providers, 200 local governments, 300 real estate firms and thousands of individuals who posted online. The idea was to make sure that the rules "correspond to reality in Colorado: health reality and economic reality." Offering opinions as well were members of numerous advisory committees saluted by Polis.
Following a series of additional shout-outs to teachers, the Colorado Education Initiative and the PCs for People nonprofit, Polis started reeling off Star Wars references. He shared the quotes "In my experience, there's no such thing as luck," from A New Hope, and "Never give up hope no matter how dark things seem," from the Clone Wars animated series; encouraged people to stay at least the length of a light saber away from each other; talked about how it seems that the last time we were able to go to restaurants and movies together took place "in a galaxy far, far away"; and suggested that with the proper precautions, Darth Vader should be safe "despite his pre-existing respiratory condition."
When the governor was done, he resisted the urge to drop the mic.