Polis on Second Colorado COVID-19 Death, Volunteer Need, the Future

Colorado Governor Jared Polis speaking today at the State Capitol shortly after it was closed to the general public.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis speaking today at the State Capitol shortly after it was closed to the general public.
During a press conference today at the Colorado State Capitol shortly after the facility was closed for the foreseeable future to the general public, Governor Jared Polis provided an update on the fight against COVID-19. He delivered grim statistics about, among other things, the state's second death from the virus; made a plea for donations and volunteers; and delivered straight talk leavened by positive encouragement.

At one point, Polis thanked "everyone who is taking this seriously, and for taking this information in stride, with urgency, with importance, but not with undue anxiety and trepidation.... It hasn't even been two weeks since we got our first case in Colorado, and look at how drastically things have changed. Things we took for granted can no longer be taken for granted. But we will get through this and get back to good times, not by letting anxiety and fear overwhelm us."

The address was originally scheduled to get under way at 10:15 a.m., but was pushed by nearly an hour because a White House press conference was taking place at the same time. The latter featured President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and numerous other officials standing in a roughly six-foot cluster — not six feet away from each other. Indeed, Trump loomed over the shoulder of every other speaker as assorted new measures were announced, including the closure of the border between the United States and Canada for non-essential travel.

Once Polis got his turn, he touted the rollout of a new website,, where the latest information will be posted immediately, as opposed to saving much of it up for daily press briefings. Like other sites launched by the state in the wake of the virus, it's been occasionally inaccessible because of traffic loads, but Polis encouraged users to try again later if access is denied, and promised that technical crews were hard at work "scaling up" to prevent such glitches.

Then came the numbers: 183 positive COVID-19 cases, twenty hospitalizations and just under 2,000 completed tests, plus two deaths, with the most recent involving a Weld County man in his seventies who died on March 17. Polis expressed his sadness about the fatality and noted that it "underscores our need to protect our most vulnerable — people in their seventies, eighties and nineties, and people with underlying health conditions."

Along these lines, Polis referenced the recent announcement of a positive COVID-19 case at a long-term care facility in Larimer County, as well as efforts to prevent greater spread by limits on family visits and close monitoring of employees at similar facilities.

Among the most frequent questions he's asked, Polis divulged, was "What can we do to help?" In this context, he praised people for their social-distancing efforts, as well as for frequent hand-washing, and celebrated the success of #DoingMyPartCO, a social-media campaign in which people are asked to post images and videos of what they're doing to make matters better amid the outbreak.

After stressing the importance of virtual social engagement when it can't be safely done in person, Polis said, "I know families are hurting. We need to bring a sense of comfort that we'll get through this together, and we will get back together.... Coloradans are good-hearted people, and we have a lot of need for good hearts in this crisis."

Next, Polis formally announced the creation of Help Colorado Now, a website whose goal is to focus on prevention, impact and recovery from both a public-health perspective and in terms of people who've lost their jobs because of COVID-19's economic impact. Already, $2.8 million has been donated to the cause, and Polis pledged that this money will help support the purchase of medical supplies, nursing home staff coverage, cleaning supplies, homeless shelter staff coverage and more. Also targeted are "people who worked in food services, kids and older Coloradans."

Expanding on a recent Westword post that revealed the state's request that child-care centers not proactively close over COVID-19, Polis emphasized that health-care workers, first responders and more need to have child-care options so that they can continue to do their very necessary work.

"We know about 80,000 emergency-care workers have kids under age eight," Polis stated. For this reason, he continued, "we've called together a group of early-child-care providers and advocacy groups to partner with the Colorado Department of Human Services to establish a system of emergency child care for essential workers" — those in the health-care field, police officers, firefighters and members of hospital support staffs, such as those in the maintenance and janitorial fields. The care will be provided "on a sliding scale to make sure people can afford it," he promised.

Since not everyone will be able to donate financially, Polis also encouraged those wanting to pitch in to volunteer in various ways, and also asked that people give blood, which isn't needed for COVID-19 treatment but remains a general medical need. "A number of blood drives were canceled because of social distancing," he said, "but there are safe ways to do it at this time."

Toward the end of his comments, Polis posed a rhetorical question: "How are we going to get through this together?" He conceded that "we're dealing with a public-health disaster on the one hand and a volatile economic situation on the other hand — not just in Colorado, but nationally and internationally. I want to be clear: We have to address the public-health issue, and you'll continue to see additional guidance in the coming days in regard to containing the spread of the virus. If we fail, the economic consequences of the virus running rampant will be far worse in the medium and long term."

Even though the challenge is difficult, he continued, "it will be temporary. As many people as possible are going to be just fine, and we're going to take the steps we can to avoid catastrophic loss of life. There's nothing perfect in any response. Nothing is ever perfect. I can't promise we'll get everything right. But what I can promise you is that our team, our medical experts and everyone involved in this effort are going to keep our shoulders against the wheel and press on — do everything we can to balance all these competing factors until we reach the other side."
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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

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