COVID-19 Update: Polis Extends Closures for Ski Areas, Schools

Governor Jared Polis writing a letter to the Small Business Administration "for federal funding in order to provide relief for Colorado's small businesses dealing with the impacts of COVID-19."
Governor Jared Polis writing a letter to the Small Business Administration "for federal funding in order to provide relief for Colorado's small businesses dealing with the impacts of COVID-19."
On March 18, hours after he'd provided an update about COVID-19 infections, deaths and volunteer efforts from the Colorado State Capitol, which had just been made off-limits to the general public, Governor Jared Polis announced more virus-related moves that illustrate the growing understanding among officials that the outbreak won't end as quickly as everyone had hoped.

Specifically, Polis extended closures for on-site learning at schools around the state, as well as regular operations at all Colorado ski areas. The former will be nixed until at least April 17, while business at the latter has been suspended until April 6 — and no one will be surprised if these dates shift again.

The wave of school closures across the state began prior to any edict from Polis. For instance, Denver Public Schools independently announced on March 12 that its facilities would be shut down until April 6 for staff and April 7 for students, and other districts have been working under an assortment of timetables. Now, however, Polis has established a new statewide standard: In-person instruction won't be allowed at either public or private schools in Colorado from March 23 until April 17.

In addition, notes a release from the governor's office, an executive order signed by Polis "directs Colorado school districts and the Charter School Institute to make every effort to provide alternative learning opportunities during this time while taking into account the needs of local communities. This order also directs the Commissioner of Education to issue guidance to support P-12 school systems in developing and implementing plans to assist families and students in accessing alternative learning, providing free and reduced lunch and breakfast, and offering waivers for instructional time as appropriate."

"Protecting the health of all Coloradans is our top priority, and moving to online learning and other ways to support learning at home is absolutely the right thing to do," Education Commissioner Katy Anthes said in a statement. "We know school leaders, educators and families will have a lot of questions about how to support their students’ learning at home during this unprecedented time. The department is working on guidance and developing resources to support our schools and students, and it will be available very soon."

As for ski areas, Vail Resorts stopped its operations first, issuing an announcement about the March 15 closure the day before, much to the chagrin of former Florida lieutenant governor Jeff Kotkamp, whose tweet complaining about how the company had destroyed his family's vacation resulted in an enormous and passionate social-media backlash. Polis immediately praised Vail for its actions, then ordered other resorts to follow suit through March 22.

The extension through April 6 was put in place because "COVID-19 has spread throughout many mountain communities where ski resorts are located, and this is a necessary step to help slow the spread of the virus," the governor's office maintains. (Loveland had already decided not to reopen for the season.)

On March 18, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also issued a public-health order banning get-togethers of ten or more people, in an echo of guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control. "Gatherings include community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based events, sporting events with spectators, concerts, conventions, fundraisers, parades, fairs, festivals or any similar event that brings ten or more people together," the announcement specifies.

Click to read the notice-of-public-health order.
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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