When Colorado's Jared Polis announced an address from the governor's mansion about the continuing fight against COVID-19, political observers assumed he would extend the stay-at-home order to April 30, much as the City of Denver had done earlier today, April 6. But Polis delivered a surprise: The stay-at-home order for the state as a whole is now set to expire on April 26 — though the governor conceded that it might have to be lengthened if data about the novel coronavirus demands it.
The backdrop of the announcement was certainly serious: Current figures from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reveal 150 deaths from COVID-19 thus far, along with 5,172 positive cases and 994 hospitalizations. And Polis used grave language at the outset of his remarks, noting, "I speak to you this evening as we face one of the most serious and dire threats of our lives."
The first positive case in Colorado was confirmed one month and one day ago, he pointed out, "although it seems like a lot longer." He said the pandemic "seems surreal, like a cruel, ironic joke" that requires Coloradans who love the outdoors to remain inside. Meanwhile, the outbreak has dealt an ugly blow to an economy that had been booming.
After reassuring those feeling anxious about the situation that "you're not alone," Polis noted that the White House has set a national goal of April 30 to maintain "extreme social distancing" before stating that he's hoping "we can get things going sooner in Colorado."
Hence the April 26 date, about two weeks beyond the previous April 11 expiration. "If there's a way to end it sooner, I will," he pledged, "but it could go longer."
The data shows that social distancing and staying at home is having an effect on the spread of COVID-19, Polis stressed. Early on, the number of cases in the state was doubling every day and a half or so, but at present, that rate has slowed to every six or seven days.
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Nonetheless, Colorado remains in "a race against the clock," Polis said, since having too many people get sick at the same time could overwhelm the system despite the state's efforts to obtain enough ventilators, personal protective equipment and other key supplies to withstand an expected surge.
"I'm beyond furious that we've been forced to shut down large portions of our economy," Polis conceded, especially since the U.S. is "the wealthiest nation" on the planet and should have been prepared to offer mass testing that has allowed South Korea and Taiwan the ability to quarantine infected individuals rather than "an entire society."
Polis spent the second half of his remarks going over ground he's explored during previous media appearances over the past few weeks: encouraging people to wash their hands, disinfect surfaces and stay at home unless absolutely necessary, emphasizing that social distancing is the best way to prevent an even more catastrophic loss of life, encouraging folks to wear cloth masks or face coverings whenever they leave home (suggestions that haven't caught on with plenty of Denver residents), and likening the sacrifice of staying home to rationing and other efforts to aid soldiers during World War II.
"In these dark times, we all have a light to shine," he allowed, "and that light is the goodness within all of us."