COVID-19: Polis Predicts Spike From Denver Protests About to Hit

Colorado Governor Jared Polis as seen recently addressing the media.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis as seen recently addressing the media. Jared Polis Instagram
click to enlarge Colorado Governor Jared Polis as seen recently addressing the media. - JARED POLIS INSTAGRAM
Colorado Governor Jared Polis as seen recently addressing the media.
Jared Polis Instagram
During a June 11 press conference updating Coloradans on COVID-19, Governor Jared Polis expressed anxiety about rising caseloads as a result of the ongoing protests in downtown Denver, which started May 28, three days after the death of George Floyd.

"If it leads to an increase, it should be any day now," predicted Polis after removing a mask touting the U.S. Census, in which he urged all residents to participate. "We've seen some mask-wearing and social distancing...but almost certainly, there's been some transmission. But we don't know if there are tens or hundreds of people who weren't able to avoid physical proximity."

Polis began his chat with the media by offering updated statistics about the novel coronavirus from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment: 28,631 positive cases, 1,328 fatalities in which COVID-19 was identified as the cause of death, and 1,577 people who passed with the disease in their system. He stressed that a downward trend in reported cases had been tracked on eight of the past fourteen days, with hospitalizations dipping eleven times over the previous two weeks. Overall, he suggested that Colorado is in a "stable trend."

That's not the case in a pair of neighboring states that are seeing viral upswings: Utah and especially Arizona. This is a concern "because there's a lot of travel back and forth," Polis noted, adding that he doesn't want Colorado to suffer the sort of regional spike experienced by New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Still, he acknowledged that "there's no evidence yet of increased transmission on our side of the border."

Also concerning Polis was the possibility of what he described as "backsliding" when it comes to best practices to prevent COVID-19 from spreading, such as social distancing and wearing masks in public. He mentioned a new British study showing that transmission of the virus is much lower when social distancing and the use of facial coverings are combined.

"I'm going to keep repeating this, because it's a very easy thing we can do to reduce the economic damage from the virus and save lives, perhaps including your own," Polis emphasized.

At that point, Polis introduced a new campaign dubbed Can Do Colorado. The effort is intended to highlight businesses and government entities that are "doing the right thing with telecommuting and reducing personal interactions," as well as to help those that have not yet taken this step to learn how to do so without hurting employee productivity. He also drew attention to, a site where folks between the ages of twelve and 26 can share information about mental health needs in the state. The survey is open until June 22.

To wrap up his prepared remarks, Polis shared the experiences of a Colorado Department of Transportation engineer who survived a bout with COVID-19, but barely; he spent nine days in bed in March before a two-week hospitalization that took such a fearful toll on him that he had to learn to walk again and still can't do so wholly unassisted. Polis quoted the worker as saying, "If there's anything that should prompt you to wear a mask at work, it's the thought of lying in bed in a hospital on top of a bedpan."

During a question-and-answer session with reporters, Polis stopped short of calling for the permanent banning of Gone With the Wind or other movies that soft-pedal the horrors of slavery, expressed doubts that a tax bill currently before the general assembly has a pathway for success, endorsed the idea of paid sick leave for contract employees and the like to prevent them from having to choose between paying rent and endangering those around them, suggested that evidence that people are traveling farther from their home to recreate doesn't necessarily portend disaster, and pronounced himself "thrilled" that C&C Breakfast and Korean Kitchen in Castle Rock, which he had previously been denounced for a jam-packed Mother's Day event captured in a viral video, is about to reopen with the permission of health officials, even though the owners have filed a lawsuit against him.

Arguably the spiciest inquiries involved a gathering of thirty people at a park near the Governor’s Residence at Boettcher Mansion, where the media exchange was taking place. Polis said that he didn't automatically assume such a group was unsafe, since participants might be trying to stay safe. But he did add, "It worries me if there are thirty people together."

That's no surprise, since at ongoing Denver demonstrations, there are a lot more than that.
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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