Denver Government

Hancock Won't Discuss Holiday Plans, Seems Pissed to Be Asked

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock recently shared a photo taken as he put up Christmas lights.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock recently shared a photo taken as he put up Christmas lights.
There wasn't so much an elephant in the room during Mayor Michael Hancock's December 17 press conference about the Mile High's continuing response to COVID-19 as there was a turkey.

For the past few weeks, Hancock has maintained a profile nearly as low as the Unknown Soldier's since being caught traveling out of state to spend Thanksgiving with his family after telling city employees not to do so, and he clearly didn't want to answer questions about the situation during this particular session. Prior to taking questions from journalists, he implied that anyone who quizzed him on the subject was disrespecting every front-line worker fighting the novel coronavirus, and when a reporter mentioned it anyway, the typically verbose official went positively monosyllabic.

Hancock's attempt to stave off the uncomfortable topic started with this: "I know that some of you will want to talk about Thanksgiving travel. Let me say a couple of things about that now, so I can help you go on to more important subjects. We all have the potential to disappoint, and elected officials are no different. We tend to have multiple disappointments, we make not very good decisions, our judgment can desert us. But there's nothing new to report here."

He then shifted to a laundry list of his COVID-19 accomplishments, noting that Denver was the first Colorado city to issue a stay-at-home order and the first to put a mask mandate into place. He also touted efforts to distribute masks and help small businesses and nonprofits before suggesting that making him deliver more mea culpas would be an example of "taking away from the people who work for the city, who stood in the gap with public-health officials" and plenty of others. As a result, everyone should "turn the page."

A 9News staffer tempted the mayor's wrath by not doing so. After mentioning an email stating that Hancock would be on holiday from tomorrow, December 18, through January 4, the inquisitor asked about the mayor's plans for the next couple of weeks — whether he would be leaving Colorado or taking part in large gatherings.

The entire reply from Hancock: "No and no." And then grim silence.

The matter Hancock really wanted to discuss was the COVID-19 vaccine, which arrived in the city early December 16 and is being given to the first batch of medical professionals today. But he and Denver Department of Public Health and Environment Executive Director Bob McDonald didn't impart a lot of new information. Rather, they echoed Governor Jared Polis's recent outline of the three-phase process set up to determine vaccination priorities for assorted individuals and groups, and repeatedly stressed how safe getting the shots is for almost everyone.

Still, some fresh details did occasionally emerge. During her time in the spotlight, Dr. Connie Price, chief medical officer for Denver Health, revealed that in a recent survey of hospital employees, 70 percent said they would eagerly take the vaccine, another 20 percent said they were still thinking about whether they would do so, and 10 percent gave a hard pass — numbers she viewed through an optimistic lens. No one at Denver Health would face discipline for skipping the shots because the medication is under an emergency authorization order from the federal government rather than a more formal blessing, she noted. Meting out punishment under those circumstances wouldn't be "prudent."

Also noteworthy was Hancock's enthusiastic confirmation that his administration will apply to take part in the state's new Five Star program, which is expected to allow some indoor dining even in places like Denver that are rated at Level Red (Severe) on the Colorado Department of Health and Public Environment's dial dashboard. Hancock explained that he's trying to strike a balance between looking out for people's lives and their livelihoods.

Meanwhile, McDonald expressed hope that Denver, which has seen improving data over the past couple of weeks, will be able to emerge from Level Red in a month or so if current trends continue. Still, he admitted that things could go awry if people fail to follow safety recommendations about mask-wearing in public and maintaining social distance from others, and he warned against congregating in large groups for Christmas and New Year's Eve.

What will Hancock be doing on those days? He's not telling — and anyone who presses him on it risks having something nasty done to them with a lump of coal.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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