The 2020 Thanksgiving weekend is over, and we sincerely hope yours was better than the ones experienced by Mayor Michael Hancock and Governor Jared Polis. Their very different but equally awful holidays say a lot about the current status of the fight against COVID-19 in Colorado, and the challenges that lie ahead in the months before vaccines could finally begin putting the global pandemic behind us.
Hancock's wounds were entirely self-inflicted. He's spent months preaching to Denver residents about the importance of strictly following COVID-19 safety protocols and how failing to do so could lead to another stay-at-home order capable of devastating the local economy. More recently, he publicly touted his decision not to stage his usual giant Thanksgiving feast for fifty of his closest relatives and friends as an example of the sacrifices everyone should be making to slow the virus's spread, even as he asked city employees not to travel over this past weekend.
Apparently, though, Hancock felt this dictate applied to everyone other than him — and his five-part Twitter mea culpa showed that he hasn't mastered the tricky art of the political apology. "I fully acknowledge that I have urged everyone to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel," he wrote. "I have shared how my family cancelled our plans for our traditional multi-household Thanksgiving celebration. What I did not share, but should have, is that my wife and my daughter have been in Mississippi, where my daughter recently took a job. As the holiday approached, I decided it would be safer for me to travel to see them than to have two family members travel back to Denver."
He added: "I recognize that my decision has disappointed many who believe it would have been better to spend Thanksgiving alone. As a public official, whose conduct is rightly scrutinized for the message it sends to others. I apologize to the residents of Denver who see my decision as conflicting with the guidance to stay at home for all but essential travel. I made my decision as a husband and father, and for those who are angry and disappointed, I humbly ask you to forgive decisions that are borne of my heart and not my head."
This hilariously blatant act of hypocrisy resulted in Hancock making national and international headlines for all the wrong reasons, and there's every reason to believe that it will obliterate his COVID-19 credibility locally for many weeks to come, if not permanently. His future warnings about the disease are likely to provoke more eye rolls than compliance, and any new restrictions will spark more anger than they might have otherwise simply because he decided he was above the rules he promoted. Good things he's term-limited, because this gaffe could have been a campaign killer.
In contrast, Polis has walked his COVID-19 talk — at least as far as the general public can tell. He wore masks long before it was cool, hasn't visited his seventy-something parents in person for months, has done far more ordering out from restaurants than dining in public, and has followed strict safety measures during his travels around the state during the summer and fall. But none of these actions prevented him from being infected, as he acknowledged late on November 28.
"Earlier this evening, [First Gentleman Marlon Reis] and I found out that we have both tested positive for COVID-19," Polis wrote. "We are currently asymptomatic, feeling well and in good spirits."
The diagnosis persuaded him that "it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do — no one is immune from this virus," he continued. "Now is the time to be more cautious than ever before. There is more of the virus circulating across the country, including in Colorado, now than there even was in the spring. While we isolate and follow the proper protocols, I will continue serving our great state as long as I am able to, and doing everything I can to help protect the health and safety of Coloradans. I urge all Coloradans to wear a face mask in public, stay at least six feet away from others, and avoid all social interactions with those outside your household. If you are experiencing any symptoms or believe you might have been exposed, get a quick, free and easy test. Visit covid19.colorado.gov/testing to find a testing site near you. We’re all in this together, Colorado. And though the light may be at the end of the tunnel, we must do everything we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones."
Unless footage surfaces of Polis partying mask-free on the deck of a crowded yacht, his reputation shouldn't take a hit because of these revelations. Indeed, his diagnosis serves as a reminder that the COVID-19 situation in Colorado is more serious than ever before, and even the most cautious approaches aren't guaranteed to work.
That's a sobering lesson we all need to learn — Hancock included.
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