Colorado’s Congressional Reps Are Huddling To Ensure The State Gets Their Share Of Federal Coronavirus Response

Virus Outbreak
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Photo
A health alert for people traveling to China is shown at a TSA security checkpoint at the Denver International Airport Monday, March 2, 2020, in Denver.

UPDATE: Thursday, 3/5

Colorado health officials announced the state had its first positive case of the new coronavirus on Thursday, March 5. The patient was an out-of-state visitor to Summit County, a male in his 30s. He had contact with someone who had the disease outside of Colorado. The state tested him for the virus and received a positive result.

Our original reporting continues below.

Colorado’s Congressional delegation is working together to ensure the state has the needed resources to deal with the novel coronavirus. Gov. Jared Polis and members of the delegation held their first conference call Monday night to discuss the state’s needs and the federal response.

“Gov. Polis knows that everybody’s door here is open to him, to support him and the work that he’s trying to do,” Sen. Michael Bennet said. The Democrat said the delegation will be working together to ensure the state has the federal resources necessary.

Congress is trying to pass a supplemental budget request to deal with COVID-19. The White House has submitted a $2.5 billion request, but Congress is expected to agree on a bill that is in the $7-8 billion range.

Colorado needs “the resources for testing and other things and getting the supplemental passed as quickly as we can is the best way to do that,” Bennet said. Testing kits will only be available at hospitals for the time being, he said. “In the meantime, we need to make sure reliable tests are available and funded and that’s what we’re going to do with the supplemental.”

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner has sent letters to budget leaders to make sure federal agencies and states have the necessary funding. And he stressed the appropriate figure should be based on science.

“It shouldn’t be up to Dr. Senate or Dr. Congress, it should be up to the actual scientists,” he said.

Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette added that it’s important to ensure that money from the supplement bill gets to the state and local level.

She said that Colorado has some surge capacity, but whatever the state will need beyond that “that’s what I’m going to be working on to make sure they get what they need and make sure that it comes quickly going to need.”

Additionally, DeGette sits on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has jurisdiction over the Department of Health and Human Services.

“I can make sure we continue to let them know what the state’s needs are and they continue to get those resources,” she said.

Third Congressional District Rep. Scott Tipton wants to ensure that the needs of rural Coloradans are also addressed. In addition to coordination with the governor and the federal response, his office has also solicited feedback on the ground in his huge, mostly rural district.

“Most signs indicate that generally our rural and smaller health systems are coordinating and preparing for a potential worst-case scenario regarding coronavirus should it occur,” he said in a released statement. “They are for the most part in regular communication with each other and with the appropriate state and federal agencies.”

The Republican said he looks “forward to considering legislation in the House to approve emergency resources to expedite our national response.”

Senate Appropriations Committee leaders were also optimistic that the supplemental funding bill could get passed this week. Republican Chairman Sen. Richard Shelby said the House could vote on the bill this week, with the Senate to follow as quickly as the next day. It’s of utmost importance to “send a message to the American people that we care and we’re going to do everything we can,” Shelby said. 

On Tuesday, Polis announced that the state had elevated its emergency readiness level to its second-highest due to COVID-19 concerns.