Colorado Traffic Is Down 60%. Polis Sees That As A Sign Coronavirus Efforts Are Working

March 30, 2020

Car traffic, long despised as a sign of an overgrown Front Range, has suddenly become a positive indicator. On Monday, Gov. Jared Polis said that vehicle volume on interstates and major roads has been slashed during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We are showing a 60 percent reduction of cars on the road from the baseline four weeks ago,” Polis told reporters from the state’s emergency office in the Denver suburb of Centennial.

“Now we hope that that means more than 60 percent social distancing because 60 percent alone is not enough,” he said. “We really need to be in that 70 to 80 percent range. But it is a positive indicator.”

Traffic, in this case, is a proxy that shows that changes in work habits or recreational behavior due to stay-at-home orders and closures are starting to bear some fruit. The governor repeated his call for cooperation and personal responsibility from Coloradans in the work to limit the pandemic’s spread.

Polis Moss Coronavirus Press Conference 200330Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and University of Colorado pulmonologist Dr. Marc Moss speak to reporters Monday, March 30, 2020 at South Metro Fire Rescue headquarters in Centennial about the the state’s progress in halting the spread of coronavirus. The chart tracks the decline in auto usage.

The virus continues to grow in Colorado and Polis gave a partial update on the latest case statistics. Across the state, there are now 2,627 known positive cases and 51 deaths. The governor noted that the pandemic affects people of all ages and said the state has seen two deaths of people in their 40s.

In his previous update last Friday, the governor revealed a calendar of effects and expectations for the state’s social distancing efforts. The idea of the calendar is to drive home the effectiveness of the shared sacrifice that his administration is asking of Coloradans. They say early measures have had an impact, as the doubling of the infection rate has slowed to every 5 dates.

“We have slowed the spread with the closure of bars and restaurants,” Polis said.

He noted that the hospitalizations number hasn’t been impacted yet, but it is a lagging indicator they will pay attention to.

The state continues to call for personal protection equipment and gave an update on the current projected three-week supply, with a need for masks, face shields and gowns.

Polis Moss Coronavirus Press Conference 200330Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and University of Colorado pulmonologist Dr. Marc Moss speak to reporters Monday, March 30, 2020 at South Metro Fire Rescue headquarters in Centennial about the state’s progress in halting the spread of coronavirus. The chart shows the status of personal protective equipment supplies.

“Many people and practices have turned in their extra equipment,” he noted. “This is the reason, for those of you who might be frustrated that you had to have your elective surgery delayed. This was the reason, we needed in the short term, all of the masks and gloves and gowns that would have been used in that elective procedure.”

The Polis administration had been in pursuit of a federal disaster declaration and finally received one over the weekend. The declaration from President Donald Trump sets in motion federal funding for emergency measures and direct assistance for areas of the state affected by the novel coronavirus.

“This designation, combined with the very robust package that Congress passed and the president signed, is really critical relief for our already overtaxed emergency management,” Polis said. “We're looking forward to further increasing that capacity in the days and months ahead.”

Editor's Note: Gov. Polis misspoke during his Monday press conference. Colorado has seen two deaths of people in their 40s from COVID-19, not the state's first death under 40 as the governor said.