Amid Coronavirus Efforts, Gov. Jared Polis Will Address Colorado Monday Night. This Is What We’re Listening For

UPDATE: The governor has extended Colorado's stay-at-home order through April 26. Read more here.

Gov. Jared Polis will address the state Monday night at 6:30 p.m. in a speech from the governor’s residence in Denver. It’s not a press conference; there will be no reporters and he won’t be taking questions. Instead, he’s expected to give more of an Oval Office-style address on the state’s response.

CPR News will be carrying the address live, with analysis from reporters. We’ll be listening closely for news developments: He has not yet extended the statewide stay-at-home order, which expires Sunday, and we’re still awaiting data on how well the order has worked so far.

But more broadly, we want to know if he’ll revisit some of the ideas he’s raised previously, about the big picture on the state response. Here are a few things we’ll be listening for tonight.

The Colorado Paradigm

Polis has laid out a vision for Colorado’s response he has called “The Colorado Paradigm.” He hopes the state can be one of the first to turn the corner, flatten the curve and lift social distancing.

In an address on March 22, he called on Coloradans to take personal responsibility for lowering the death rate, saying fear of the “Grim Reaper” should encourage people to stay home — not state regulation. He ended up ordering residents to stay at home but he has been persistent in asking individuals to go beyond state mandates.

He’s also said the private sector is essential to the Colorado Paradigm, to fill in where the federal government can’t in providing supplies. He described how the state is “securing our own supply chains.”

In a telling moment, he said he even considered sending a plane to China in the hopes negotiators could fill it with supplies. Just this morning, CPR’s Colorado Matters reported that a Fort Collins aerospace and digital manufacturer would soon be churning out ventilators to meet the state’s demand.

His goal, Polis says, is to chart a different course than the way things seem to be going nationally, and particularly in New York and the South, where cases and deaths have climbed steeply. Instead, he hoped the state’s paradigm would lead to outcomes more like how things have gone in Taiwan and South Korea: slower climb in cases, lower death rates and a swifter return to economic operations.

We’ll be listening for an update on this: How is the state doing in building up supplies? 

Glimmers of Hope

If you’ve been listening to Polis’ press conferences, you’ve heard him refer R0 or R-naught, a measure of how infectious disease is. This gets at one of the scariest things about COVID-19: Because the new coronavirus moves pretty easily between people, without social distancing the number of cases can quickly climb.

In fact, the disease has the potential for exponential growth in cases and deaths, because of how many people one person can infect. That means the number of people diagnosed with it or dying from it could double within a couple of days. 

That doesn’t seem to be happening in Colorado. It’s taking five days or more for cases to double. The death rate isn’t growing exponentially, either. There’s still a fair amount of confusion over what exactly that means: Has the state flattened the curve successfully? Are we past the peak, as one national model claims? State officials say no, the worst is yet to come.

But we’ll be listening for Polis’ take. He hasn’t declared victory yet, and he’s been pretty firm in urging Coloradans to stay vigilant, including asking on Friday for everyone in public to wear masks. Does he praise the state, signal that citizens’ actions have made a difference and suggest better days may be coming up? Or does he focus more on pushing ahead, on keeping the hatches battened down tight?

The Endgame

One of the lurking questions of the novel coronavirus pandemic has been: What does “over” mean? Some national experts said people in the U.S. should expect some degree of social distancing for a year or a year and a half. 

We don’t know whether Polis will provide specifics of what the endgame looks like here. But we can expect him to lay out a vision to reopen the economy and restore some degree of financial security as quickly as possible — through mass testing, quarantining of ill individuals and more localized restrictions in hotspots. That’s not exactly normal. Imagine having your temperature taken to enter a government building just two months ago. But it’s a lot more normal than now.

We’ll be listening to see if he addresses how long he expects the most restrictive social-distancing measures to be in place, including stay-at-home, and how he’ll be making those kinds of decisions.