Colorado COVID-19 Progress Update As Stay-Home, Safer At Home Orders Change Rules For Residents Often: Keep It Up, Polis Says

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis gestures during a press conference on March 25
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis gestures during a press conference on March 25, 2020.

Today, the first day many Coloradans could go back into work — with some social distancing rules and restrictions in place — Gov. Jared Polis gave an update from the State Capitol on how things are faring under Colorado’s Safer-At-Home order.

The daily coronavirus infection growth rate and hospitalization growth rate continue to decline, Polis said, but statistics from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment show the state is up to 848 COVID-19 deaths.

To increase testing, Polis reiterated that the state is working to increase four types of testing sites: private sector and health care facilities, targeted testing for outbreaks and at-risk populations, collaborations with private sector partners — and local community based testing sites, which are now mapped in a new online tool.

Polis said that, moving forward, guidelines have to be realistic for health safety but also for business owners — that the state can’t mandate expensive equipment for most businesses, but can recommend putting decals on the floor to help demonstrate ideal social distancing.

A report by conservative-leaning groups FreedomWorks and the Committee to Unleash Prosperity named Polis as the only Democratic governor to get an “A” rating for his handling of the pandemic, along with eight other Republicans. The report assesses “how measured or damaging [governors’] have been with respect to safeguarding the economic well-being of their citizens.” 

In response to the report, Polis said the virus should never be “partisan or ideological.”

“Of course I’m thrilled if Colorado lives up to that ‘A,’” Polis said, “And I hope we get similar marks in our work protecting peoples’ health. This is a health crisis and an economic crisis.”

Throughout the event, he repeated pleas for individual responsibility and action.

“For this to work, for us to move forward and not backwards, people need to take this deadly seriously,” he said.

When asked if he’s concerned about the lack of testing at the JBS USA meat processing facility in Greeley, where six employees have died and 245 have tested positive for COVID-19, Polis said he would “encourage JBS to test everybody,” as the company had said it would. The state opened a community testing site nearby, after it learned JBS would not test all of its employees before reopening the meat processing plant.

The state's Safer-At-Home order went into effect April 27. Today, the order allows businesses to have up to 50 percent of their employees onsite with the rest at home. Offices with more than 50 people in a given location are asked to follow additional health protocols like temperature and symptom checks. 

“As you venture out, it’s not a time for anxiety and fear, but it is a time for justified caution,” Polis said. 

Some counties have extended their Stay-At-Home orders. Denver, Boulder and Tri-County’s orders are slated to end May 8. 

And while the state strongly encourages everyone to wear a mask whenever they’re outside of the home, some counties are issuing their own facemask orders. Denver’s will go into effect May 6, and will require residents to wear a face-covering while inside or waiting in line to enter certain businesses and facilities. Boulder’s facemask order goes into effect May 9, and will require those older than 12 to wear a face covering “when in public anywhere in Boulder County where social distancing of 6 feet cannot be maintained.”

Polis also announced members of the Governor’s Advisory Committee for Cooperation and Implementation, including Larimer County Commissioner Steve Johnson, San Miguel County Commissioner Hilary Cooper, Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar, Montrose Mayor Barbara Bynum, Denver Public Health and Environment director Robert McDonald, Eagle County public health director Hearth Harmon, Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader, Bloomfield Police Chief Gary Creager and Poudre Fire Authority Chief Thomas Demint.

Polis started the conference by recognizing Paul Cary, the Colorado paramedic who died from COVID-19 after he volunteered to help fight against the novel coronavirus in New York City.

“He knew he was risking his own life,” Polis said. “He saw people in need and, he raised his hand, and he said ‘I’m up for the challenge of helping.’”