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Governor Polis Press Conference May 4th, 2020

COVID-19 Statistics 

  • 16, 907 confirmed cases
  • 2,838 hospitalized
  • 56 counties
  • 83,266 people tested
  • 851 deaths
Governor Polis Press Conference 
Governor Polis began by acknowledging the life and the work of retired fire paramedic Paul Cary. Paul is a Colorado hero who, despite the risks, bravely volunteered to travel to New York City to help those suffering in one of the worst hotspots of COVID-19.  He was later diagnosed with COVID-19, and passed away on April 30th at the age of 66. This is the kind of character we are seeing from our first responders in Colorado and across the world every day during this crisis. With this in mind, Governor Polis encourages everyone to continue to take this crisis extremely seriously. He urges the strict following of guidelines, including wearing masks in all public settings, remaining 6 feet apart, reducing all non-essential travel and social interaction, and staying home as much as possible.

Although the growth rate of confirmed cases is down to 1.4%, and hospitalization rate growth is at 0.1%, he stresses that this is due to the strict following of public safety guidelines, and we cannot let up on these any time soon. He also notes that while we have 16,870 confirmed cases in Colorado, the likely amount is many times that, due to many contagious carriers being asymptomatic. He encourages anyone who has shown any symptoms to self-isolate and not leave their homes until at least 4-5 days after the last symptom.

This is not only a health crisis, but an economic crisis, and hard work is being done to ensure minimal damage in both regards. He has heard from 35 retail associations, 1,100 individual workers, 300 chambers of commerce, 350 hospitals, 300 real estate agents, and 200 local governments, among others, through webinars and comments online. He encourages individuals and groups to continue reaching out to share ideas and concerns, as we all have to work together. 

On April 24th, Governor Polis announced the establishment of an advisory committee, for cooperation and implementation of protocols in the next phase, to ensure we are hitting the benchmarks we have set, and that rules are enforced so that we can sustain and grow upon this new normal for the long haul. The committee advises the governor, the chief of staff, and CDPHE on policies on how we can design measures that maximize social distancing and keep us as safe as possible. Representatives will include a county commissioner from an area with more than 250,000 residents, a county commissioner from an area with fewer than 250,000 residents, a mayor from a city with 100,000 people or more, and a mayor from a city with fewer than 100,000 residents, as well as local public health representatives, sheriffs, police chiefs, and fire chiefs from large and small areas. Along with that, there is a representative of the Economic Recovery and Stabilization Council, chaired by Federico Pena. He announces the bi-partisan membership of the board, including County Commissioner Steve Johnson of Larimer, County Commissioner Hillary Cooper of San Miguel, Mayor Nick Gradisar of Pueblo, Mayor Barbara Bynum of Montrose, for Local Public Health Robert McDonald of the City and County of Denver, for Local Public Health Heath Harmon of Eagle, Sheriff Jeff Shrader of Jefferson County,  Police Chief Gary Creager of Broomfield, Fire Chief Thomas DeMint of Poudre Fire Department, and Kyle Martinez of Olathe, who is the representative of the Economic Recovery and Stabilization Council to give a voice for the private sector in these considerations. The internal members include Chief of Staff Lisa Kaufman, Department of Public Safety Executive Director Stan Hilkey,  the Public Health Director Jill Ryan, and DORA Director Patty Salazar. 

Governor Polis gives special shout outs for Teacher Appreciation Week, and Animal Protection Week. 54,000 students in Colorado lack internet-enabled devices, and he encourages you to visit givecomupters.org to make a contribution to the effort in helping students remain connected during this time. 

Businesses and Workers 
Governor Polis acknowledges the immense efforts and changes businesses have implemented to do their part in ensuring a safe environment, including fiber-glass screens at pharmacies and grocery stores, as well as policies ensuring mask-wearing and glove use. He encourages all workers to report workplace violations and to do their part in following the stated guidelines of social distancing, providing hand sanitizer, and wearing masks. While stores, businesses, and offices in various Colorado counties have begun reopening as of today for up to 50% in-person capacity, he notes that the Denver Metro Area still has a couple more days before they follow suit. As retailers and offices re-open, they will be required to follow the same procedures in place currently at grocery stores and pharmacies. He encourages the expanded use of tele-commuting, and notes that 62% of Colorado workers are currently doing so. Colorado is prioritizing finding ways to maximize tele-commuting, and stresses that those over 65 or with preexisting health conditions especially should be doing telecommuting. This is not only an opportunity for businesses to save on costs in terms of office space, for example, but this will also institutionalize social distancing efforts that are required to save lives. Restaurants are currently open in Mesa County, but a specific date has not been given for restaurants located elsewhere. He acknowledges that they will need at least a week’s notice in order to open properly. Greeley’s JPS plant was of particular concern, but increased community based testing near the area and high grade masks provided by the federal government for workers should help reduce the area as a hotspot. In terms of those who feel uncomfortable or unsafe returning to work, he stresses the value in telecommuting, and outlines other options, including relying on unemployment insurance for the meantime, or finding work in jobs that don’t require human interaction. 

Hospitals and Access to Testing 
The main goal is to ensure that anyone who needs to go to the hospital will have the ability to do so, without fear of contracting the virus while there. As of April 27th, all hospitals are now able to do non-emergency, elective surgeries again. Hospitals are doing a great job of keeping people safe, and you should not be deterred from getting an operation you need for fear of the virus. We are still seeing Coronavirus cases being rushed to the hospital each day, and this will be the case for the foreseeable future. Testing opportunities in Colorado are expanding each day. We have received 100,000 testing kits from South Korea, and additional swabs are arriving daily, with support from the federal government. We know testing provides critical information to inform individual and collective actions. The goal is to expand testing and share that information as it becomes more available. In order to hit our goals we are working on supplying more testing and materials, increasing testing sites across the state to meet people where they are, and diversifying the types of testing centers across Colorado. There are four different types of testing centers. The primary way to get tested is through private sector hospitals and health care facilities. There are also local community based testing sites, mostly headed up by local public health agencies that we provide support to. In conjunction with the Colorado National Guard, we are testing targeted areas for at risk populations, such as senior living centers. Testing asymptomatic workers has become a top priority, as we want to remove the contagious workforce to help prevent additional outbreaks. Last, there is heavy state collaboration with private sector partners, for example Safeway, to increase testing opportunities further. He announces a new map of local community based testing sites that is available on Covid19.Colorado.gov. Rural areas are in particular need of community based testing sites, because private providers are limited or too far away from those who need services. We have gotten requests from 59 counties who have completed readiness assessments, of which 40 have been approved. We have sent supplies to all 40, and given additional support and resources to larger hospital systems in the Denver Metro Area, including Denver Health, National Jewish, Children’s Hospital, and Kaiser. A state lab has distributed over 22,000 testing kits across the state. The new tool available on Covid19.Colorado.gov outlines clearly where testing centers are, and important relevant information, such as hours of operation, contact information, and if you need a doctor’s note or an appointment to get tested. Our labs in Colorado have the capability to test up to 10,000 a day, the issue lies with access to testing reagents and materials. As we gather more and more materials, he hopes we will soon be up to that testing range soon. 

He hopes for thoughtful bi-partisan legislation throughout this process. Work is being done on final sets of recommendations that will include executive actions and legislative recommendations.  When asked about the issue of people trying to get their names on the ballot or initiatives on the ballot, and his thoughts on electronic signatures, he says he is making sure there is a way for unaffiliated and other candidates to be able to get their names on the ballot. Citizens have the right to petition to have issues advance to voters, and we are looking at ways to figure out how to do this. We will not take anything away from our constitutional rights just because of a health crisis. When asked about funding cuts to various state programs, including veterans and kindergarten programs, he acknowledges the struggles we are all facing in both the private and public sector. He ensures that all critically necessary services will be protected, but that a tightening of purse strings is nonetheless necessary. With that in mind however, now is not the time to let health care insurance rates go up, noting the importance of the reinsurance program. 

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