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Gov. Polis Defends Stay-At-Home Order After Move Blasted By GOP Lawmakers

Gov. Jared Polis talks to reporters about the state's response to COVID-19 on Friday, March 20 at the state Capitol.
Scott Franz/Capitol Coverage
Gov. Jared Polis talks to reporters about the state's response to COVID-19 on Friday, March 20 at the state Capitol.

Gov. Jared Polis is defending his decision to issue a stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic.

During a news conference Friday, he said state health officials told him that if he didn't take aggressive action to keep residents isolated from one another, COVID-19 could kill as many as 33,000 Coloradans by June 1.

He said the model is based on an estimate that each Coloradan who has gotten the virus has been infecting up to four other people.

"The aggressive social distancing plus building ICU bed capacity can make it easier to avoid unnecessary deaths, that is people who die because of lack of medical treatment, ventilators and beds that we have in our state," Polis said.

He said the stay-at-home order will buy Colorado time to build up its capacity to treat COVID-19 patients.

"This path of action will lead to the quickest possible return to work, to productivity and to social and economic normalcy," Polis said.

But a group of 14 Republican state senators sent Polis a letter on Friday criticizing his decision to issue the stay at home order.

"With the Denver metro area already under a 'stay-at-home order,' what is accomplished by closing down the business activity and daily routines of Coloradans living in a county that has fewer than five cases of COVID-19 after weeks of dealing with this crisis?" they wrote, citing the number of cases in Mesa County.

Statewide, Polis announced there are now more than 1,700 cases of COVID-19, with 31 deaths and 249 people hospitalized.

But he said there are thousands of other cases that have not been diagnosed.

"Treat this like you would a tornado, or a flood ... or a hurricane," he said. "The more non-compliance (to the stay-at-home order), the longer and more severe this crisis will be."

He also urged Front Range residents not to head to the mountains to get outside during the pandemic. 

"This pandemic is not a vacation," he said. "It's not the time to drive two to three hours from Denver to mountain communities which are reeling from this crisis. We need to have patience. Stop putting yourselves and others at risk."

Polis said his administration is still considering other actions to increase the amount of social distancing in Colorado.

One new measure he announced Friday is allowing people to obtain marriage licenses at home instead of having to obtain one from a county clerk.

He also said that a relief fund set up to help those affected by the virus had raised $7.7 million. He also said more than 9,000 people have signed up to volunteer during the crisis.

Copyright 2020 KUNC

Scott Franz is a government watchdog reporter and photographer from Steamboat Springs. He spent the last seven years covering politics and government for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, a daily newspaper in northwest Colorado. His reporting in Steamboat stopped a police station from being built in a city park, saved a historic barn from being destroyed and helped a small town pastor quickly find a kidney donor. His favorite workday in Steamboat was Tuesday, when he could spend many of his mornings skiing untracked powder and his evenings covering city council meetings. Scott received his journalism degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is an outdoorsman who spends at least 20 nights a year in a tent. He spoke his first word, 'outside', as a toddler in Edmonds, Washington. Scott visits the Great Sand Dunes, his favorite Colorado backpacking destination, twice a year. Scott's reporting is part of Capitol Coverage, a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.
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