By Skyler Stark-Ragsdale | Illustration by Jubilee Hernandez
On March 28, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis wrote a letter to Vice President Mike Pence asking for 10,000 ventilators from the Federal Government, to serve Colorado’s COVID-19 patients.
Polis explained to Pence that Colorado’s death rate was, at the time, the fastest rising in the country. Because Colorado does not have as large a population as other states, Polis told Pence, he feared they would not receive the same attention nationally. Polis added that rural parts of Colorado do not have enough resources to deal with the influx of cases.
According to data published on April 13 by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado’s Western Slope counties, Eagle and Gunnison, had 468 and 99 cases respectively as of that date. Per capita, one of 118 people were infected by COVID-19 in Eagle County, and one of 174 people were infected by the virus in Gunnison County.
“Hospital staff in the Western Slope facilities have been pulled off the floor to start sewing flimsy clothing surgical masks,” Polis said in his letter.
Polis added that Colorado is recognized as a “multi-state regional referral center,” so it is receiving COVID-19 patients from neighboring states. Though he said Colorado is committed to providing this “regional excellence,” he added that their ability to adequately care for out of state patients will soon be “shuttered” if they cannot protect their health care workers.
On April 3, Polis told CNN reporter Don Lemon that they don’t know how much Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) they will get from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Polis said he’d “love a timeline and numbers” outlining the federal government’s intent to distribute PPE to Colorado.
He added that the Colorado State Government had landed a deal to buy 500 ventilators from a private manufacturer, but the ventilators were “swiped up” by FEMA, so never reached Colorado hospitals.
“Now we’re even competing against the Federal Government,” he said. “Either work with us, or don’t work at all,” he added.
On April 8, Republican Sen. Cory Gardner told Fox News he spoke with President Trump about the Colorado need for ventilators the previous night. Gardner said he and Governor Polis believe there is a “surge” of cases that has “yet to come.”
After Gardner’s call to the President, Trump posted on Twitter, saying he “will be immediately sending 100 ventilators to Colorado at the request of Senator Gardner!”
In a statement on April 8, Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette said, after the shipment of 500 ventilators to Colorado was blocked by FEMA, Trump’s promise of 100 new ventilators to Colorado per the request of Senator Gardner was a political move.
“Because the President is playing politics with public health, we’re still 400 ventilators short from what we should have received. His mismanagement of this crisis is costing lives and livelihoods,” said DeGette.
Gov. Polis told CNN he was “grateful” for the 100 ventilators and didn’t question the politicization of the move.
“Well, you’re not going to get my read on it because I’m not here to do political analysis,” he said. “I’m here to celebrate any ventilators that arrive in our state.”
Colorado’s COVID-19 cases continue to increase according to data published by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. As of April 16, Colorado had 8,280 known cases and 357 deaths as a result of the novel coronavirus.