By Skyler Stark-Ragsdale | Photos by Patil Khakhamian
“The goal was never to eradicate the virus in the United States. That’s unrealistic,” said Jared Polis, Colorado’s governor.
On Monday, April 20, 2020, Polis addressed Colorado from the State Capitol, saying the state would begin reopening through a staggered process. He said that Colorado will move from Level 1 of physical distancing under the March 27 Executive Order, “Stay at Home,” to Level 2 of physical distancing, “Safer at Home,” starting April 27.
Polis said Colorado had reached many of the goals outlined by the “Stay at Home” order he put in place a month ago.
“We flattened the curve,” Polis said. “We bought ourselves the time that we needed to expand healthcare capacity and to create a sustainable way to manage living with the virus.”
As a result, Polis said it is a good time to start the transition to the next phase of opening the state — the “Safer at Home” stage. He acknowledged that the “Stay at Home” order was the most trying part for everyone, citizens and politicians alike. Now, he said, is the right time to find a more “mentally, physically, [and] economically” feasible way to live.
“We all know that we need a sustainable way to get through this,” said Polis.
In his address, Polis detailed the differences between “Stay at Home” and “Safer at Home.” At Level 1, people were to stay home with limited exceptions. Widespread suppression was required to stem exponential disease transmission while healthcare capacity was still limited. Testing and monitoring capacities were still being built. At Level 2, people should stay home as much as possible. Strong protections will be provided to vulnerable populations. Healthcare, testing, and monitoring capacity will still be increasing, according to Polis.
Based on the decrease in the R Naught Value (RO), or the number of people the average tested-positive individual is likely to infect, Polis said Colorado is ready to move to this next phase of opening.
“We feel that, in the modeling, Coloradans can have more interactions and still handle a rate of spread that stays close to, you know, 1.3, one and a half, not that exponential three-plus curve that we saw,” said Polis.
He concluded his address with a brief statement of his own commitment to this ongoing, invisible war against COVID-19.
“Know that, as your governor, I’m doing my best to ensure that you have the legal ability to earn a living, and the psychological fulfillment you need, while protecting the public health of the people of Colorado,” Polis said.
On April 26, 2020, Polis signed Executive Order D 2020 044, “Safer at Home,” outlining specific directions for this less-restrictive phase of physical distancing. The Executive Order outlined that starting May 1, non-critical retail may begin to let customers onto their premises in a manner compliant with public health and social distancing guidelines. On May 4, non-critical businesses will be permitted to allow 50% of their employees to conduct in-person work while complying with social distancing requirements.
Polis’s Safer at Home Executive Order directs vulnerable individuals to remain at home, clarifying that vulnerable individuals are:
- 1. Individuals who are 65 and older;
- 2. Individuals with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma;
- 3. Individuals who have serious heart conditions;
- 4. Individuals who are immunocompromised;
- 5. Pregnant women; and
- 6. Individuals determined to be high risk by a licensed healthcare provider.
Schools, however, will not open for the remainder of the 2019-2020 year, and post-secondary institutions should continue to try to deliver their classes via distance learning, according to Polis’ “Safer at Home” order.
Despite the loosened restrictions, Polis clarified that counties and municipalities are free to adopt more protective standards than those provided by the state government.