You can’t always get what you need. But if you try, sometimes you find you get what you want.
This lyrical scramble is an appropriately backward lens through which to view our current situation. Just 29 percent of 1,000 Coloradans surveyed by Magellan Strategies in mid-April were ready to reopen the economy but — after weeks of deferring to science — Gov. Jared Polis has decided to side with the minority.
Yes, many small business owners across the Centennial State are struggling due to government shutdowns. Yes, many of these businesses need to get moving again or face the very real possibility of closing forever.
But the governor, one of the more pragmatic state leaders from the crisis’ onset, seems to have left logic at the door in recent days. By easing restrictions too soon, he risks more closures and unemployment than had Coloradans waited to be sure COVID-19 was actually contained here.
One of the most impacted states in the West, Colorado was also one of the quickest to reopen.
We agree that some level of reopening may be warranted, but only if the rules make sense.
Gyms aren’t OK — but tattoo parlors and barbershops are?
Inadequate testing is still a barrier to reopening safely. Polis stated those who are symptomatic can get tested. However, since as many as half of coronavirus carriers may be asymptomatic, testing only the sick amounts to security theater.
Further, from The New York Times: “With Colorado yet to record a sustained decline in cases, the governor says he sees ‘calculated risks’ in reopening. He and other governors want to get economies rolling after the virus put 26.5 million Americans out of work and decimated states’ income from taxes.”
Where’s the calculation?
White House guidelines say states and counties should see a two-week decline in new COVID-19 cases before reopening economies.
In contrast, New Jersey’s Gov. Phil Murphy recently said, after extending his state’s lockdown by “many more weeks,” that in order to open businesses and schools, New Jersey would need to see more contact tracing, a prolonged decline in hospitalization and infection rates, expanded testing, and the ability to isolate the infected. They’re all things Polis once touted as vital here.
Colorado is one of the newest members of the Western States Pact, which also covers California, Washington, Nevada and Oregon. The pact’s goal is to combine resources and share best practices to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and get economies humming again. The common pledge is to prioritize health and value science and outcomes over partisan bickering and politics.
“Modifications to our states’ stay at home orders must be made based off our understanding of the total health impacts of COVID-19…,” pact literature states.
And that brings us to perhaps our greatest problem: We don’t understand this virus at all.
Damon Linker of The Week writes, “And what even is the mess we’re in? We’re still in the early stages of figuring that out. Preliminary studies appear to be pointing toward a fatality rate for COVID-19 that is about 5 times higher than the flu. But there are also indications that some of those who appeared to have relatively mild cases of the disease have developed a problem with blood clotting that leaves them vulnerable to strokes and other serious medical problems. Doctors have also found damage in some patients to the kidneys, the heart, the nervous system, and intestines.”
The decision to reopen the way we have seems shortsighted. Polls have shown that the majority of Coloradans believe the worst still lies ahead. Employees — many with no other choice — must make the decision to return to the workforce and risk infection while leaving their children in crowded day cares, or lose any hope for a paycheck and health coverage.
We can only begin to support that population when government bailouts — scrupulously monitored through independent oversight — go to small businesses to protect their payrolls instead of multimillion-dollar entities (looking at you Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Harvard) scrounging for free money.
Colorado was on the right track, and Polis was leading the charge.
It’s hard to know whether political expediency or naïveté has derailed us.
We guess, for about one third of Coloradans, sometimes you do get what you want… for now.
Editorials represent the views of the Colorado Publishing House Editorial Board.