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Gov. Polis orders non-critical businesses to reduce in-person workforce by 50%; calls 'Grim Reaper' a far better enforcer

Polis on Sunday ordered all non-critical places of employment to reduce in-person workforce by 50% at the minimum.

COLORADO, USA — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Sunday announced new orders for non-critical businesses in the state as well as a new state task force to combat the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. 

Polis ordered all non-critical places of employment to reduce in-person workforce by 50% at the minimum. He said employers can do this by allowing people to work from home or stagger schedules to limit the number of people in the workplace at a time. 

The critical workplaces that are exempt include:

  • Health care operations
  • Critical Infrastructure, including utilities, fuel supply and transmission, public water, telecommunications, transportation, hotels, organizations that provide for disadvantaged people, and food supply chain.
  • Critical Manufacturing, including food, beverages, chemicals, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, sanitary products, agriculture.
  • Critical Retail, including grocery stores, liquor stores, farms, gas stations, restaurants and bars for takeout, marijuana dispensaries but only for medical or curbside delivery, hardware stores.
  • Critical Services, including trash and recycling, mail, shipping, laundromats, child care, building cleaning and maintenance, auto supply and repair, warehouses/distribution, funeral homes, crematoriums, cemeteries, animal shelters and rescues.
  • News Media.
  • Financial Institutions.
  • Providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations.
  • Construction.
  • Defense.
  • Public Safety Services like law enforcement, fire prevention and response, EMTs, security, disinfection, cleaning, building code enforcement, snow removal, auto repair.
  • Vendors that Provide Critical Services or Products including logistics, child care, tech support, or contractors with critical government services.
  • “Critical Government Functions.”

This Executive Order does not apply to any employer that can certify that employees are no closer than six feet from one another during any part of their work hours.

The order takes effect Tuesday, March 24 and is set to last through 11:59 p.m. on Friday, April 10, according to a release from Polis' office. 

A violation of the new rule could mean local police may end up having to enforce it. 

The public order says someone could face “a fine of up to $1,000 dollars and imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year.” 

9Wants to Know asked the Colorado Department of Health and Environment how enforcement would work.

A spokesperson sent an email saying people could complain about violations to their local city or county health department. 

“Enforcement of public health orders has been given to Local Law enforcement and State Law enforcement has plans in place to assist and support in any way requested, but the idea is to gain compliance voluntarily. That is something that is reserved only for the most aggravated circumstances. This is a measure that we all must do our part to achieve to save lives,” the state said.

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Polis also asked that Coloradans do their part in the fight against the virus by only grocery shopping once a week rather than twice and to consider things like jogging or walking outside during less crowded times and fewer days a week. 

"People have asked, 'how are you going to enforce this kind of behavior?'" Polis said during the Sunday news conference. "There is no enforcement authority here. There’s a far greater enforcement authority in these matters, and his name is the Grim Reaper. If we don't abide by these simple, common-sense protocols, you will be jeopardizing lives ..."

The governor asked that Coloradans stay home unless obtaining or delivering critical supplies, outdoor recreation activities that allow for a 6-foot distance between people, work and caring for other people, pets or livestock.

Polis also announced the Innovation Response Team (IRT) Task Force for the state and named four immediate goals: 

  • Statewide system for mass testing and results
  • Mobile technology to track illness
  • Create a suite of service for people under isolation or quarantine (internet access, food delivery, etc.)
  • Secure supplies and personal protective equipment to keep health care workers safe

Polis spoke about mass testing multiple times, saying quarantining a whole society is unsustainable.

Polis added that thousands of Coloradans likely have the illness and it's just a matter of time before there are positive cases in all of the state's 64 counties. 

When asked about unemployment, Polis acknowledged the difficulties in applying for aid and said there is a maximum number of transactions that can happen at a time. He suggested people try to apply late at night or early morning. In the last week alone, 26,000 people filed claims, according to the state Department of Labor. 

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