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Polis: State should know 'within 5 days' how successful current social distancing has been

Colorado's governor offered a look at what the state is analyzing as it weighs lifting some social distancing measures.

DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) offered a glimpse at what data the state is analyzing as it weighs lifting its stay-at-home order and other strict social distancing measures.

During a PowerPoint presentation shown during a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, Polis said the state will be closely analyzing data over the next five days to determine whether COVID-19 cases in Colorado have begun to trend downward, or if the state is in the middle of a plateau.

“As we reopen our state, things are going to work differently than they did before,” Polis said.

Without a vaccine or effective cure, Polis said the novel coronavirus will be in our lives for months to come. Since the virus was first confirmed in Colorado in early March, Polis said the state was in the “urgent” phase of its response to the pandemic with extreme steps aimed at slowing its spread.

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The next phase will be “stabilization,” which is aimed at allowing non-essential businesses to remain open with proper social distancing in place. Polis said this could involve the continued prevalence of telecommuting and staggered shifts to ensure there aren’t large groups of workers together at once.

“These things are likely to be in the norm because they’re more economically sustainable, but they achieve this goal of social distancing,” Polis said.

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Reopening the economy will also require additional testing, according to Polis. He said Colorado is increasing its epidemiological staff, as well as regional monitoring to determine if stay-at-home orders should be implemented on municipal levels based on where outbreaks occur.

Colorado has seen a record number of applications for unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic as companies and even cities like Boulder have been forced to layoff and furlough workers.

“It’s a horrific thing, the economic anxiety this can cause,” Polis said.

Colorado’s stay-at-home order is slated to be lifted on April 26. Polis did not say whether this will happen on that date during the news conference.

He also said if Colorado’s restaurants and bars reopen for in-person service, it will be with new measures to ensure proper separation between people. The governor hinted this will not be one of the first restrictions lifted in the state. 

“It’s about how you can maximize proximity, support yourselves, and get back to business as normal as possible with social distancing in place,” Polis said.

The governor said he “hopes” there is a baseball season this year, but he conceded it would be different than in years past. He also said he hopes youth sports can occur this summer.

“It’s all about figuring out how we can have a sustainable new normal,” Polis said.

During the question and answer section of the news conference, Polis choked back tears when asked by a reporter to respond to critics who compare his stay-at-home order to Nazism. 

"We act to save lives," Polis said. "The exact opposite of the slaughter of six million Jews and many gypsies and Catholics and gays and lesbians and Russians and so many others."

"By not staying at home... you're not sticking it to the government," the governor later said. "You're not sticking it to Jared Polis. You're sticking it to yourself. Because you're putting your loved ones in jeopardy and you're prolonging the economic difficulties your fellow Coloradans are facing."

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