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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis Discusses Handing Off Pandemic Response, Future Gun Legislation

via the Colorado State website
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis

Gov. Polis issued almost four hundred executive orders related to the coronavirus. Now, he’s starting to hand over some of his pandemic response powers to cities and counties. KSJD’s Scott Franz spoke with the governor about this new phase of the pandemic - and about his early response to another crisis: the March 22nd mass shooting in his hometown of Boulder.


Scott Franz: We're entering a new phase of the pandemic where local governments are getting more control over what restrictions are in place. But you recently warned that the state is experiencing a fourth wave of cases, do you think now is still the right time to switch to this local control system?

Gov. Jared Polis: Well, the fourth wave is different than the other waves, because what we're seeing is record low numbers of hospitalizations and people in their sixties, seventies and eighties, that have the worst outcomes. But we're seeing hospitalizations go up for people in their twenties, thirties and fourties. And it's typically shorter stays and better outcomes. Still, even at that age, not everybody makes it, which is tragic, but it's just a very different situation than when we had the much higher mortality rates, people in their sixties, seventies and eighties. What's really important is that people get vaccinated. I mean, that will protect you. We're at close to 40% of adults that are vaccinated now, and especially for those who are vaccinated, they can have the confidence to go back out and relax a little. For those who haven't yet, the virus is still very prevalent. Wear a mask, avoid socializing with people outside of your home, and just get vaccinated.

Franz: You've predicted will have a relatively normal summer, based on the vaccination rates. Has anything that's happened in the last few weeks - with rising case numbers, with the pause on the Johnson and Johnson vaccine - has anything changed your outlook yet for what our summer is going to look like?

Polis: Well, I'm still hopeful. And what everything we're hearing is the Johnson and Johnson pause will only be about a week. If it lingers, if that pause goes three, four or five weeks, it will delay the state by a week or two in getting through everybody. So as long as we get that back in the next week or so, and it's safe and effective, and it's one shot is preferred by a lot of people, as long as we get that back soon, I think it's just a hiccup in the road. If doesn't delay our vaccinated by mid to late May. But if it lingers for a few weeks, it could push that back to early June.

Franz: Another question that comes to mind, you know, it's been a month now since the tragic shooting in Boulder. Do you think the state legislature here in Colorado needs to take any more action on gun policy this session beyond the two bills they've they've already sent you?

Polis: Of course, if there's any other bills that reach my desk, I'll take a look at them. I know there's certainly discussions about other things that can be done on mental health and gun safety.

Franz: But do you do you personally have any thoughts on policies that that might need to be done?

Polis: You can certainly learn from you know, each incidents and part of the problem is you're always correcting for the last incident. So then the next one comes at you from a different corner. But in the case of the King Soopers shooting, it would have been a great example of how we could have used our red flag law, but in many places, and I think this is the case across the state, families who could use it don't know about it. How do we do outreach - multilingual, multicultural - to reach people who have a situation where their nineteen-year-old or twenty-year-old, they're worried about them, they have a weapon, and how can they use that extreme risk protection. Or when you look at how they've been used in the West,now for about a year and a half, two years, it's been a the law, it's been used more by law enforcement. And when it had been designed, it had been thought it would be used more by families, particularly parents of, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one-year-olds. That's a lot of the age of onset of some of these psychological risk factors. And I think it needs to be better publicized, to make sure that people know that that's available to them.

Franz: Thanks so much for your time, Governor. I really appreciate it.

Polis: Thank you. Take care.

Scott Franz is a government watchdog reporter and photographer from Steamboat Springs. He spent the last seven years covering politics and government for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, a daily newspaper in northwest Colorado. His reporting in Steamboat stopped a police station from being built in a city park, saved a historic barn from being destroyed and helped a small town pastor quickly find a kidney donor. His favorite workday in Steamboat was Tuesday, when he could spend many of his mornings skiing untracked powder and his evenings covering city council meetings. Scott received his journalism degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is an outdoorsman who spends at least 20 nights a year in a tent. He spoke his first word, 'outside', as a toddler in Edmonds, Washington. Scott visits the Great Sand Dunes, his favorite Colorado backpacking destination, twice a year. Scott's reporting is part of Capitol Coverage, a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.
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