The killers came to Colorado on passenger planes. A flight from the West brought them hidden inside a skier. A plane from the East carried assassins from Italy. The arrival of these viral killers was not a surprise to Gov. Jared Polis.
Polis knew the killers were coming by air. He was warned. He knew they first came to America on passenger planes. That’s why Dr. Anthony Fauci called for stopping flights from China. Polis knew that Colorado ski resorts were attracting air travelers with COVID-19. That’s why he closed the ski resorts. Polis knew he had the power to order arriving travelers into quarantine at the start of their stay here. And he knew that if he failed to do that, travelers from COVID-19 hot spots would bring legions of the killer virus into Colorado.
In early March, Polis knew that the Seattle area had been ravaged by the same killers. He knew these invisible invaders could wipe out nursing homes in a matter of hours, as they had in Seattle. Gov. Polis knew that every day during Seattle’s death spiral large numbers of people were flying from Seattle to Denver. He knew the same was true of the many thousands of travelers fleeing to Colorado from COVID-infested New York, New Jersey, Detroit and New Orleans. Gov. Polis knew that travelers from those COVID-19 hot spots were constantly seeding the Colorado population with more of the killer virus.
As those planeloads of COVID-19 infected visitors started landing in Colorado, the law gave Polis more power to protect Coloradans than any governor in history. Starting with the power to order travelers arriving at DIA and other airports to quarantine for 14 days before entering into Colorado’s general population. Colorado’s Democrat attorney general concluded that Colorado law and the U.S. Constitution even allowed the state to force nonresidents to leave Colorado, including those who own second homes here. The law gave Polis that enormous power so that he could act swiftly, boldly and decisively to save Colorado lives and businesses.
The battle plan was clear, and based on proven science. Our wartime governor had to prevent more infected people from entering Colorado without a quarantine. And he had to pull out the stops to protect and defend Colorado’s nursing homes. Gov. Polis failed at both.
While 23 other governors from both political parties imposed restrictions on those entering their states, Polis refused to even ask travelers from COVID-19 hot spots to quarantine once they got here.
And while other governors immediately used every weapon in their arsenal to defend nursing homes, Polis waited until late April to order additional protections for our elders that other governors launched day one.
Coloradans have paid a ghastly price for the failures of Gov. Polis. According to New York Times data, Colorado has the highest per capita COVID-19 death rate of the 22 states that fall completely west of the Mississippi. Four times more deaths than Texas. More than twice the deaths of California and Arizona. More than eight times the deaths of Utah.
Many governors from both political parties saved a lot of lives by restricting travelers from COVID-19 hot spots.
Florida placed a 14-day quarantine on travelers from New York and other hot spots. Despite having more seniors than the 49 other states, Florida’s COVID-19 death rate is less than half of Colorado’s. Like Florida, Texas used law enforcement to enforce a similar quarantine on visitors. Despite sharing a border with COVID-plagued Louisiana, Texas has a COVID-19 death rate four times lower than Colorado’s.
After Hawaii’s Democratic governor placed a strict quarantine on visitors, and used law enforcement to back it up, Hawaii’s infection rate plunged. Colorado now has 10 times the COVID-19 deaths of Hawaii.
It was clear from the beginning of this war that if Polis allowed an unlimited amount of COVID-19 to flow into Colorado from America’s Wuhans, it would kill a lot of Coloradans. But while he ordered Coloradans to abandon their livelihoods and stay at home, Polis stubbornly allowed unlimited numbers of COVID-19-infected travelers to flow into Colorado from New York, Washington state, Detroit and other mass-infected areas.
By doing so, Polis unnecessarily jeopardized the life of every Coloradan, and imposed an even greater level of danger on our heroic medical personnel and other first responders. Was this recklessness because of Polis’ national political ambitions? Not wanting to alienate powerful democratic governors in those COVID-19 infested states?
Whatever his motivations were, Polis didn’t just lose the war against this killer virus. He surrendered.
Compounding that fatal recklessness was Polis’ failure to pull out the stops at the start of the war to protect Colorado’s nursing homes.
Because Polis didn’t care enough about our most vulnerable, many became sitting ducks for the attackers. More than half of Colorado’s COVID-19 deaths are from nursing homes, which is far above the national average.
Another undeniable and costly failure by Polis is the beatdown he suffered in the competition for testing materials. Every governor in America had the responsibility to do all they could to test as many of their residents as quickly as possible.
Public safety depended on it. Governors were competing against each other to secure materials and get tests done as fast as possible. Polis failed miserably.
As of May 11, 47 states have done more testing than Colorado. With a population of 5.8 million, Colorado has done only 108,790 tests. Utah, with just 3.2 million people, has completed 150,585 tests. New Mexico, with about a third of our population, has done almost as many tests as Colorado. Progressive Alabama, with only 4.9 million folks, has done 22,000 more tests than Colorado. Polis is badly losing the testing race to almost every other state, blue and red alike. The pitiful testing levels in Colorado have undoubtedly increased the amount of Colorado’s infection and death, and further harmed Colorado’s economy.
The invasion of Colorado by this viral killer turned Jared Polis into a wartime governor. He was given the virtually unlimited powers of a wartime commander in chief so that he could act quickly and boldly to save Colorado lives.
By every critical measure, starting with how many died under his command, Polis lost the war.
Dan Caplis is an award-winning trial lawyer and a radio talk show host.