Gov. Jared Polis spoke to the press yesterday evening in a remote press conference from Washington, D.C., following his meeting with President Donald Trump and other governors, doctors and staff. The meeting discussed federal partnerships for obtaining COVID-19 test materials, masks for senior care and concerns of businesses and residents.
In addition to Polis, the meeting included Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt; Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota; Dr. Deborah Birx, a global health official and advisor to the president; Jill Ryan, secretary for the Department of Health and the Environment; and her counterpart from North Dakota and several senators,. In the press conference, Polis discussed a commitment for test equipment, building partnerships to secure further supplies and getting an understanding of how supplies are allocated.
Polis said that when he was asked to the White House, that was not an opportunity he could turn down, despite travel risks. “I was invited by The President of the United States to talk about Colorado’s needs and objectives, and that’s not really an invitation I can turn down in my capacity as governor of the state of Colorado.”
Polis said he needed to explore all possible options that could provide life-saving supplies for Coloradans, and “to make sure the president is not just sequestered in the White House and really knows what’s going on in the states and on the ground — the anxiety, the fear they face — and the fears that businesses have about being able to keep their doors open.”
For COVID-19, Polis said he discussed several things with the president and that a key goal is to solve economic problems and make sure everyone can earn a living while keeping people as safe as possible. Polis said he believes Colorado has been doing its best to do that. He added that unlike some states, restaurants were allowed to stay open minus dine-in options and that stores have been able to reopen with certain guidelines.
Dr. Birx complimented Colorado in its work “leading the way” in testing and tracing the virus, Polis said. “Which really gets to the meat of it. One of the reasons that an invitation to meet with the President is always an invitation you can’t refuse is the opportunity to advance Colorado’s needs and better partner with the federal government to be able to get the testing and supplies which can literally translate into saving lives.”
Polis said that private supply lines have been used to obtain supplies and purchased products from South Korea. Polis said he got a “firm formal commitment of the president” that 96,000 pieces of test-related equipment from Thermal Fisher are being sent to Colorado this week as part of the 195,000 expected from the federal government in June.
During talks with suppliers, it was mentioned that suppliers were unsure how to allocate product to different states, Polis said. He said now it is being done in a centralized manner, supplies shipped from the suppliers, but coordinated through the federal government.
Also, there are currently 32 free testing sites situated around the state, Polis said, with more expected, due to the work of emergency operations groups across the state, tests from South Korea, and the partnership with the federal government to ensure partnerships with domestic suppliers, Polis said.
Supplies were also generally discussed, Polis said. One program through FEMA is scheduled to deliver their first round of masks to nursing homes and senior centers across Colorado on May 18, Polis said. An additional shipment is to be expected later in May, according to the governor.
“I wanted to personally let the President know, and I did, that it is very important that the program of supplying medically quality masks to our nursing homes and senior centers continue into June or July,” Polis said.
Colorado is not only testing symptomatic persons for the coronavirus, Polis said. But testing asymptomatic people who work in nursing homes to prevent additional outbreaks. Half the people who have COVID-19 don’t develop symptoms or could be asymptomatic and later could be contagious. Polis spoke with Birx about testing if it should be done every 10 days or once a week, and she advised once a week was a good plan for asymptomatic employees.
Polis added he spoke with the President about making sure that American people have the opportunity to support themselves and make a living and the thoughtful way for it to occur.
“I wanted to, and I did, pushback on this dichotomy of either you’re open or you’re closed,” Polis said. “There’s no state that’s open, there’s no state that’s closed. That’s simply a false narrative.” Polis added that states that were trumpeting being open were not as open as they were in January — no concerts, sports games, large events or otherwise are in those states. Those states that are “closed” still have people working in reduced numbers at physical locations.
“The truth lies in this gray area,” Polis said. “And we in Colorado are not alone in trying to figure out how to have as much economic activity as possible resembling or close to a full economy … while at the same time having less physical proximity than we normally have.”
Polis also stressed that the workers in the stores, regardless of the rules of specific areas around the state, were at risk for COVID-19 if the visitors did not wear masks. “You owe it to those people who are working there to also wear a mask when you go into those stores.”
During the month of May, there are “four keys to success” the state is focused on: testing, protecting the most vulnerable, continued social distancing and wearing masks in public, Polis said. Polis urged the public to wear masks to save the lives of others, their families or even their own life.
Further, Polis said Trump has strong advisors, such as Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, and he hoped the president would listen to their words.