Governor opts to ask — not mandate — that people stay home; requires some employers to limit in-person workforce by 50% |

Governor opts to ask — not mandate — that people stay home; requires some employers to limit in-person workforce by 50%

Gov. Jared Polis says "this situation grows more serious by the day," and distancing measures are necessary to minimize harm to Colorado's economy.

Jesse Aaron Paul / Colorado Sun
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis speaks to the media during a press conference Sunday, March 22, 2020. (Photo by Eric Lutzens/The Denver Post

Gov. Jared Polis on Sunday implored — but did not go so far as to require — Coloradans to only go out in public if absolutely necessary as he tries to stem the spread of the new coronavirus and prevent the state’s health care system from being overwhelmed in the coming days and weeks.

Polis said there aren’t enough law enforcement resources to enforce a decree  — such as a shelter-in-place or stay-at-home mandate — ordering people to limit their time outside their homes. He argued that the risk of death should be motivating enough to keep people from venturing into public more than they need to.

“What will inspire people to do this, and what will lead people to do this, is not fear of a policeman taking you to jail,” he said. “It is fear of the Grim Reaper.”

Polis sounded exasperated as he spoke to reporters on Sunday at the state’s emergency operations center in Centennial. It has been less than two weeks since Colorado’s first coronavirus case was announced and already people’s lives have been significantly upended by the outbreak.

As he was addressing the media, news broke that a seventh person in Colorado has died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Colorado’s coronavirus case count is nearing 600 and Polis said if the current trajectory continues his advisers have warned him the state will be 7,000 ventilators short of their need to care for the critically ill. 

Polis’ decision not to require Coloradans to stay inside represented a flash of his libertarian streak. But it also served as a break from the orders he has issued in the past week — shuttering restaurants, bars, ski areas and schools and limiting how many people can gather — as he sacrificed the state’s economy in the short term to prevent even more severe damage down the line. 

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