UPDATED AT 6:52 P.M. ON WEDNESDAY, MARCH 18, 2020: Governor orders Colorado schools closed, limits gatherings to 10 people and directs ski areas to stay shuttered
Gov. Jared Polis said Wednesday that more guidance and measures restricting the movement of Coloradans will be unveiled in the coming hours and days as the state tries to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
“All of the additional social distancing measures that are applicable are being looked at, balanced with how long can people endure them, sustain them, what is the effect on the economy,” Polis told reporters at a news conference at the state Capitol.
Polis did not specify which next steps he is weighing, but didn’t rule out issuing an order that Coloradans shelter in place, similar to those that have been enacted in other parts of the U.S., including six counties in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“If there does have to be, for some short period of time, a shelter in place, what’s the highest leverage time to do that to limit the spread? Because we know you can’t shut down everything forever,” Polis said.
The governor said he is also watching Summit and Gunnison counties, which ordered all non-essential businesses to close, to see if their actions should be replicated statewide.
Polis said the idea is to balance short-term economic strife against much broader, more devastating effects that could come if the state isn’t forceful enough now in trying to keep the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, from spiraling out of control.
“If we fail, the economic consequences of the virus running rampant will be far worse in the medium and long term,” he said. “We’re going to take the steps we need to avoid catastrophic loss of life.”
Polis urged people to use common sense and take some personal responsibility. He said that’s key to slowing the virus’ spread.
“There’s not really an ability to police if you’re stupid and you have 30 or 40 or 80 people at your home,” he said. “Please, don’t be stupid. Engage in social distancing. The new guidance is no more than 10 (people gathering together at once).”
Polis added: “Don’t be dumb here and think you’re getting away with something just because the cops aren’t able to shut you down.”
“It’s increasingly unlikely” schools will reopen
As for schools, Polis said it doesn’t appear in-person classes will resume this academic year.
“While it’s possible that school might return this year,” Polis said, “it’s increasingly unlikely.”
All districts that have been affected by COVID-19 are closed, Polis said, adding that there are additional “actions” for educational institutions that will be coming soon. He didn’t elaborate on what those actions would be.
The Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, has urged Polis to shut down all schools across the state. The decision has so far been made on a district-by-district basis and while most schools are closed, some still remain open.
Polis said virtual classes must continue to keep kids learning even if school buildings are closed.
“We want to make sure that just because in-person learning is suspended in most, if not all, of the state, that doesn’t mean learning is suspended,” Polis said. “We still have those teachers. We still have great staff. We still have the kids who need to learn. We want to make sure they don’t sacrifice a quarter of a year, a third of a year of academic achievement and that they’re all ready to advance to the next grade level.”