Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday lifted health emergency orders that have been in effect since COVID-19 arrived in the state, rescinding many of the scores of executive actions that have defined Coloradans’ lives over the past 16 months.
Polis declared that “the moment for extraordinary executive action has passed” and that Colorado has “reached an important milestone.”
The move is the latest sign that Colorado is moving past the pandemic, even as the economic effects of the health crisis linger and the dangerous Delta variant rages in the western part of the state, where vaccination rates are low.
“While we have reached a milestone with over 70% of our state receiving the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, we must remain vigilant,” Polis said in a written statement nodding to the fact that COVID-19 isn’t quite in the rearview mirror.
In rescinding the health emergency orders and giving up much of his broad use of power — he said “they are no longer needed” — Polis signed a new executive order. The “recovery executive order” is aimed at boosting the economic comeback and keeping in place a COVID-19 health safety net by maintaining the state’s access to federal funding.
Colorado also remains under a disaster emergency declaration, according to Polis’ office, which is what gives him the power to issue the recovery executive order.
Disaster emergency declarations can remain in place long after the active part of an emergency has passed. There are dozens still in effect in Colorado from events that happened years ago.
The governor’s decision on Thursday will not affect people’s access to vaccines, and unemployment and rental assistance programs will remain unchanged.
His executive order giving tenants time to remedy payments with their landlords also remains in effect, as do enhanced federal benefits for those receiving Medicaid and assistance under the Children’s Basic Health Plan.
Both of those actions were kept in place by the new recovery order, which was described by a top Polis administration official as a refocusing of the coronavirus response and the governor’s broad disaster authority.
The Colorado National Guard will also remain activated to assist with the state’s pandemic response.
The Governor’s Expert Emergency Epidemic Response Committee, which has helped Polis make decisions during the pandemic, will be deactivated. Suspended regulations — like ones related to sick leave for state employees — are being put back in place.
The Denver Post was first to report the governor’s decision, which has been anticipated for weeks.
Polis’ move to rescind his public health emergency order comes a day after he awarded the fifth and final $1 million to an individual as part of the state’s coronavirus vaccine sweepstakes. While the governor called the initiative as a success, vaccination data shows that about 501,000 COVID-19 doses were administered from May 26 to June 26, down 43% from the 1.2 million total vaccines administered in the month before the sweepstakes was announced.
There have been more than 500,000 coronavirus cases in Colorado since March 2020, when the disease was first detected in the state. More than 30,000 people have been hospitalized because of COVID-19.
Among people who contracted the coronavirus, 6,824 have died.
Nearly 3 million Coloradans have been fully immunized against COVID-19.