Gov. Polis says coronavirus pandemic “every bit as serious” as natural disaster

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DENVER – Governor Jared Polis in a press conference Friday called on Coloradans to “be braced and be ready” during the coronavirus pandemic.

He reiterated the importance of social distancing for all, telling Coloradans to treat this pandemic like a natural disaster.

“Treat this like you would a tornado, or a flood, or a wildfire, or a hurricane,” Polis said. “This is every bit as serious and the loss of life is going to be far greater than any of those other events we’ve experienced in Colorado.”

A team from the Colorado School of Public Health put together modeling data in partnership with the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Polis said research shows the R0 value (pronounced R Naught), or the number of people one person is likely to spread the virus to, is between three and four in Colorado.

“One person coughs, three people get it, each of those three infect three, each of those, another and so on,” he said. “You can see how, in many areas, one single case can lead to hundreds or thousands of cases.”

Without social distancing, Polis said the state would be projected to see, with a R0 of four, 33,200 death from COVID-19 by June 1. With 60 percent distancing, that number would drop to 11,500 deaths from COVID-19 by the same date.

“Colorado hasn’t seen the worst of this, the United States hasn’t seen the worst of this, the world hasn’t seen the worst of this,” Polis warns. But, he did add that he wants Coloradans to keep an optimistic spirit. He said the sooner the state can lower the R0 value, the more time to build additional hospital capacity, meaning more beds, ventilators, and medical equipment.

“We’d like to have extra beds than too few.  Some might say we did too much too soon, and I’d rather be the recipient of that complaint than to have a full scale public health disaster with tens of thousands of Coloradans paying the ultimate price.”

Polis said success against the coronavirus means “our hospital systems have the capacity at the point in time needed to treat our patients” and “the quickest possible return to work, productivity, and social and economic normalcy,” among others.

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