A lot of Coloradans are nervous about soaring COVID-19 cases around the state and across the country. A lot of Coloradans are also at wits’ end keeping their lives on hold after months and months of restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.
And, probably, plenty of Coloradans fall into both categories. They’re worried about the impact the virus might have on them and their loved ones should they catch it — yet doubtful that piling on more restrictions, or even returning to the lockdowns we endured last spring, would be effective in stemming it. The stubborn strain of coronavirus seems to be on a timeline all its own.
Recent developments are encouraging. Foremost were news reports last week that at least two highly effective vaccines could start being administered to high-risk populations around the country by year’s end if not sooner. That of course is what the whole world has been waiting for.
Then on Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis announced in a news conference he will convene the legislature in a special session, probably by the end of the month, to provide some economic relief to businesses hit hardest by the virus, and by the state and local response to it. State lawmakers will gather at the governor’s behest to consider a $220 million stimulus package to aid bars, restaurants, tenants, landlords and students.
Coloradans also dodged a bullet during the same news conference: The governor didn’t declare a statewide lockdown though many had anticipated he might. That came as a relief, no doubt, to many Coloradans and especially to the very business owners and employees for whom Polis is calling the special session. The governor did announce 10 Colorado counties, including Denver, will face new levels of public health restrictions, including prohibitions on indoor dining, amid the increase in COVID cases.
As reported by Colorado Politics, the stimulus is likely to include tax relief for restaurants and bars limping along under COVID-19 capacity limits imposed by authorities. Restaurants and bars would be allowed to keep the 2.9% sales tax they otherwise would collect and remit to the state. The legislation also will include assistance for child care; rental assistance that will go to both tenants and landlords, and about $20 million to help K-12 students with Internet access.
"Extraordinary times call for extraordinary action," Polis said. He and other elected officials who were on hand for the announcement said time is running out for small businesses, families and others on the brink of financial collapse.
"Countless Coloradans have lost jobs, life savings, family businesses and hope,” said Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo. Garcia said Coloradans increasingly are staring at unpaid bills, wondering how they will make it one more month. He said some are facing possible homelessness.
And by holding off of more extreme measures, notably a lockdown, Polis seemed to acknowledge he had to prevent things from getting even worse. He understands the crippling consequences — from economic to psychological — of shutting down much of society.
Just consider the toll since the first round of lockdowns last spring. Various sectors of the economy have been hamstrung and some devastated. Schools have either reopened since last spring’s closure — then closed again since the start of the fall semester — or never reopened at all and have left most of their students learning online. Houses of worship were closed for a long time and only more recently — with an assist from a federal court ruling that reined in state overreach — started welcoming members of their congregations again, albeit with limitations.
We were told that was the price we must pay to “flatten the curve” of Coloradans who catch the virus, lest they overwhelm our health care facilities. Yet, the virus persists and continues to spread regardless of the measures taken against it. Given the latest surge in the COVID caseload, Coloradans must be wondering what they have to show for their sacrifices.
All the more so, perhaps, when those same Coloradans look around and take stock of those they know who have caught COVID — friends, family members, themselves. Many to most who catch it seem to fare well enough. Symptoms for many range from merely flu-like to even less consequential for those outside high-risk age groups and other categories. Plenty of cases are said to be entirely asymptomatic.
Coloradans seek an end to the madness — the economic meltdown; the shuttered schools; the mask wars. They’re eager for a vaccine, and they’re ready to reboot their lives.