Some of the physicians, epidemiologists and other valued and respected wonks at Colorado’s public health agencies seem to have forgotten they don’t actually run state or local government. And they shouldn’t run it. Even in times of a pandemic.

Just as generals aren’t supposed to be in charge of our country — even in times of war.

Public health officials’ data and analysis of COVID-19’s ongoing threat are indispensable, but it is ultimately not their place to decide what is to be done about it. Nor is it their place to second-guess those who are charged with making the decisions.

Yet, the state’s public health chiefs once again are making the rounds, lobbying anyone who’ll listen and engaging the news media with their familiar calls for ever-more-stringent, statewide curbs on public life. It appears they are dissatisfied with the state and local response thus far to the latest COVID surge, and they are going public with their displeasure at the state’s measured and focused approach. As The Gazette reported this week, the officials demand a return to a statewide mask mandate and proof of vaccination for entry into restaurants and other businesses. And they want it everywhere in Colorado — from Craig to Campo.

In other words, they are advocating panicked overkill — which is unlikely to have any consistent impact on a stubborn virus that continues along a path all its own.

There’s a reason we have elected leaders; it is to hold them answerable to all the people. Gov. Jared Polis has proven himself of late to be guiding the state through this latest phase of the COVID-19 pandemic with a steady hand and the presence of mind to balance Colorado’s many competing needs and concerns.

We opposed some of the more stringent and sweeping measures the Polis administration had ordered amid COVID’s surges last year. The governor has been more willing this year to apply a risk-benefit analysis to his executive orders addressing the pandemic.

Even last year, critics of what at the time was a more sweeping, one-size-fits-all regimen pointed out that we already were familiar with key risk factors such as old age and immunodeficiency, and that the response should have targeted those.

There is now an additional rubric for assessing risk that we didn’t have going into the Thanksgiving surge of a year ago: whether or not you are vaccinated.

By most indicators, vaccination — while far from fool proof — is the safest bet in heading off the virus or at least mitigating its impact. Polis recognizes this, and it appears to be central to his calculus these days for navigating the pandemic. He has pointed out that the vast majority of those fueling the state’s resurgent hospitalizations are unvaccinated. He recently tweeted:

“…Sadly, even tragically, too many Coloradans haven’t yet chosen to get protected. But for the large vaccinated majority, the risk is ten times or more less than last Dec.”

Which is to say we now have a meaningful option for protecting ourselves that we didn’t have last year, and the majority of Coloradans who by now have made use of it shouldn’t be forced to take less useful precautions.

The governor also seems to acknowledge masks don’t necessarily provide all the protection their most ardent advocates say they do. Polis has pointed out Colorado’s southern neighbor New Mexico has a statewide mask mandate — yet has a soaring COVID caseload, as well.

Polis has done plenty, but in a more exacting way. Most recently, he has been working with hospitals to expand capacity. He also issued an executive order allowing all state COVID-immunized Coloradans 18 and older to get boosters — wisely leapfrogging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s foot dragging on who should get a booster.

In essence, what the governor has done amid the resurgence is to rely more on risk assessment, local government control and individual choice — and less on centralized, wide-scale coercion — to battle COVID in its current phase. That’s wise and as it should be.

Let’s hope it stays that way. Polis should resist calls for more drastic and unwarranted action that would risk throwing Colorado’s economy into turmoil and all of society into upheaval — yet again.

Input from public health professionals is central to fighting the virus but cannot supplant the sound judgment and strategic view of an elected chief executive. The public health community is to be commended for its tireless work fighting the virus — but it is out of its lane. While their knowledge of the pandemic is a mile deep — their understanding of how to see after our state’s broader interests is, inevitably, an inch wide.

The experts of the public health world have a laser-like focus that excludes other realities of daily life. It’s what shuttered our businesses, closed our schools, waylaid our economy and divided our society for much of last year. And it’s more or less the same kind of approach they seek even now. Given free rein, they’d muster all hands on deck, man all battle stations and fight like there’s no tomorrow. That’s their job, of course — but it’s also why they aren’t charged with running the state government.

In short, they’d have us wage war at any cost, regardless of collateral damage.

An elected governor, by contrast, is expected to know better.