Far more is at stake at this point in the pandemic than appeasing the puerile political complaints of anti-vaxxers and whatever possesses Gov. Jared Polis to talk about following the science and then doing the opposite.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Polis was loath to step into the political quicksand by making it mandatory to wear masks in public and then shut down public places to prevent the Colorado hospital system from being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
He relented and eventually led the parade in Colorado to “mask up” to prevent disease, and most importantly, save lives.
He was hardly alone. Up and down the chain of command across the state, Polis and others would recite “the science,” which unequivocally proved that wearing even just a cloth mask reduces the transmission of the coronavirus. That along with “social distancing” is what every credible science and medical source insisted we all abide by to “flatten the curve.”
The “curve” was the rate of infection, which ultimately leads to hospital beds filled with sick and dying COVID-19 patients.
The curve flattened. The masks came off. The vaccine came out. The hospitals have filled once again.
The Sentinel joins an army of voices, expert and lay, pleading and demanding that everyone eligible get the easy, free, safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19. We agree with Polis, and many others, that the danger is extreme and too often deadly right now to go without vaccination and then go into the public pool of inevitable virus infection.
More than 1,000 Americans die daily from causes related to COVID-19 every day, about 30 each day in Colorado.
Polis has been nothing but candid and consistent in his spot-on message: “If you are not vaccinated, you will get COVID,” Polis has said repeatedly. And if you do become infected without vaccination, you have a very real possibility of being hospitalized, intubated and dying.
We, like the vast majority of Americans, are befuddled that so many people in Colorado and elsewhere stubbornly refuse to vaccinate, or at the very least, stay out of public places to protect themselves and others.
But after months of consternation, it’s time to move beyond the deadly stubbornness of people who won’t vaccinate, and Polis’ refusal to stop accommodating them.
People who refuse to vaccinate and refuse to stay out of public places endanger not only themselves, their friends and their families, but they endanger all of us, especially those most physically vulnerable. State hospitals are overflowing not just with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients. About 20% of all those hospitalized by infection have been vaccinated. Health officials say those victims are most often elderly or ill people whose bodies don’t provide the full vaccine protection enjoyed by the vast majority of others.
What’s more, hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients inflict medical trauma on everyone by forcing people to postpone or forgo non-emergency treatment. And just as cruel, yet another tsunami of COVID-19 patients further beat down already overtaxed and exhausted medical workers.
Last week, public health officials from Tri-County and the entire metro region messaged Polis to demand he step away from his unsound and illogical refusal to “follow the science” now, just like he did in the past when the “curve” of infections threatened to overwhelm Colorado hospitals.
These public health officials demand that Polis institute statewide mask mandates in public places and requirements that everyone provide proof of vaccination to get into restaurants, bars, gyms and other non-essential public places where the coronavirus is clearly being spread. They say the requirements must be statewide, because the hospital system is affected statewide.
Instead, state officials announced Sunday that it would require large venues that accommodate “unseated” events to require proof of vaccination.
It’s not an answer. It’s a red herring. Already, some large seated venues, such as Ball Arena, the DCPA and smaller public entertainment venues, have stepped up with requirements as the state and local agencies have refused to. But because of the way the mandate is written, affecting only “unseated” public places, the requirement affects only a relative handful of venues visited by a relative minority of the public.
Polis isn’t alone in shrinking from the ugly politics of invoking crucial mask mandates and vaccine passports. While officials from Tri-County and other metro health departments clamor for Polis to make the unpopular calls, there’s nothing to prevent these health departments from invoking their own mandates.
If Polis won’t relent, that’s exactly what they should do. And while a piecemeal cadre of requirements is far from being as effective and palatable as a comprehensive, statewide non-confusing policy, it’s clearly the only alternative. Cutting the hospitalization rate by a third instead of by 75% would be huge. And since it’s clear those unvaccinated will likely remain that way despite pleas, having to stay home while the rest of Colorado thrives may persuade at least those who are just hesitant to roll up their sleeves.
It’s not guesswork. Colorado hospital associations, pediatric associations, public health associations and everyone else associated with “the science” behind saving lives and protecting health and welfare during the pandemic are unanimous in demanding everyone in public wear masks and show proof of vaccination to turn around the rate of infection —now.
If no one wants to muster courage to do it, at least relent to the wisdom of doing it.