PERRY: Local Republican fear-mongering makes grim Colorado pandemic far worse

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Think about it. A group of elected officials and their supporters who regularly fight against using science as a basis for making government decisions now insists that we ignore science while trying to reduce the death and economic devastation caused by the growing pandemic.

You can react any way you want, except surprised.

A bevy of the usual Colorado stable-genius elected suspects took to the media and social media this week to whip up the base into making a case against making people stay at home, since they won’t do it voluntarily.

Keep in mind, these are the same people who pooh-pooh the science behind the global warming crisis and get clench-fisted over efforts to uphold public-school vaccination laws.

Last week, when Gov. Jared Polis delayed mandating a statewide stay-at-home order, a mistake he corrected a few days later, the health department overseeing Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties stepped up and issued the edict. Denver had already done the same. Of course other metro counties followed suit because the science behind preventing virus transmission supports it. The numbers reflecting the rate of transmission made the decision unavoidable.

While the entire metro area was reeling from what all this means, the usual GOP suspects in Douglas County demanded that county commissioners nuke the health department.

“Unelected bureaucrats should not have the unilateral authority to simply decide to enact policy that would imprison citizens for 18 months and fine them 5,000,” state Rep. Patrick Neville, R-Highlands Ranch, said in a tweet and on the radio to anyone in the metro area who would listen. “This is outrageous and will only lead to less social distancing as people panic buy.”

Neville, and other area GOP stable geniuses like state senators Chris Holbert and Jim Smallwood, in addition to state representatives Kevin Van Winkle, Kim Ransom and Mark Baisley, demanded county commissioners dump the county health department and align with Colorado Springs.

Right.

In the middle of the worst modern health and economic crisis in the state, the nation and the world? 

Right.

Lashing out with fellow moon-howler Peter Boyles on his radio show, Neville said he was abhorred by the state and local government’s “Gestapo” tactics and mentality.

State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg agreed in an essay he wrote for coloradopolitics.com.

“Isn’t there a better response to this (pandemic) threat than a police state on the verge of martial law?” Sonnenberg wrote.

Oh, yes. Whip up the fears of the heavily armed tin-foil-hate brigade with conspiracy theory antics like that. So helpful.

The Douglas County tempest evaporated only hours later when Polis finally issued the stay-home order he should have done earlier. Days before, not even minutes after Polis politely insisted that people quit going out, the streets of the metro area looked like the shopping surge before Christmas Eve. In my own neighborhood, people were having outdoor parties. The park was filled with pick-up hoops games and festive gatherings around food trucks.

Friday, Polis got slightly grumpier about the whole thing when reporters pointed out that people in clearly non-essential jobs keep going to work. Hordes keep making completely non-essential trips to do completely non-essential things.

“Use common sense,” Polis said. “This is not a vacation.”

If we have to depend upon the common sense of millions of Colorado residents, we’re toast. Have you seen these people drive?

Like most people, I’m scared shitless about all this. I work in a struggling industry being decimated by the economic effects of the pandemic. I know a lot of old or unhealthy people, and I like them.

There’s no arguing the point that this is going to be bad — really, really bad. But Neville, Sonnenberg and others simply can’t grasp the difference between really, really bad and much, much worse.

Having to keep businesses shuttered for months rather than weeks is  worse. Having to watch people die in their cars outside hospitals because no one can treat them is far, far worse.

It’s not debatable. It’s common sense.

And if people can’t muster the common sense to understand that their dog-grooming parlor or mortgage company don’t qualify as essential, then the government has a responsibility to save us from their careless stupidity. 

Neville and others like him aren’t calling these fools out for being the criminals they are. They call it civil disobedience.

There’s nothing civil about it. You can’t fire up the grill in your apartment living room. You can’t serve the public restaurant food prepared by someone with hepatitis. You can’t drive drunk. You can’t be in public right now unless you absolutely have to.

Still not happy, Neville is now on a campaign to make sure teeth cleanings and dental check-ups carry on during this part of the pandemic crisis.

“Now seeing @jaredpolis will be banning dental cleanings and other dental procedures,” Neville said Friday in a tweet. “Aren’t these essential? I think they are, certainly more essential than recreational marijuana.”

Pot shops are delivering outside their front doors. Two strangers just several inches apart, breathing into each other’s faces for an hour or so is probably one of the best ways possible to spread the new coronavirus. Teeth cleanings are important, but anyone with common sense would agree they’re not essential enough to risk COVID-19 for a few weeks or waste badly needed surgical masks.

Douglas County Republican Party officials jumped on the conspiracy bandwagon Friday, pushing back against stay-home orders by hinting that you should leave your cell phone at home if you want to do a little illegal accounting at the office right now. Conspiracy-loving Republicans are horrified that state officials are watching aggregate cell phone migration data to help understand just how many people are out and about.

They’re telling the public that this is a big-brother operation so Polis can see if you’re sneaking in to work to spread a little cheer and virus.

“Cell phone GPS data is being used to ensure compliance with the Governor’s orders,” DougCo GOP said in a tweet.

Not helpful.

There is nothing about any of this that isn’t hard and awful. But as a community, we’ve got to restrain from doing things that just make it harder. And for those who just can’t restrain themselves from making it even harder, consider the source and their motives. Reach for your common sense.

Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected]