During his May 20 press conference on Colorado’s COVID-19 response, Governor Jared Polis verbally smacked the revelers caught on video getting crazy at Boulder Creek in defiance of recommendations about social distancing and mask use, while expressing concerns that similar behavior might crop up over Memorial Day weekend.
The impending holiday prompted Polis to paraphrase a comment he’s previously delivered: “This is not a vacation. This is a global pandemic, and we need to treat it as such.” Then he added: “You know what? There are always Coloradans who are going to be ignorant and selfish, but thankfully, the vast majority of Coloradans are smart people who take precautions when we have to.”
Polis also took a shot at media organizations that publicized the Boulder Creek video, originally shared by Boulder County’s public-health department, suggesting that there’s an “untold story” about the good decisions being made about social distancing, the use of facial coverings and the limiting of interactions with others by the majority of state residents.
The main focus of his announcement, though, was Multi-Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MISC, which affects young people with COVID-19. It’s marked by symptoms such as high fever, usually for several days, as well as severe gastrointestinal distress and intermittent characteristics (including a rash, red eyes, red lips or tongue, and swelling and redness of the hands and feet) associated with Kawasaki disease, a condition that most often strikes toddlers.
State epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy and Dr. Sam Dominguez of Colorado Children’s Hospital, who shared the stage with Polis, revealed that the first three examples of MISC in the state have now been identified. One was found by analyzing past cases, while the other two were discovered more recently. There are more than 100 MISC diagnoses in the United States right now, led by New York state, and while the majority of those afflicted recover, hospitalizations are frequently necessary, and lasting effects to a patient’s heart are possible. Moreover, symptoms may take as long as four weeks to manifest after a child’s exposure to COVID-19; most who’ve been diagnosed with MISC are between five and fifteen years old.
In discussing these developments, Polis emphasized that there are “a lot of mysteries” surrounding the novel coronavirus. “I think scientists have made great progress in a short period of time,” he maintained, “but there’s still more that we don’t know about this virus than we do know.”
Still, Polis tried to discourage panic among parents, noting that Children’s Hospital is a recognized national expert on Kawasaki disease and that physicians across Colorado are on the alert to watch out for signs related to MISC.
After a series of shout-outs, including recognition of Colorado National Guard members (and a plea that their deployment be renewed past the current expiration date in late June so that they’ll receive the special benefits they deserve), Polis shifted to a discussion clearly prompted by the Boulder Creek video. “We’re all tired of living under this heightened threat,” he acknowledged. “I’m sick of it. You’re sick of it. But the fact that we’re sick of where we are is not an excuse to engage in risky behavior. If we want, which we do, for restaurants to open and kids to be able to return to school and for us to be able to ski next season, or this season, we need to do our part.”
That’s especially important given the fast-approaching holiday, he continued: “This is Memorial Day weekend in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. … It’s not the time for big family reunions or massive cookouts and celebrations.”
Instead, he suggested, “we should honor this Memorial Day by solemnly remembering the fallen” — by, for example, visiting the grave of a relative who died in service or reflecting on sacrifices during a quiet moment at home. In his view, “We don’t want to cause more deaths and desecrate their memories.”
Polis continued: “I understand that you in the media, and viewers as well, like the man-bites-dog story. They like to say, ‘Here’s a bunch of people partying at Boulder Creek.'” But, he suggested, “Nobody ever expected 100 percent of Coloradans would be doing what they’re supposed to do 100 percent of the time,” adding that the state’s goal is for 60 percent of residents to engage in social distancing for the foreseeable future. And that leaves room for embarrassing incidents like the one in Boulder.
“There are Coloradans who are falling short of the benchmark of 60 percent,” he admitted, “but it’s important that we meet that threshold as a society on average, and so far we’re doing that. … If what happened at Boulder Creek was the norm, we’d have thousands of cases. The fact is, that’s not the case.”
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
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