DENVER (CBS4) – Gov. Jared Polis says he strongly supports the message of protesters who are calling for change following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, but with COVID-19 still a major concern he’s worried about the health risks Coloradans are taking who’ve been gathering in large groups over the past few days in order to get their message heard. He said he’s been up at night worrying.

“One of my greatest fears in watching the events over the last weekend is that so many people gathering in one place together will increase the spread of coronavirus across our nation, here in Colorado,” Polis said in a Tuesday afternoon news conference. “Only in the coming weeks will we see the impact of these large gatherings, but health experts tell me that it could result in hundreds of new cases and untold pain, death and suffering just as we were making progress.”

A third day of protesting in downtown Denver was brought to an early end after Mayor Michael Hancock enacted a curfew to prevent more vandalism and violence.

Protests in downtown Denver over the weekend (credit: Evan Semón)

Polis said he’s glad he saw most protesters wearing masks at what he calls the “justified” demonstrations and thanked several state lawmakers who took it upon themselves to distribute masks at the large protests that took place in Denver. He also re-emphasized the message sent out earlier by Denver’s mayor that anyone who was involved in the physical protests go get tested for coronavirus approximately a week afterwards.

“You should get tested anytime you develop symptoms, of course, but if you haven’t developed symptoms, about 7 days after you’ve marched in a protest you should go in for a free, quick easy test,” Polis said. “That’s the way that we can act to capture earlier some of the folks that might be contagious without knowing it, or mildly symptomatic, to prevent this from being a major setback for our state with regard to coronavirus.”

On Monday Colorado State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy echoed that time frame for protesters getting tested, saying a week “really allows enough time for that individual to potentially test positive.”

“But also, ideally trying to catch them early enough in their infection that they become aware of their infection and can stay home and prevent transmission to others,” she said.

Free testing is available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Pepsi Center as well any of the dozens of other testing locations around the state.

Like Polis, Herlihy also spoke about the increased risk of transmission of COVID-19 with large gatherings.

“One of the numbers that the governor has quoted recently is that at any given time in Colorado we estimate, given the current numbers we’re seeing in the state, that about one in 300 Coloradans is actively infectious with this virus. Certainly when large numbers gather there is the potential for the virus to be transmitted, and typically we estimate that it’s about two weeks from the time of exposure, until those cases are reported to public health,” she said. “So it will take about two weeks for us to know whether there is increased transmission that potentially is associated with large gatherings right now.”

Polis did take a moment on Tuesday to discourage anyone who is in the higher risk category for COVID-19 to avoid large gatherings like the protests completely.

Comments (7)
  1. Sushigirl says:

    Let people decide for themselves! Stop babying us! It is time to open things up. If you are AFRAID then stay home but if you are reasonable and have common sense then open everything. You ,Governor, were not elected dictator or our caretaker. Follow Texas’s example. No more liberal lefty governor’s for Colorado.

  2. Mike says:

    I wonder what’s going to happen if there isn’t a “spike”. Surely they will immediately lift the BS Safer at Home order in 10-15 days. Ummm, don’t count on it.

  3. Phil Silberman says:

    oh please… there were 100’s of folks gathered at Reopen Colorado events. Very few masks. Lots of heartfelt handshakes and hugs. ZERO COVID 19. Just stop.

    And no… DON”T comply with a stranger sticking a long q-tip up your nose to the back of your head.

  4. Kim says:

    Lord Polis lacks in methodology and results. And then there is demented old Joe. Don’t like Trump? I get that. Listen to what Dr Ben Carson has to say.

  5. Media and pols are either deliberately pushing COVID-19 or they are poorly informed and scientifically illiterate — more likely, both. There may be additional cases of COVID-19 due to congregation on Memorial Day or during the protests, but these are being tracked; we’ll find out in about ten days whether these occasions are driving up cases or not. Many viruses, including the coronaviruses that cause colds, are more active at certain seasons than others; influenza and coronavirus infections may correlate with seasonal dips in blood levels of vitamin D, lowest in February. I doubt we’ll see hundreds of cases arising out of disregard for social distancing at the protests, but if our incompetent public health establishment doesn’t wise up before next winter (with regard to the need for a public health campaign to improve vitamin D statrus), there may be another huge spike not just in cases, but in deaths.

  6. neverdem says:

    here it comes folks and you knew it! round 2 of the never ending impeachment attempt! Worst………EVER! you cant have a second wave without a first wave. If you didnt think they were going to try and push cheat by mail you were not paying attention. The gov has done NOTHING to try and squelch the “riots”.

    1. Enemy fascist, get out of the United States jnow!

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