By CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4)– Gov. Jared Polis has ended the state’s COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Order nearly 17 months after he first issued it. Polis told CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd that he also rescinded all previous executive orders issued during the pandemic.

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“It really shows how far Colorado has come. It’s not that the virus is gone. It never will never be but enough people are protected, our hospital capacity is protected, and we’re close to really ending the pandemic phase of this public health crisis,” Polis told Boyd in an exclusive interview.

Under the Public Health Emergency Order, the governor implemented, revised or renewed some 400 executive orders including a statewide mask mandate, stay-at-home order, and orders allowing restaurants to sell alcohol to go, and drivers to renew their licenses online.

The state Legislature codified some of those in law. The others are now lifted.

Polis said, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, 99% of deaths now are unvaccinated people.

“It’s sad enough, early on in the pandemic, when there was very little we could do and people were dying and we lost over 7,000 people in our state. Now it’s preventable so, in some ways, it’s even sadder when we’re losing people that we don’t have to lose if they just took the simple step of protecting themselves,” said Polis. “I encourage more Coloradans to take advantage of the fact that we have this amazing opportunity as Coloradans and Americans to protect ourselves and end this pandemic and all it takes is a little needle prick.”

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The governor issued a new Disaster Recovery Emergency Order to ensure the state is still eligible for federal aid for things like unemployment, rental assistance, vaccine distribution and enhanced Medicaid benefits.

He said Colorado has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country and one of the lowest death rates but Mesa County remains a national hot spot for the Delta variant.

Polis said local governments can still issue their own emergency orders, “We’re not going to have the whole state under a health emergency because there are certain areas of the state where there might need to be more of a localized response. Certainly Mesa County Health and local elected officials there are paying attention to this. It is one of the national epicenters for the Delta variant and, unlike the state where we’re over 70%, they’re just in the low 40s which is not quite enough to suppress the virus. There’s still enough people there where it can expand and that’s what we’ve seen. They’ve been close to hospital capacity there the last few weeks.”

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The Public Health Emergency Order was set to expire Saturday. By law, it expires after 30 days unless the governor renews it. Republicans introduced several bills that would have required the governor to seek legislative input before extending an executive order, but they failed.

Every governor in the country issued a Public Health Emergency Order last year. Only 9 states still have one in place.

Shaun Boyd