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COVID-19 report card: Colorado scores better on health and education, but worse economically

Stats bear out different approaches state-to-state
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Posted at 5:47 PM, Mar 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-08 07:16:19-05

DENVER -- Figuring out how to handle a once-in-a-century pandemic is no easy task.

And states across the nation took vastly different paths.

Now, a year into the pandemic - we're taking a look at what worked and what didn't in the state of Colorado by going 360 and grading Colorado’s COVID response.

We asked the Miller Chair of applied economics at the University of Denver, Jack Strauss, to help us out.

Let’s start with employment. According to tracktherecovery.org, unfortunately, employment is down across all three wage categories in Colorado.

Among Colorado’s lowest wage workers – employment is down 20 percent, down 9.7 percent among middle wage workers and down 1.4 percent among highest wage workers.

“Unfortunately, Colorado is lagging behind the rest of the nation,” Strauss said. Strauss’ grade for Colorado on employment – a big fat ‘D.’

Moving on to small business revenues, Colorado is also behind the rest of the country.

Down 29 percent in education and health services, 29 percent in retail and transportation and a whopping 56 percent in leisure and hospitality.

“When you have COVID come in, you’re like, ‘nobody’s walking down the street. What’s going on?’” said Fathima Dickerson, whose family has owned Welton Street Café since the ‘80’s.

She says keeping the doors open this past year has been a huge challenge.

“It brings out a different kind of grit,” Dickerson said. “It’s like – what are you really made of?”

“Our small businesses in Colorado are suffering,” Strauss said.

His grade for Colorado in small business revenues – a ‘B.’

Now - let’s track consumer spending. It’s way down in Colorado. In fact, Colorado ranks 47th out of 50 in terms of declines in consumer spending since COVID lockdowns began.

Only Alaska and Delaware had bigger declines in consumer spending than Colorado.

“Most of our businesses closed for some period of time,” said Walter Isenberg with Sage Hospitality.

He says they laid off 90 percent of their hotel staff in Denver and elsewhere in the country because no one was visiting.

“Just horrible,” Isenberg said.

“We’re doing worse than most of the rest of the country,” Strauss said.

His grade for Colorado in consumer spending declines – a ‘D.’

It’s not all doom and gloom. There is good news.

Colorado has fewer COVID-19 deaths per capita than 40 other states - with 105 deaths per 100,000 people.

Doctors say that’s attributable to the lockdowns and perhaps the seriousness with which Coloradans took the virus versus people in other states.

“You know the saying, 'no pain, no gain?'” said Dr. Michelle Baron, senior medical director of infection prevention and control for UCHealth. “Hopefully, there’s not too much pain, but the gain is definitely there.”

Doctors say vaccine distribution has also been fairly smooth.

Strauss’ grade for Colorado in the public health category – an ‘A.’

And in terms of education, Colorado is also doing better than most of the country.

Colorado’s participation in online math coursework, for example, declined 4.1 percent, but that’s actually better than 46 out of 50 other states.

Strauss’ grade for Colorado in education – a ‘B.’

The bottom line, according to the data, state’s with more aggressive shutdowns benefited in terms of public health and education, but suffered more economically.

Editor's Note: Denver7 360 stories explore multiple sides of the topics that matter most to Coloradans, bringing in different perspectives so you can make up your own mind about the issues. To comment on this or other 360 stories, email us at 360@TheDenverChannel.com. See more 360 stories here.