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Colorado Senate Republicans criticize Polis' stay-at-home order, saying it could cause "discord and fear"

14 of 16 Senate Republicans signed letter
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Posted at 12:07 PM, Mar 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-27 14:07:18-04

DENVER — Colorado Republicans on Friday sent a letter to Gov. Jared Polis, sharply criticizing him over the statewide stay-at-home order he issued earlier this week in response to the coronavirus, which Polis and health officials called necessary to stop the spread of the virus and to keep a public health emergency from growing worse in the state.

Fourteen of the 16 Republican state senators signed the letter, saying Polis' "actions on Wednesday have potentially sown discord and fear in Coloradans that are seeking clarity from their elected officials at this time of despair."

The lawmakers — which included Sen. Jim Smallwood, who tested positive for coronavirus, and Senate minority leader Chris Holbert — said that Polis neglected to communicate information about the stay-at-home order to them before issuing it.

"Wednesday evening, our emails and phones were lit up with an unrelenting torrent of questions regarding whether or not our constituents could go to work, visit their loved ones, feed their cattle, go to the park, or quickly rush to the grocery store," the letter said. "Sadly, we were unable to quickly ease their minds or quell their fears as the facts, context, and details of your executive order were not presented to our caucus."

Read the full letter here

The letter was also signed by the following senators: Paul Lundeen, John Cooke, Vicki Marble, Don Coram, Bob Rankin, Bob Gardner, Dennis Hisey, Larry Crowder, Owen Hill, Ray Scott, Jerry Sonnenberg and Rob Woodward. Republican Sens. Kevin Priola and Jack Tate did not sign the letter.

Earlier this week six Republican lawmakers from Douglas County, including Senators Smallwood and Holbert, wrote a letter to county commissioners, asking them to terminate their agreement with the Tri-County Health Department, which on Wednesday issued a stay-at-home order for Douglas, Arapahoe and Adams counties ahead of Polis' order.

The Douglas County lawmakers called the order a "heavy-handed application of governmental power."

The senators' letter to Polis on Friday described a "disconnect" between the social distancing needs in larger areas that have seen more cases, such as the Denver metro, and smaller rural communities, where the overall number of confirmed cases has been low but where testing has not been prevalent thus far.

"With the Denver metro area already under a 'stay at home order,' what is accomplished by closing down the business activity and daily routines of Coloradans living in a county that has fewer than five cases of COVID-19 after weeks of dealing with this crisis?" the letter said.

Polis on Wednesday said the stay-at-home order — which calls on Coloradans to stay inside their homes, except for essential activities — was necessary to "save thousands of lives" as hospitals prepare for an expected surge of coronavirus patients. Health officials from the state and various counties had called for a statewide order in the days ahead of Polis' decision, as Denver, several other Front Range counties, and some mountain communities had already implemented similar orders of their own.

The executive order means Coloradans should not be leaving their homes except for critical activities including:

  • Obtaining food and other household necessities including medicine
  • Going to and from work if you are a critical employee
  • Seeking medical care
  • Caring for dependents or pets
  • Caring for a vulnerable person in another location
  • Cannabis and liquor stores will remain open
  • Or participating in outdoor recreation at a legally-mandated safe distance of six feet or more from other parties