Gov. Jared Polis spent Wednesday in Washington, D.C. at the invitation of President Donald Trump, where they talked about COVID-19 supplies and the state of the pandemic in Colorado.
Although Polis pointed out that everyone who was in the meeting was tested prior to coming in, he and Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, appeared to be the only people in the room wearing masks at points during the hour-long meeting.
For half the time, Trump fielded questions from the press and took an opportunity to blast states that conduct mail-in balloting, which Colorado has been doing since 2014.
That leads to corruption and cheating, Trump claimed, and he labeled it an attempt by Democrats to ensure that no Republican ever gets elected. Polis said nothing to defend Colorado’s system, which has been a nationwide model for participation and security and was set up by a Republican Secretary of State.
Polis later said he wasn’t going to get into a debate with the president over inaccurate statements and issues unrelated to his main interest, which was on COVID-19 supplies.
"This is not a time to air differences on unrelated policies," Polis said. "This is a time for all Americans to work together."
Other Coloradans sitting in were Sen. Cory Gardner, a Yuma Republican, and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, who is a native of Rifle. In addition, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and the head of that state's health department also were in attendance, as was Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the federal Coronavirus Task Force.
Polis said he spoke with Birx, who complimented the state’s efforts on testing and contact tracing.
During the meeting, the White House tweeted out that Colorado had received more than 180 million gloves and 9.5 million masks, although it noted (in small print) those supplies came from both the federal government and public/private partnerships.
“That said, the federal government is an important partner” on getting those supplies, Polis said.
Colorado will receive 195,000 tests, including 96,000 from the federal government, that have already arrived in the state.
At the meeting's onset, Trump said schools and colleges should reopen in the fall, given that the virus has “very little impact” on young people.
While they are not as high risk for contracting the virus, youth are able to pass it along to older adults and those with preexisting conditions. Teachers and instructors over the age of 60 should “stay out a little while longer ... I don’t consider our country ‘coming back’ if schools are closed,” the president said.
Trump also called the $3 trillion stimulus package proposed by Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, “DOA (dead on arrival),” because it has too much to do with elections.
During the press conference portion of the White House visit, Polis and Ryan could be seen wearing masks, although Polis removed his when he talked to the president.
“People are being responsible,” Polis told Trump. He also said that it is possible that some ski areas could resume operations in June, such as Loveland, Wolf Creek, and Breckenridge, all which often remain open past Memorial Day.
Polis also spoke to Trump about efforts to reopen businesses. Grand Junction and Mesa County have reopened their restaurants to dine-in services with occupancy restrictions, Polis said.
In a separate news conference after the White House visit, Polis commented that the state’s death toll from COVID-19 had passed 1,000 as of Wednesday.
“Each one is a tragedy,” the governor said.
The trip to Washington was at the president’s behest, Polis said, an invitation “you don’t turn down,” given the opportunity to talk about Colorado’s COVID-19 supply needs.
The flight itself, which was from Denver to Dallas to D.C., was “very tense,” with more people on the aircraft than he would have liked. Everyone wore masks, he said.
"Today was an important discussion for the future of the supply chain and to make sure the president is up to date on what’s going on on the ground."
After leaving the White House, Polis ran into Joe St. George, a former KDVR reporter who moved to Washington at the beginning of May. He asked Polis if he was impressed by the president. "The President is the President," Polis replied.
In a statement after the visit, Polis said that as"Governor, I must do everything I can for Coloradans...I wanted to update the President on what is going on in the real world and how he and the federal government can be a better partner in helping our state get the supplies we need to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. I shared with the President how Coloradans are working together to slow the spread of the virus, wearing masks and taking cautious steps to help our Colorado economy rebound by using data and science every step of the way. We look forward to a continued partnership with the federal government, the private sector and anyone who can help Colorado get the supplies our communities need.”
This story has been corrected from a previous version that misidentified Jill Hunsaker Ryan as a doctor.