Gov. Jared Polis, May 20, 2020

Gov. Jared Polis, during a May 20 news conference. 

Gov. Jared Polis used his Wednesday news conference to update Coloradans on a new disease that has surfaced in Colorado children who came down with COVID-19.

The disease — multi-inflammatory syndrome in children, or MISC — surfaced in western Europe a couple of weeks ago, Polis said. Three children who were treated at Children's Hospital had the ailment. For privacy reasons, no further information will be provided on those cases, according to state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy.

"Our biggest takeaway is how little we know" about COVID-19, Polis said. 

He likened it to the case of Mary Mallon, aka Typhoid Mary, a New York City cook who was asymptomatic for typhoid but allegedly gave it to 53 people between 1900 and 1915. Mallon was quarantined twice, the first time between 1907 and 1910. After she was released she changed her name and went back to being a cook. Of the 53 people who caught typhoid from her, at least three died. She was caught again in 1915 and remained in quarantine for the rest of her life, dying in 1938.

"There are many 'Typhoid Marys' among us," Polis said. A person could be contagious for a week or three weeks.

He said there's no substitute for social distancing efforts, such as wearing a mask, because there's always a danger from someone who doesn't know they're infected with COVID-19.

Dr. Samuel Dominguez of Children's Hospital said COVID-19 doesn't impact children as severely as adults, and that the emergence of MISC is quite rare. But it does a lot of damage; most cases show up about four weeks after a child has been exposed to the virus.

It appears to be an inflammatory response to the virus rather than part of ongoing damage from the virus itself. Children with MISC have very high fevers for multiple days, gastrointestinal complaints, severe abdominal pain and diarrhea, as well as inflammation of the heart muscle.

A second inflammatory disease, Kawasaki disease, which is also tied to COVID-19, affects younger children, while MISC appears to impact children ages five to 15, Dominguez said.

With Memorial Day just days away, Polis cautioned people to take it easy for the upcoming holiday. "It's not a vacation, it's a global pandemic and treat it as such," he said.

Sounding a somewhat frustrated tone, the governor said there are always Coloradans "who are ignorant and selfish" but the vast majority are smart people who take precautions when they need to. 

He acknowledged people are tired of living in a heightened threat of COVID-19. "You're sick of it, I'm sick of it," he said. "But the fact that we're sick of where we are is not an excuse to engage in risky behavior."

If Coloradans want restaurants to open, kids to return to school or to be able to ski next season or even this season, stay at home and wear masks when in public, he said.

In response to questions, Polis said "So far, so good" on three weeks under the "safer at home" rules that started May 1. By Monday, the state will have guidelines for restaurants, ski areas and summer camps, and more by June 1. He said he's always wary of a spike in cases, and while there have been regional outbreaks, there hasn't been a statewide spike in COVID-19 cases.

Polis also commented on the state's deployment of the National Guard, saluting their efforts. He said President Trump had called for an end to that deployment nationwide by June 24, but Polis said that's one day shy of 90 days, and at 90 days troops become eligible for retirement and education benefits.

He called on the president to extend the deployment through the end of the year, and said Colorado's congressional delegation unanimously supports that extension.

"This is wrong to deprive them of one day of duty and deny them the benefits they've earned," Polis said. "This would do a huge disservice to our heroes. It would be a cruel insult" to the men and women of the Guard, some of who have contracted the virus. 

As to National Guard pay, which for the lowest-paid members is about $20 per day, Polis said he signed a bill to raise their pay. However, he didn't point out that the law, SB 91, doesn't go into effect until 90 days after the adjournment of the legislative session. At the earliest that could be sometime in September, should the General Assembly adjourn after the upcoming work on the budget, which begins on May 26 and is expected to last about three weeks.

The Joint Budget Committee on Wednesday learned that after more than two weeks of work to cut the 2020-21 budget they are still short $1.1 billion. Polis was asked what ideas he has to help cover that shortfall, and whether that would include interest-free loans as suggested by President Trump or furloughs of state employees. 

He noted that his budget director, Lauren Larson, has offered up a number of suggestions, which the JBC has already reviewed and acted on. He did not answer on whether he has other ideas or plans to look at loans or furloughs.

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