Jimmy’s Denver Gazette Column | Our COVID authorities are insatiable

Written by on April 16, 2021

This week, a group of health researchers insisted that Colorado maintain its government-knows-best COVID-19 strategy through at least mid-May, claiming more time for more vaccinations. Modelers at the Colorado School of Public Health confidently insist hospitalizations and deaths will rise if restrictions are eased prematurely.

Meanwhile, Douglas County’s Board of County Commissioners unanimously withdrew from Tri-County Health Department’s public health order. Thus, DougCo finally restored much of its authority to set policy more than a year into the pandemic. This doesn’t include the statewide mask mandate (in effect through May 3) and limits on large gatherings. However, starting today, DougCo allows 100% restaurant capacity and other freedoms – contravening the public health researchers.

DougCo is right to revoke TCHD’s power and eliminate most restrictions. It is well past time that unelected public health experts and bureaucrats stop being Lucy with the football and permit Coloradans their right to exercise personal responsibility and make their own decisions.

While Gov. Jared Polis is finally on the right path in decentralizing most coronavirus policies beginning today, local authorities like Denver and TCHD ought to loosen their grips entirely, too.

Over a year ago, as the pandemic spread and infections, hospitalizations and deaths rose, government submerged Coloradans in lockdowns and severe restrictions on day-to-day life. Government’s COVID Reality subsumed everything and everyone. Today, Coloradans still live with government mask mandates, capacity restrictions and other drastic rules, varying by locale.

Early on, we were promised “two weeks to slow the spread.” That became a month, then six months, now a year. While we can re-litigate the past until we’re blue in the face, what matters is where things stand now and where we go. It’s time to end government mandates; Colorado is ready.

Our case numbers and positivity rate are dropping. Hospitalizations are steady, fewer people are dying thanks to life-saving treatments, vaccinations are climbing, and our hospital capacity has been dramatically better than “experts” predicted last year.

Over a month ago, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lifted virtually all statewide COVID-19 restrictions, including the state’s mask mandate. Critics assailed Abbott’s move, warning a new wave of cases would flood in. While an increase is still possible, it hasn’t transpired. The Texas Tribune reports, “[D]aily new cases and the positivity rate have leveled off over the past month, while deaths and hospitalizations have gone down substantially.”

Some suggest Texas’s case and positivity numbers are lower because fewer people are getting tested. Yet fewer tests may mean fewer people suspect the virus, and the number of positive cases is far less significant than deaths and hospitalizations. Roughly one-fifth of Texans are fully vaccinated; nearly a quarter of Coloradans are. (About 30% of Coloradans are immune by vaccination or prior infection; at least 39.5% have at least one vaccination dose.)

Texas’s average positivity rate was at 6.24% as of Wednesday, only slightly higher than Colorado’s 5.71% positivity rate under current restrictions. In Texas, many businesses still mandate masks sans government order. Doom-and-gloom scenarios just haven’t come to pass.

Tourist-heavy Florida has likewise dramatically reduced restrictions. While its COVID-19 cases have risen modestly, the situation remains quite stable. This highlights the most significant reason to get government out of the way: Its control policies just aren’t necessary, especially as they flunk the cost-benefit test.

For example, Colorado’s economy is deeply unhealthy. WalletHub found that Colorado ranks #48 among all 50 states and D.C. for “the greatest potential to recover” from the pandemic. This is consistent with other studies showing that Colorado’s economy is among the weakest in the nation.

From the outset, politicians and public health officials have subordinated economic malaise – not to mention mental health, kids’ education and numerous other important things – to the pursuit of an absolute government-led eradication of the virus. While officials may not say it aloud, they’ve clearly operated under this pretense that government mandates will achieve a sort-of ideal outcome. Read: Absent governmental direction, we cannot sufficiently mitigate the virus.

Au contraire: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Although cliché, this admonition is deeply apropos. In pursing an idealistic government-control solution, the good – life and economy improving somewhat, with COVID at bay – would be decimated, holding back Colorado’s desperately-needed recovery. There must be a very high bar for exercising government’s coercive force. That bar isn’t being met today.

Researchers tell us we need another month to reduce restrictions. Forgive me for distrusting their timeline; surely, they’ll say the same thing a month from now. Last April, I wrote in Colorado Politics, “[T]he idea that we should extend this shutdown for weeks on end, sacrificing our lives and livelihoods until both elected politicians and unelected bureaucrats are ‘satisfied’ that it’s time, is untenable and unreasonable.”

At the time, I knew the people in charge would never really be “satisfied.” Here we are, a year later, and that suspicion is confirmed. They are insatiable – and it’s time we stop trying to satisfy them.

Click here to read the rest of Jimmy’s April 16 column at The Denver Gazette, a sister publication of The Washington Examiner.

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