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In meeting with Trump, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis requests continued coronavirus aid

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The parks closed to camping March 26, 2020. Campgrounds started reopening May 12, 2020. Boyd Lake was to reopen for camping May 14, 2020. Fort Collins Coloradoan

President Donald Trump praised Colorado Gov. Jared Polis for the state’s coronavirus response in a meeting in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

“You’re both doing an excellent job,” Trump told Polis and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum during a meeting Wednesday. 

Polis said he met with Trump alongside Burgum and requested the federal government continue the FEMA program providing protective masks to the state, which Polis said will supply the state’s nursing homes. 

Colorado is expecting shipments from the federal government on May 18 and another at the end of the month. Polis said he requested the government continue the program through June and July. The program allows Colorado to focus on distributing the masks it receives from other sources to health care workers and first responders, he told reporters after the meeting. 

“I wanted to let the president know, and I did, how important it is that program … continues,” Polis said. “For the state to have a little more breathing room … Would be extra helpful … in reducing the death count at our senior centers.”

REOPENING: State park camping can resume Tuesday, decisions on reopening restaurants to come late May

Polis was joined in the meeting with Trump by Republican Sen. Cory Gardner and Jill Ryan, director of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, as well as North Dakota officials.

While Polis took his mask on and off when speaking, Gardner appeared to have a mask, and Ryan wore her mask the whole time she was visible on camera, no other attendees could be seen wearing a mask during the portion of the meeting when press were in attendance. Polis said everyone was tested and came back negative before entering the meeting, so masks weren’t necessary. 

During the meeting, Polis said he spoke with Trump about Colorado’s goals for reopening restaurants and the possibility of spring skiing.

“People are being responsible,” Polis said. “It’s that individual responsibility that’s going to make sure we can stay on this trajectory.”

In discussing Colorado’s next steps, Polis told Trump it’s possible some ski areas will be able to reopen this spring, but health officials want to leave the final decision up to the state’s mountain counties — many of which have been hit earliest and hardest in this pandemic. 

With most businesses open in some capacity, Polis also told Trump the state hopes to reopen restaurants further by the end of the month, possibly with additional outdoor dining spaces. 

Polis said Deborah Birx, Trumps’s coronavirus response coordinator, also praised Colorado on its response and success in slowing the spread of the coronavirus. 

“Everybody wants to figure out how everyone can earn a living … and at the same time be as safe as possible,” Polis said. “This is a really tricky needle to thread.”

Polis said the goal is to have Colorado come out of this with the least amount of lives lost and still with a strong economy. 

“You can’t have a strong economy when people live in mortal fear of mass casualties,” Polis said. 

LOCAL: Fort Collins won’t change mask requirement despite Larimer County’s policy change

“There is no state that’s open. There’s no state that’s closed,” Polis said.

No state has large gatherings or sporting events, but in every state some people are still going to work, Polis said. 

Polis said Trump has smart advisers, and he’s hopeful the president will listen and heed their advice. While he and Trump have had their differences, Polis said he doesn’t believe this is the time to “air differences on unrelated policies.”

That’s also how he justified not challenging the president on Trumps’s claim that mail-in voting is “subject to tremendous corruption — cheating,” during their meeting.

“I wasn’t about to bring in a different topic into that meeting. I’m here to advocate around COVID, not to get into a debate or correct the president,” Polis said, adding that he thought speaking out publicly was a better way to address it:

“Mail-in voting is safe and secure. Colorado has been doing it for many years,” Polis said. “People shouldn’t fear a disease just to be able to vote.”

Editor’s note:  As the coronavirus outbreak continues to evolve, we don’t want you to panic. In fact, quite the opposite. That’s why the Coloradoan is committed to providing you with accurate, up-to-date information so you can make informed decisions on issues affecting you and the people you love. As such, this story, and many others, are being provided free for all to read. Help us continue this important work by subscribing to the Coloradoan.

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Sady Swanson covers crime, courts, public safety and more throughout Northern Colorado. You can send your story ideas to her at sswanson@coloradoan.com or on Twitter at @sadyswan. Support our work and local journalism with a digital subscription at Coloradoan.com/subscribe.

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