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Stay-At-Homes And Ski Resorts: Talking Reopening With Colorado Gov. Jared Polis

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis

Colorado has taken some of the most aggressive strides to reopen its economy of almost any U.S. state. Most stores were open as of May 1, restaurant dining rooms opened on Wednesday and Colorado’s many summer camps are allowed to start operations on June 1.

At the helm of the reopening process has been Colorado Gov. Jared Polis. In the last three months, Polis has had to navigate a nationwide shortage of medical supplies and hospital beds while walking the delicate line between halting a pandemic and minimizing the damage to his state’s residents and businesses.

On his most recent weekly webcast, Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker sat down with Polis to discuss the road to reopening the Rocky Mountain State. Here are some of the highlights from their discussion: 

Walker: The first case of COVID-19 was reported in Colorado in early March, then on March 16, you closed the bars and restaurants, theaters and health clubs in the state. That’s followed by your stay-at-home order on March 25. Can you talk us through those early days?

Polis: Thankfully, we acted early enough in Colorado to prevent a catastrophic loss. We've lost about 1,000 people in Colorado. It’s certainly nothing to celebrate, but we are very lucky compared to the toll in the areas that, frankly, acted too late.

Walker: I can only imagine that there were people who wanted to be extremely cautious and shut down early and others who said that would be devastating to the overall state and to its citizens. As you tried to toggle between those two big power bases, what convinced you to make that decision to shut down?

Polis: It was the only way through it. If the virus went rampant and overwhelmed our hospitals and people were scared to leave their homes, you would have a de facto shutdown. Or you could shut down a little bit earlier and end it. We wouldn't have been able to open stores for customers on April 27 and May 1 if we hadn't gotten the virus down to a level where people weren’t just shivering in their homes in fear. 

It's also about the safety guidelines. We had to reboot what stores and restaurants look like to inspire customer confidence and, of course, to make sure that we minimize the chance of outbreaks among employees and customers.

Walker: The CARES Act had an eviction moratorium for any dwelling that had a government-guaranteed loan on it, and the HEROES Act right now is calling for another 12-month moratorium on eviction. If any new federal act didn't have renter protection to it, would you think about putting another executive order in place as it relates to the state of Colorado?

Polis: I don't expect that that component of the HEROES Act will be part of any federal legislation. I wouldn't worry about that. What happened, in effect, is the courts that normally have the civil enforcement mechanism for evictions largely shuttered and prioritized criminal indictments or imminent public safety needs through April and May. I would expect it's similar across the country. You might have gotten an emergency eviction order through, but not one for nonpayment.

I think they're slowly going to be returning to that work in June. They are not yet at full capacity, and the courts have a civil backlog. Somewhere in that mix, they will begin to process eviction notices.

Walker: So restaurants are opening today and so is [Arapahoe Basin Ski Area]. Are we going to have a ski season in 2020-2021?

Polis: Skiing is reasonably safe in itself. The problem is not the skiing. It's the socialization that occurs with skiing. If you've been to A-Basin, you know it's like a party at the bottom of the hill. Normally, there’s kegs, there’s coffee, there’s music. People aren't there just for the skiing. 

Now you can ski at A-Basin, but there’s no party, there's no bars. Can it be that social environment that we all love in addition to skiing? That's the big question mark for next season. Certainly not right now. That would lead to another outbreak, there's no question.

Walker: You mentioned kegs: The Chancellor of the University of Colorado said that CU Boulder is going to open up on Aug. 24. What are your thoughts?

Polis: I think it was no question that they were going to open. The question is will we have residential dorms operating, which we will. I think it's great, because some kids simply can't go if they don't have residential dorms. Many kids who can will start out online, and those dorms will be at reduced capacity. I would be thrilled from a health perspective if only 60% of the students were living in the dorms. That means more spacing, it means students can space out their meals and doubles are now singles, triples are now doubles.

Walker: While it might not overwhelm hospitals, the coronavirus is still going to be out there, and we're going to see flare-ups. How do you keep the state and the country moving forward and not stepping back?

Polis: We need, of course, to wear masks when we're out in public and around others, no question. We all should take social distancing very seriously, which means you should be targeting seeing other people a lot less than you did pre-crisis. If you absolutely have to have a get-together with your neighbor and have a barbecue 6 feet apart, OK. But that block party for your neighborhood, don’t do it.

If you really want to go out to a restaurant, you're welcome to. They’re open in Colorado to groups of eight or less. But don’t mix with other people in the restaurant, just stick with the folks that you came with. People are smart, people are being safe and doing the best they can.

Next week, the Walker Webcast will host a discussion about analyzing the impact of the coronavirus and the CRE space with CoStar founder & CEO Andy Florance.

This feature was produced in collaboration between the Bisnow Branded Content Studio and Walker & Dunlop. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.