Polis calls on Coloradans to observe religious holidays safely during COVID-19 crisis

Last Updated by Mark Harden on

Gov. Jared Polis took note Wednesday of the difficulty Coloradans face in celebrating some of the most important holidays on the calendars of major faiths during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a news conference at the governor's mansion in Denver, he addressed Christians, Jews and Muslims, noting the start of Passover Wednesday night, Easter on Sunday and Ramadan on April 23.

He talked of the difficulty of Coloradans of faith having to stay separated under the state's stay-at home order, which current extends through April 26, at a time of important religious observances.

Polis, who is Colorado’s first Jewish governor, recalled that last year, he hosted a Passover Seder dinner at the mansion for 150 people.

Celebrations of religious holidays will "look a little bit different" this year, he said, adding: "We hope that spiritual fulfillment will be there this holiday seasons for all of us."

Polis talked of the special steps that houses of faith this year are taking to celebrate in lieu of physical gatherings, including online streaming and drive-up services.

Outside the religious observances, he noted that there are many secular celebrations at this time of year that usually involve gatherings, including Easter egg hunts, barbecues and picnics. "It is important that people defer those spring traditions," he said, encouraging Coloradans to celebrate with their families rather than larger groups.

Rev. Amanda Henderson, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, spoke at the news conference, also urging Coloradans to heed calls for staying home as much as possible and maintaining social distance despite the religious holidays.

"The most faithful thing we can do right now is to stay home, " she said. " ... The way we can assure the health of our neighbors is to stop the spread of COVID-19. This means staying home and finding innovative ways to mark our holy days."

She added: "We are all in this together, even though we are practicing physical distancing."

Polis also offered a tentative update on the spread of COVID-19, saying so far there have been at least 1,154 hospitalized with the disease in Colorado and at least 190 deaths. An official update of those numbers is expected at 4 p.m. MT.

In response to questions from reporters, Polis said that the next week of data on the disease's spread will be crucial in determining how well the stay-at-home order is working and whether the state will stick to the April 26 date now set for lifting the order.

The more Coloradans stay at home, he said, the sooner the state can end its "horrible restrictions."

The governor has also said he has been talking with federal officials to determine when protective gear and other medical supplies needed in the crisis will arrive and how many items will be on their way. He said Colorado now has about 500 more hospital ventilators for treating COVID-19 patients than it did when the crisis began.

Wednesday's news conference followed Polis' town hall-style broadcast Tuesday night, in which he said that getting back to normal in Colorado might happen in stages, with a complete return to the status quo awaiting the development of a successful COVID-19 treatment or vaccine for the coronavirus, which some authorities say may take a year or more.

For example, he said, some Colorado restaurants may need to keep customers spread out after they resume table service.

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