But Polis says his decisions about reopening have been driven not by political pressure from the right or left, but by science. In an interview on May 19, he told me that instead of looking most closely at case and death counts, which lag behind the reality on the ground, he and his administration were focused on bringing down the virus’ transmission rate from one person infecting up to four others to one person infecting just one other person, which the state managed in April. As officials added thousands of temporary hospital beds, the governor also closely tracked the daily hospitalization rate, which had begun to slow by the time he made his April 20 announcement.
“We were an early hot spot, and we found it had leveled off,” Polis told me. “Keeping the stay-at-home order any longer wasn’t making progress against the virus.” He added: “Each governor is looking at data in their state. There is no state that has the same epidemiological outlook.”
Polis’ unique approach shows just how differently every state—red, blue or purple—has handled the coronavirus crisis. “When it comes to deciding what the threshold is for reopening, the metrics are all over the place. States are using what works for them,” says Luisa Franzini, professor and chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.