State Republicans want investigation into Polis and nursing home deaths

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DENVER (KDVR) — The Colorado Republican Party is asking for an investigation into Gov. Jared Polis and his administration over COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.

But the governor’s office is saying the Colorado GOP is relying on questionable information from a report by Colorado Public Radio.

“The CPR article that came out was absolutely damning for Governor Polis and his administration,” said Kristi Burton Brown, the state Republican Party leader. “Governor Polis is the Cuomo of the West. So many people died because they got it wrong.”

Among the claims in the CPR report was that Colorado had the nation’s highest rate of nursing home deaths in the country during the holiday season in 2020.

These deaths, the report argues, resulted from Polis’ administration’s mishandling.

In response, the governor’s office said these deaths simply tracked with the state’s larger COVID-19 trends, and that Colorado still had fewer COVID deaths than much of the rest of the U.S.

“Every death due to COVID-19 is a tragedy and represents a mother, a father, a grandparent that’s not coming home and not coming to the Fourth of July barbecue and for the GOP to try to score cheap political points off of their tragedy is frankly disgusting,” Polis’ office said in a statement. “The reality is that Colorado has lost far less people to COVID-19 than nearly any other state and that’s because of Coloradans doing their part, stepping up wearing masks, staying socially distant, during this challenging year and now stepping up to get vaccinated.”

FOX31’s Data Desk confirmed that Colorado’s COVID-19 death rate per 1,000 nursing home residents did indeed lead the nation’s during the time period outlined by CPR.

The graph below charts all U.S. states’ COVID weekly death rates in nursing homes per 1,000. Choose any state or the average of the nation as a whole to compare trends.

Between Nov. 1, 2020 and Jan. 3, 2021, Colorado’s nursing home death rate surpassed the national average every week. It peaked the week ending Dec. 20, 2020, when it was twice the national rate.

However, Colorado’s nursing home death rate was beneath the national average for the rest of the pandemic. This trend tracks broadly with the state’s historical COVID rate, a point made in March by state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy.

The GOP’s proposed investigation would ostensibly try to sort out the cause.

“A bipartisan investigation would demonstrate what actions Governor Polis took or failed to take in regards to the nursing home crisis here in Colorado,” said Brown.

The CPR article says Polis’ response was slow, his communication to the public dishonest and his pandemic response team ineffective. The GOP now makes the same claims with an added charge of nepotism, saying the state’s contact tracing programs were handed out to inept political allies.

“Governor Polis’ administration waited too long to take action in some of the nursing home situations,” said Brown. “Additionally, they used a company that was not tested that was given to the Polis administration by a very large, Democrat donor. That’s one of the things the Polis administration won’t answer for either.”

Colorado Democrats have, so far, not favored the proposed bipartisan investigation.

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