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Transcript: Governor Jared Polis on "Face the Nation," November 14, 2021

Colorado governor "very frustrated" with COVID booster messaging
Colorado governor "very frustrated" with COVI... 06:10

The following is a transcript of an interview with Governor Jared Polis of Colorado that aired Sunday, November 14, 2021, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. Colorado is one of several states dealing with a new spike in COVID cases. Their governor, Democrat Jared Polis, joins us this morning from Boulder. Good morning to you Governor.

GOV. JARED POLIS: Good morning, MARGARET.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Your state's health agency says 72% of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated. So why is COVID still ravaging your state?

GOV. POLIS: You know, right now what we're seeing across the Rocky Mountain West, the Upper Midwest, sort of this swath of the country, we were largely spared the Delta spike in summer and late summer. But we're getting it now. Now we're hopeful and so far what we're seeing is it's not going to hit the same levels that it did in southeastern states that had 40, 50, 55% vaccination rates. But one thing we know about the Delta variant, MARGARET, it is incredibly effective, like a heat seeking missile, at seeking out the unvaccinated, infecting them, hospitalizing them in large numbers and killing them in certain- in certain- far too often.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ninety five percent of your ICU beds are occupied. People are getting very ill with this. You this week declared the entire state to be at high risk of exposure and you told adults to go get a booster shot. Do you think other states should follow suit? And are you disappointed that the CDC has not been clear on this?

GOV. POLIS: Yes, so we have about 1,500 people hospitalized, 81% of them, MARGARET, are unvaccinated. Now of the 19% that are vaccinated, we can reduce that, come close to eliminating it, with the booster. And yes, I've been very frustrated with the convoluted messaging out of the CDC and the FDA. Everybody should get the booster after six months. The data is incredibly clear that it increases your personal protection level. That's why my parents got it. I got it. My family members got it. But it also can help- help improve the epidemiological state of the- a particular state or of the entire country. Because you have folks that are ready to roll up their sleeves and add that extra protection, to go from 70 or 80% protection back to that 90, 95% level of protection, which can really have an impact in preventing the spread of the virus.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Noted. Well, your state draws a lot of tourists, particularly as we head into- to ski season. I'm wondering why you aren't mandating more health restrictions. I know you're advising people to wear masks. Why not issue a mandate? Why not roll out more restrictions, distancing and things like that, in place as people gather?

GOV. POLIS: Well, there's many examples of folks that are doing what works in Colorado. In fact, I'm coming to you live from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where last year before the vaccine, they had a thousand cases in the course of a month. This year, just a handful. Why? Everybody's vaccinated, the students are wearing masks. Likewise, with our outdoor recreation opportunities in winter, our world class ski resorts, many of them, of course, are- anybody can ski. But to go to a lot of those indoor places run by many of the ski resorts, they're also making sure the folks are vaccinated to help make sure that we don't have additional unvaccinated tourists filling up Colorado hospitals. So I think we have a good model to do it. We had a good season- good ski season last year. The thing that we need most right now is the more snow to make sure that we can get visitors from across the world that experience that they expect.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But why not institute more capacity restrictions, do things to try to help contain the spread?

GOV. POLIS: Well, these are happening in our state, there's areas of our state where people are- have to wear masks indoors, there's other areas of our state, like the university, where a vaccination requirement--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you as a governor--

GOV. POLIS: Most of the ski resorts, which are the source of most- yeah. Well, as I said there, I'm very proud of the steps that this ski industry has taken, I think they're doing very well. It's going to be a very safe experience, just like it was last year, even during the national spikes. It's fundamentally an outdoor recreation activity, and if there's one thing we've learned about the virus, including the Delta variant, it's relatively safe to be outdoors. Nothing is zero risk in this day and age, but it's- it's relatively safe to be enjoying yourself outdoors.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I hear you saying you prefer businesses to do it versus the government putting in some of those restrictions. Is that right?

GOV. POLIS: Well, right now, if you're vaccinated, your risk is one-tenth or one-twelfth what it was during the highest peak before. And for folks who are vaccinated, you know, this is still a higher risk than usual in the background. But this is like the endemic state of what this virus will always be. It's no longer a pandemic for you. If you're unvaccinated, this is the most dangerous time for you, no matter where you live in the country or in the world, because of the highly contagious nature of the Delta variant. The most important thing you can do is get vaccinated. But if you continue to be unvaccinated, please be careful, wear a mask and don't gather in large indoor areas around others.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're coming to the White House tomorrow for the signing of the infrastructure bill, I understand. Will you have shovel-ready projects by the spring? Because large parts of this bill don't actually take effect until 2023, 2024. How many jobs do you actually benefit from?

GOV. POLIS: Yeah, we're- we're ready to go. We were ready to go several months ago. We're ready to go now. I'll be excited to join President Biden and bipartisan members of Congress to sign the bill. We in Colorado passed a bipartisan infrastructure package through our own legislature to complement what we were expecting out of the federal government, but also to get moving. So we have projects underway, including expansions of Highway 70, an additional lane each way around Floyd Hill to better access our high country and ski resorts throughout the year.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you have an estimate on job creation from the federal bill and when those jobs will result?

GOV. POLIS: Well, it'll be- as you know, it's a 10-year investment package, so there will be jobs on the- you know, the fundamental is a benefit to people, right? So are their jobs adding broadband to more families and houses? Yes, there are. But the real benefit is this connects our rural communities and helps empower and grow our local economies. Of course, we support the jobs and road expansion and electric vehicle infrastructure. But again, fundamentally, this will find the transition to electric vehicles, cleaner air taking action on climate and less traffic.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Gov. Polis, good luck to you. Thank you for your time today. And we'll be right back.

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