Feb 26, 2021

Axios Denver

šŸ™ It's Friday, thank goodness. A big thank you to everyone who watched our launch event yesterday ā€” and to all for joining us in Week 1. Reply to this email to share your feedback!

šŸšØ Situational awareness: U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) will ask President Biden to appoint a national director of gun violence prevention, Axios has learned.

  • In a letter, Neguse and U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) tell Biden that "a comprehensive government approach to address this violence, will help bring our nation out from under the depths of the gun violence crisis."

Today's newsletter is 977 words ā€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Denver's struggle to reopen safely
Data:Ā Denver Public Health; Map: Sara Wise, Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Denver's current COVID-19 case count ticked slightly higher this week, delaying its move from level yellow to a less restrictive phase.

Why it matters: Mayor Michael Hancock's administration expected to meet the criteria to shift to level blue and increase capacity limits at restaurants, gyms and indoor events.

How it works: Under state protocols, Denver must keep average cases below 100 per 100,000 residents for seven days to make the shift down. Jefferson County moved to level blue Thursday.

  • "It means an awful lot," Hancock told reporters at a briefing. "[The goal is] ... continuing to improve the balance of safety and economic vibrancy of the city. So it's incredibly important that we get there."

The big picture: Current case counts are night and day compared to late November when the city moved to the stay-at-home order under level red, a new Axios data analysis shows.

By the numbers: Only one of the city's 78 neighborhoods (Auraria) showed a higher case count last week compared to the week of Nov. 15-21.

  • The analysis shows 19 neighborhoods ā€” from Country Club and Cole to Montclair and Montbello ā€” saw a 90% reduction or better.

The other side: Apprehension remains over whether reopening the city too quickly could backfire.

  • "Just because the state allows us to do something does not necessarily mean it is the right thing to do," Denver Councilwoman At-Large Robin Kniech said at a council committee meeting yesterday.
  • Her deepest concerns are rooted in ensuring schools stay open, businesses aren't left "yoyo-ing" and risking residents falling victim to another COVID spike.

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2. Poll: Vaccine hesitancy strong in Colorado
Data: Magellan Strategies; Note: MOE +/- 4.78%; Chart: Axios Visuals

A new statewide poll from Magellan Strategies finds that one-third of Coloradans say they won't get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Why it matters: The opposition could threaten the state's efforts to reach herd immunity. Medical experts put the benchmark between 70% to 95%.

  • The reasons people cited included questioning the science showing that it's safe and the belief it's not necessary, the pollsters found.
  • Be smart: A partisan split and misinformation is evident in the data. "I would call it the politicalization of vaccinations and COVID," said pollster David Flaherty.

By the numbers: Still, about 60% of Colorado residents are very or somewhat concerned about contracting COVID.

Data: Magellan Strategies; Note: MOE +/- 3.53%; Chart: Axios Visuals

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3. The state of Black communities

Clockwise from top left: Leslie Herod, Wellington Webb, Halisi Vinson and Tay Anderson. Photos: AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images; Jason Connolly/AFP via Getty Images; Courtesy of Halisi Vinson; Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Black History Month ends this weekend, the first after a year marked by a national reckoning of racial injustice and a deadly pandemic that has disproportionately harmed Black communities across the country.

We asked four prominent leaders to reflect on the state of Denver's Black communities.

Wellington Webb, former Denver mayor:

  • "[It's] the same as it is all across the country. We survived a coup d'etat [on Jan. 6]. We're fighting for the soul of America. And we're fighting systemic racism."
  • "I have hope because of 400 years of struggle that have allowed us to continue to survive and am also inspired by the coalition of young people and races that have come together to fight."

Leslie Herod, Democratic state representative in Denver:

  • "[It] is quickly evolving. We've made bold changes ... and people are using this momentum that was created this past year to make change not only through the political process, but also in their own places of work, their homes, their schools and our community."
  • "I know that change will continue."

Halisi Vinson, Colorado Democratic Party executive director:

  • "It feels a little bit ungrateful to complain about the state of Black America here in Denver when I compare it to other cities."
  • "We are hopeful because we see change ā€” we see progress ā€” but we are hesitant because we've seen this before, and it's hard to get heartbroken time after time."

Tay Anderson, Denver school board member:

  • "It wouldn't be right for me to [say], 'The state of Black Denver is strong,' because we've been ravaged by a pandemic. We have been in the streets chanting that our lives matter. And we are still trying to bring light to the injustices that are playing out in our community."
  • "We have a lot of work to do."

Share their words.

4. What's next in health care

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet at the Axios Smart Take virtual event. Photo: Axios

The pandemic upended health care in Colorado ā€” and the state's leaders are looking to what's next.

What they're saying: In an Axios Smart Take event on Thursday, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Dr. Connie Price, the chief medical officer at Denver Health, emphasized the need to invest in the public health system now and for the future.

  • "The U.S. was not well-prepared to deal with the pandemic ā€” and we won't be well-prepared to deal with the next one unless we begin to invest in our public health infrastructure again," Bennet told John.

More takeaways from the event:

  • President Biden's pandemic plan includes a fraction of Bennet's proposal for a "health force," but the senator said the 100,000 positions are needed to support local public health officials with vaccine rollout and testing.
  • Colorado hospitals are poised to take on the next pandemic more effectively, Price says, but she fears that staffing shortages in health care could worsen "because of burnout."
  • Price also predicts telemedicine will stick around, which could be key in addressing another looming health crisis: a mental health pandemic. "We need to be really prepared to respond to that."

Watch a replay.

5. Hot homes for sale in Denver right now

703 S. Vine St. Photo: Courtesy of listing agent Mary McCoin at Keller Williams, by Robert Luxon Imaging.

From a Platt Park Bungalow asking $660,000 to an industrial loft in RiNo, these listings caught the eye of Axios' Brianna Crane this week.

703 S. Vine St. ā€” $1,385,000

Why we love it: The entire house is beautiful but the kitchen steals the show with its eat-in island, Carrera marble countertops, range hood and cabinetry.

  • Neighborhood: Washington Park

Bri's full list.

6. ā˜ƒļø Viewfinder: Denver's snow day in photos

A King Soopers truck stuck in the snowstorm by the Colorado State Capitol on Feb. 24. Photo courtesy Mark Neitro/CBS Denver

Denver was hit with the heaviest snow dump yet this year, with parts of the Mile High City receiving more than a foot.

Roadways turned tricky fast, catching a few unlikely drivers off guard.

  • CBS Denver photojournalist Mark Neitro snapped the moment the storm overpowered a King Soopers truck, tweeting: "Something you don't see very often, a semi chaining up on Colfax in front of the Colorado State Capitol."

Once the snow settled, we naturally all grabbed our cameras ā€” and dogs ā€” and dove in.

Our weekend picks:

  • šŸ» John is drinking hazy IPAs from this great Tennessee brewery that dropped beer in Denver.
  • šŸ’ƒšŸ½ Alayna is listening to these guys on repeat and sipping on this, her favorite spicy beer cocktail.

Have a great weekend! We'll see you Monday. And follow us on Facebook.