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Democratic governor says party should push masks and vaccines ‘as a matter of personal responsibility’


By Devan Cole, CNN

Colorado’s Democratic governor said Sunday that his party can best navigate the divisive issues of masking and vaccines by talking about them “as a matter of personal responsibility.”

“I think talking about masks and vaccines as a matter of personal responsibility, as a data-driven way to reduce your own personal risk, is the right way to be talking about them,” Gov. Jared Polis told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” when asked what his advice is to national Democrats looking to win over swing voters in areas where Covid-19 mandates have become divisive issues.

“As long as we’re stuck in this dichotomy of mandate versus no mandate, there’s a lot of Americans of all persuasions that react very negatively, rightfully so, to being told or forced to do something,” he added. “So I think it’s about winning over hearts and minds, about practical steps we can take to protect ourselves.”

Polis has been lauded for his approach to the coronavirus pandemic, with Colorado having a low death rate and high vaccination rate months after he dropped the state’s indoor mask mandate. He has also resisted reinstating Covid-19 restrictions as the Omicron variant wreaked havoc around the US this winter.

The governor’s remarks come as Democratic leaders around the country grapple with how to form policy and messaging around the pandemic as it nears its third year. As the Omicron wave recedes, some Democratic-led states are preparing to roll back their mask mandates, including Illinois, New Jersey and Oregon. Last week, California unveiled an endemic strategy for dealing with the virus, a phase that would see many of the state’s strict public health measures relaxed.

Polis, when asked whether he thinks the US has finally reached the endemic phase of Covid-19, stressed that preparing “for an uncertain future” is what’s key right now.

“I think a lot of states are undertaking that. I hope the federal government is as well. What does that mean? It means that we don’t know what variant will occur, we don’t know when the current resistance we have because of prior infection or vaccine wears off. We need to be ready in six months or a year — if we need to — to be able to administer a lot of doses of a new vaccine or perhaps the same one quickly,” he said, adding that hospitals should also be ready for potential surges.

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