Sen. Gardner touts vaccine progress, pandemic legislation at Steamboat Institute’s Freedom Conference in Beaver Creek
BEAVER CREEK — Saying people want “a doggone solution” to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Cory Gardner spoke to supporters at Beaver Creek on Friday on the first day of the 2020 Freedom Conference and Festival.
The conference is a 12th-annual event from the Steamboat Institute, but COVID-19 restrictions prevented the event from being held in Steamboat Springs this year. Beaver Creek was able to accommodate the group.
“The widespread restrictions on social gatherings are in direct violation of (the First Amendment), and we believe that defending and exercising this right is at the core of what the Steamboat Institute stands for,” wrote Jennifer Schubert-Akin, institute chairwoman, in a welcome letter to attendees.
In addition to Schubert–Akin’s welcome packet, attendees were given copies of The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution of the United States, Trent England’s “Why We Must Defend The Electoral College,” and a Steamboat Institute pamphlet titled “How Lockdowns Infringe on Civil Liberties, A Pocket Guide.”
A COVID-19 panel discussion featured economic doctor Arthur Laffer, medical doctor Scott Atlas, and Gardner, who touted economic recovery legislation and advances in science, saying the country is close to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
“We’re gonna have a vaccine,” said Gardner, who is polling behind Democratic challenger John Hickenlooper, Colorado’s former governor and presidential candidate, in his re-election campaign. “It’s going to be similar to a flu vaccine, where you’re going to probably have to get it every year, and there will be different types of vaccines, and we’re going to get through this.”
Atlas said he also believes the country is going to progress with the vaccine, “but even if we didn’t, we are going to be OK here,” he said.
Praise for Polis
Atlas, who is a special advisor to President Trump, began the discussion by saying while states have begun reopening, significant limits to those reopenings remain, including travel warnings, quarantine requirements, reduced capacity on retail, bars that remain closed, reduced capacity at fitness centers, reduced capacity at restaurants, take-out only restaurants, and online-only and hybrid-attendance at schools.
“The harms of continuing those lockdowns are enormous,” Atlas said.
Citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlas also said the most recent analysis indicates that the infection fatality rate for COVID-19 patients under 70 years of age is 0.04%.
“Which is less than or equal to seasonal influenza,” he said.
In addition to their confidence in vaccine development, panel members expressed optimism in population immunity, medical community response and market recovery, even crediting Gov. Jared Polis for Colorado’s response.
“I think your governor has done a phenomenal job on bringing this state back into process,” Laffer said.
While Laffer had kind words for his host in Polis, more immediately in Beaver Creek’s Gerald Ford Hall, where the Freedom Conference took place, he had less enthusiastic words for the building’s namesake, saying President Ford’s Whip Inflation Now program “cost enormous lives and cost enormous wellbeing.”
Laffer said like Ford’s program, the 2020 pandemic response in the U.S. was a result of politicians making decisions while panicked.
“There were lots and lots of mistakes,” Laffer said. “They were not done deliberately, obviously.”
‘If I perish, I perish’
Atlas said Trump’s plan is aimed at “saving even more lives” while rolling back limitations to reopening and protecting high-risk populations.
“That means highly detailed, real-time monitoring; a smarter, prioritized, very intensive testing strategy of nursing home staff and residents; pro-active warnings to high-risk elderly in regions of increased in-community infection; massive allocation of extra resources including point-of-care testing in all 14,500 nursing homes by mid-September … and rapid mobilization of CDC strike teams where surge testing is needed,” Atlas said.
“We will continue to emphasize to the public the goal of protecting the high-risk group, including importantly adopting the highest standards of hygiene and social distancing, all the things we’ve already learned, when interacting with elderly friends and family members at risk,” he added.
Addressing dozens of unmasked viewers in Gerald Ford Hall, some of them elderly, Atlas said some mask policies are reasonable, especially concerning those in high-risk groups.
“Wear a mask if you cannot socially distance, particularly in certain settings,” he said. “When you’re close by somebody, it’s reasonable. When you’re walking into a nursing home and there’s a very, very high-risk situation, OK, then you gotta be super, super cautious when you’re near people, and you can not socially distance.”
Moderator Hadley Heath Manning said a lot of risk assessment and risk taking during a pandemic is “a very personal choice.” Manning said she flew across the country to visit her grandparents during the pandemic.
“My grandmother insisted that we come to her house,” Manning said. “She made me think of a passage from Esther in the Bible – ‘If I perish, I perish.’”
Laffer, who is 80, said he has also visited with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren during the pandemic.
“Frankly, I love my grandchildren far more than I love myself,” Laffer said. “And I just don’t want this economy shut down and have their futures put at risk because of someone wanting to save another 80-year-old like me.”
Gardner said we have to save the elderly, “because there would be no one left in the Senate” otherwise.
“I have a vested interested in my colleagues, to make sure they get this right,” he said with a laugh.
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Twenty months after the South Routt School District announced it would close because of a burgeoning coronavirus, COVID-19 is more prevalent in South Routt than ever before.