COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- While former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper didn't govern Colorado during a pandemic such as this, he is familiar with disasters in the state.
"My first four years as Governor I went to 34 funerals; we had the worst wildfires," Hickenlooper said in an exclusive interview with KRDO. "The Waldo Canyon Fire is something I'll never forget for the rest of my life."
He says Gov. Jared Polis' response with closing businesses and asking people to stay at home in response to COVID-19 is the right call despite the backlash Polis has received.
"Many people disagree with this one or that one," Hickenlooper said. "I think by and large he has been remarkably consistent and focused with great clarity." While some are unhappy with the closures, Hickenlooper says it's still what's best for Colorado's health and in the long run, the economy.
"It's for the greater good. It's for everyone and we got to tamp this thing down so then we can get back to an economy, to jobs, to a new normal."
However, the former governor did have some critiques on the federal level saying the Trump administration should have ramped up testing earlier and at least had a supplier lined up ahead of time. Hickenlooper says, "We probably could have gotten ahead of this, and I think it still would have been a disaster, but it wouldn't have been anywhere near as devastating to our economy I don't think."
We also asked him what his administration did as far as preparing Colorado for a pandemic of this magnitude, especially when it comes to hospital supplies.
"We had an inventory of protective equipment I think. In most cases in one of these pandemics there is supposed to be or at least usually a larger stockpile that the federal government keeps in place."
While it will be months before there is a return to normalcy, Hickenlooper says we can't forget about the struggles the state went through. We can learn from them.
“Part of what you do when you go through disasters," Hickenlooper says, "you can’t go to people when they’ve had the worst experience of their life and you can’t go to them and say, 'we are going to rebuild it the way it was.' You got to tell them you are going to build it back better than it was, you have to build in resiliency.”
Hickenlooper continues his campaign against incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner, whose U.S. Senate seat is up for grabs in 2020.