DENVER — Colorado is seeing a “dramatic increase” in the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and state health officials are placing the blame on those who choose not to get vaccinated. State Epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy said the “bulk of the action falls on the unvaccinated” as the more contagious delta variant spreads.
Herlihy was joined by Colorado Governor Jared Polis during a press conference Monday to discuss the current state of the pandemic in Colorado. Monday’s press conference followed Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s announcement of the city’s latest health order requiring all city employees and teachers to be vaccinated by Sept. 30.
Colorado officials are ratcheting up the pressure on the unvaccinated amid a spike of cases in the state and nationwide, largely among those who chose not to get the vaccine, Herlihy said. Positive test collection data shared by the state epidemiologist Monday shows 17 positive cases (on average) among the unvaccinated population per 100,000 people in a 7-day period. Only three positive cases per 100,000 people were reported among those fully vaccinated.
“The increase that we are seeing is largely occurring among unvaccinated individuals,” Herlihy said. “So, we really see that unvaccinated individuals are really driving transmission in the state right now.”
From Jan. 1 to June 24, 97% of cases, 96% of hospitalizations and 97% deaths involved unvaccinated people, Herlihy said. From July 1 to July 24, 80% of cases, 87% of hospitalizations and 92% of deaths were among those who were not vaccinated, the data shows.
The governor and Herlihy said the ball is in the court of those who are eligible but have chosen not to get the vaccine, even though the more contagious delta variant is on the rise, making up 95.5% of the virus sequenced in the state.
“The vaccines continue to be highly effective and really continue to be our best strategy. It’s really, in Colorado right now, among our unvaccinated population where we need to see action. So that is the population that we need to see vaccinated. It’s the population we need to see wearing masks. It’s the population that we need to see regularly tested. And so I think, really, the bulk of action really falls to that unvaccinated population right now,” she said.
Despite the rise in cases, Polis said Colorado is faring better than some states as he announced Colorado has surpassed an important milestone, reaching a 70% vaccination rate among all those who are eligible. He and state health officials are pushing to reach 80% by this winter and they are already seeing a 39% increase in vaccinations due to the recent Walmart gift card giveaway program.
“I also want to highlight at this point over 70% of Coloradans have done the right thing to protect themselves, their families and our community,” Polis said. “It’s really time for those who haven’t shouldered more of the consequences for the ongoing spread to make sure that they’re stepping up too, and the regular testing is a good way to do that.”