DENVER -- While the vaccine rollout is happening, Colorado public health officials say residents will likely need to keep up current levels of mask wearing and social distancing into the summer.
This was discussed Tuesday during the weekly update on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic with Gov. Jared Polis and State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy, echoing what President Joe Biden said Monday that the country would be “heading toward herd immunity” by summer.
When asked if the state will be under coronavirus restrictions for the remainder of 2021, Gov. Polis said he projects at least 60% of Coloradans will be vaccinated by early summer, marking the beginning of the end of the pandemic.
“As you get up to 60-70% protected, you can begin visualizing the end of the pandemic,” Gov. Polis said. “And while it’s hard to get an exact crystal ball date on when that will occur, I still think that you’re able to reach those numbers in early summer, assuming the quantity of the vaccine increases substantially.”
The slow rollout of the vaccine and the confusion surrounding the inclusion of the 70 and up group in phase 1B has been frustrating for many. But Polis said he feels the promised increase in vaccine production by the Biden administration will speed up the process in Colorado and allow the state to open up vaccinations to more groups soon.
The president announced a surge in vaccine deliveries to states Tuesday, along with the news that the federal government is purchasing an additional 100 million doses each of the two approved coronavirus vaccines.
The governor said he expects to get a better picture of the amount of the vaccine heading to Colorado in the coming days. Once the state can pin down exact quantities of the vaccine earmarked for Colorado, Polis said the state would be adopting CDC guidelines that will open up vaccinations to those 65 years and up. But an exact date on when that will happen is not known. However, Polis said he is optimistic that teachers and other frontline workers will begin to receive the vaccine by March 1.
“We currently indicated that we expect March 1, we will be able to begin with teachers, child care workers, essential workers. I’m optimistic that it will be earlier than that, and we’ve also indicated that is a possibility, but we just have that date to present today,” Polis said.
However, the state remains focused on vaccinating those 70 years and up as Polis stressed that age is the most significant factor when it comes to the virus. The group accounts for 75% of COVID-19 deaths in Colorado. The state expects to vaccinate 70% of people 70 and up by the end of February.
Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management released a statement Tuesday, stating that they are ready to distribute an expected increase in vaccine deliveries as soon as they receive them:
"Colorado’s distribution plan is designed to move as fast as the federal supply chain allows and we are ready to immediately use three to four times as many vaccines as we are currently getting each week right away. Our increase for next week, as announced by the Biden Administration, is 14,080 (11 doses/vial) of Moderna. All vaccine estimates are considered as such until we receive our official allocation in federal systems. The state’s operations team is nimble, and we are planning to be responsive to any necessary adjustments. Currently we are vaccinating the remaining people in 1A and those in the early part of 1B. Details about those below the dotted line in 1B will be updated soon."