Polis urges healthy, fully vaccinated people to move beyond COVID
‘Live your life, don’t feel guilty,’ governor says
Just over a week before the two-year anniversary of Colorado’s first case of COVID-19, Gov. Jared Polis encouraged fully vaccinated, healthy people to “live without undue fear.”
In a Friday, Feb. 25, news conference, Polis said that he expects the virus is likely here to stay and that he was not claiming victory over COVID-19.
However, with the combination of vaccination and natural infection giving more than 90% of Coloradans protection from severe illness, the emergency phase is over, he said.
“Live your life, don’t feel guilty,” Polis said. “You’ve done your part, Colorado, and you’ve earned the right to move beyond the pandemic in your lives.”
The announcement came the same day the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention loosened masking guidance for 70% of Americans.
The new guidance says people living in places with a low or medium risk for COVID-19 can stop wearing masks, but it keeps masking recommendations for places like Routt County, which the agency still deems at high risk.
Local cases have significantly come down from peak omicron levels, nearly as quickly as they increased.
There have been 70 new cases locally over the last two weeks with 41 in the last seven days, indicating a slight uptick. That also translates to about 222 cases per 100,000 people, a key indicator in the CDC’s new guidance.
The other indicators are related to hospital capacity, which is also largely responsible for Routt County’s and much of northwest Colorado’s high-risk designation, even though there haven’t been any hospitalizations locally in the last week.
The new guidance is unlikely to change anything locally, as public transportation is one of the few places where masks are still required. All of the school districts in Routt County have optional masking policies in place.
While vaccinated and boosted people are encouraged to return to normal, Polis said people with a compromised immune system may still need to take precautions.
He emphasized that being fully vaccinated makes someone 96% less likely to die of COVID-19.
“I don’t know how many other ways that I can say it … the most important thing you can do to reduce your risk significantly is to get vaccinated,” Polis said.
Three out of every four Routt County residents, regardless of age, have been fully vaccinated, including more than 40% of children ages 5-11. Still, just 38% of people have been boosted, which is below the state average of 50%.
Scott Bookman, the incident commander for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s response to COVID-19, said the next chapter of the pandemic would focus on hospital and public health readiness, investing in the health care workforce and pushing the federal government for public health reform.
“We will be working with our hospitals and health care systems to ensure that the capacity exists and that we can count on it no matter what the future brings,” Bookman said.
He said public health officials will continue to monitor the virus by testing wastewater and sequencing tests to keep an eye out for potential new variants. Efforts going forward will also focus on preventing outbreaks, especially in congregate care settings.
After two years of the pandemic, people are leaving the health care industry and state officials want to build it back up, Bookman said. One plan would incentivize job training to allow people to make a mid-career switch into the field.
Lastly, Bookman said there are issues like high-priced travel nursing contracts and nationwide standards for hospital readiness that need to be addressed.
“Colorado is ready to move forward and we’re ready to make sure that happens in the right way,” Polis said.
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