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Colorado Public Health Department Hands over Pandemic Control to Local Governments

Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment – the CDPHE – is handing over control of restrictions and policies regarding the COVID-19 pandemic today to local governments. KGNU’s Shannon Young reports.

 

In their Wednesday media briefing on the state of the pandemic, Colorado health authorities had some good news…and some bad news. Here’s Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment COVID-19 Incident Commander Scott Bookman.

Bookman: “We are seeing what appears to be the beginning of a 4th wave of COVID 19 in Colorado. We are seeing case rates go up. We reported more than 2,000 cases yesterday alone. Percent positivity is going up, hospitalizations are also going up.”

But what’s also going up are vaccination rates. And that’s what officials are betting on when it comes to getting ahead of the spread of more contagious variants.

Brigadier General Scott Sherman of the Colorado National Guard is also the Director of the UCC Vaccine Joint Task Force.

Sherman: “We have a trend line continuing to increase…really efficiency and also bring these six community vaccination cites online. You’ll see that last week we had our biggest days: Thursday and Friday of last week – over 75 thousand doses administered in a day. And really showing that our efficiency, both from our providers and our community vaccination sites, on getting vaccinations to Coloradans and over 400 thousand administered last week. So, we continue to do great.”

What is apparently fueling the current rise in cases is spread among young adults, an age group that until recently had not been eligible for vaccination. Which is why authorities like CDPHE Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eric France emphasize the importance of testing to help control and identify outbreaks.

France: "As we’ve worked hard to vaccinate the older Coloradans, people 50 and older, we know that as you age, you are more likely to be symptomatic with COVID. And so, now the populations that need to be vaccinated are the younger adults. And it may be that while COVID is spreading, this is a population that has high rates of asymptomatic spread and may be unaware they actually have it, which is all the more reason that those who do feel sick need to be tested because it allows us to identify the asymptomatic they were in contact with and ask them to quarantine.”

And that’s especially critical now that state officials are handing over pandemic management to local governments, which – in many places – are loosening restrictions that have been in place. As of today, restaurants and gyms can return to full capacity in Denver and bars can reopen in Boulder.  

Scott Bookman of the CDPHE says state officials considered a number of factors in the decision to hand the reins over the local governments.

Bookman: “Obviously, we know that everyone is getting tired of this pandemic. We’re all tired of the pandemic. There is a light at the end of the tunnel here. Our vaccination rates are continuing to go up, vaccine supply continues to go up. The effectiveness of this vaccine is really quite remarkable. You can see the data in cases in our long- term care facilities and how much they have gone down. At this point, we just really want to encourage all Coloradans, regardless of the dial or regardless of what restrictions might be in place: wear a mask, keep your distancing, stay home when you’re sick. We are so close to the end here, it is absolutely critical that we keep following this guidance until the end.”

As of now, all Coloradans 16 and older are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, and residents 18 and up can access the one from Moderna. Authorities this week paused use of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to reports of blood clots in a small number of individuals who received the jab.

Information on where to get a vaccine or how to access free testing is online at covid19.colorado.gov.

For KGNU, I’m Shannon Young in Boulder.

Both KGNU and KSJD are members of the Rocky Mountain Community Radio Coalition.

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