Gov. Polis, CDPHE Executive Director Hunsaker Ryan Provide Update on Response to COVID-19, Discuss Vaccine Plan
DENVER - Today, Governor Jared Polis and Jill Hunsaker Ryan, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, provided an update on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing mass vaccination process.
“We are getting this done, and our top priority is to save lives and to ensure vaccines are distributed as rapidly as possible to Coloradans. Our state is off to a great start in 2021 as our state has one of the most successful vaccination programs in the country, but we need to do even better” said Governor Polis. “Until we have enough vaccines to widely administer it, we all have to do our part to prevent loss of life and further spread of the virus. We must double down on the strategies that we know keep us safe like wearing masks, avoiding large gatherings and staying six feet from others then we’re going to lose this race.”
“As we continue the state’s vaccination process, it is our mission to ensure no community is left behind,” Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan said. “The ability to vaccinate Coloradans is a moment we’ve all been preparing for and it is thrilling that we are finally here. For CDPHE, it is our mission to efficiently distribute vaccines as quickly as the federal supply chain allows. We are well on our way to making that goal a reality.”
Governor Polis also gave an update on the state’s move from Phase 1A of the vaccination process to Phase 1B, which includes Coloradans aged 70 and up. Colorado remains hopeful that Phase 1 can be completed this winter and the move to Phase 2 can happen by the spring. The state still expects that with a steady allocation of the vaccine provided by the federal government, Colorado’s general population will have access to the vaccine by the summer.
Governor Polis also announced an update on how the state is collaborating with community partners across Colorado to ensure hard to reach communities have access to the vaccine.
For example, last weekend Valley Wide Health partnered with the local fire department and sheriff’s department to stand up a drive-through vaccination clinic for Coloradans 70+ in San Luis and Center. More than 250 Coloradans age 70 and up received vaccines at these events.
Colorado is working with the state’s major health systems to set up information online portals where Coloradans can sign up to receive information about the vaccine and expects that next week local public health will have the infrastructure in place to begin planning vaccines for essential workforce.
Governor Polis discussed the exciting news of many schools across the state returning to in-person learning. Masks, including surgical masks, will continue to be provided to educators throughout the rest of the school year. Colorado school districts can now also sign up for home-use COVID testing done via Binax. It’s expected that through this program school districts will have access to over 1 million tests per month. School districts that opt in to this program will be able to order tests that are shipped directly to the homes of teachers and other school staff. These tests are available for symptomatic individuals, exposed individuals without symptoms, and for regular surveillance testing.
Testing will be conducted with telehealth support and these health professionals will report results to CDPHE and local public health agencies. Colorado is one of three states in the country participating in this program. Superintendents across Colorado have been notified of this program and will be sent information to sign up.
Governor Polis also extended the state-wide mask order today.