Polis Administration Releases “Colorado’s Next Chapter: Our Roadmap to Moving Forward”

Friday, February 25, 2022

DENVER - Today, Governor Jared Polis and his administration released “Colorado’s Next Chapter: Our Roadmap to Moving Forward.” Throughout the pandemic, Coloradans saved countless lives by getting tested and vaccinated and following public health protocols. The Polis administration has taken an all-state approach to forge partnerships across sectors to build an aggressive and balanced response that focused on both saving lives while caring for the social, mental, and economic well being of all Coloradans. 

Today, Governor Polis and administration officials outlined “Colorado’s Next Chapter: Our Roadmap to Moving Forward” and discussed the steps the administration believes are necessary to maintain a level of preparedness and agility that will keep Coloradans Safe and healthy — no matter if it is for the next wave of this pandemic or an unknown pandemic in the future. 

“Thanks to the commitment and resilience of Coloradans doing our part to get vaccinated with all three lifesaving doses, our state’s balanced approach to the pandemic, and the heroism of our health care workers and public health professionals, the vast majority of Coloradans who are vaccinated can proceed with normal life free of fear of the virus.  We now have the tools to turn the page and begin a new chapter,” said Governor Polis. “Fully vaccinated Coloradans can rest assured that you are reasonably safe to live your normal pre-pandemic life as the state of Colorado along with our partners in local public health and healthcare providers will be hard at work ensuring our readiness for whatever curveballs or variants the future throws us.” 

Since Colorado reported its first case of COVID-19 in March of 2020, the Polis administration has worked diligently with local governments and federal administrations to respond quickly to the pandemic, taking a fair and balanced approach to protecting lives and livelihoods and detecting the virus in communities.  Colorado had one of the shortest shutdown periods in the nation as a result of these efforts to detect and protect Coloradans and kids were in the classroom. Colorado began running large scale testing sites less than a week after the first confirmed case, and was an early adopter of innovative testing programs — becoming the first in the country to launch a rapid at-home testing program, in addition to over 150 free community testing sites. Colorado has used advanced science and data to detect new variants and monitor the virus.   Colorado’s  state lab became the first to detect the Alpha variant (B.1.1.7) and the third state to detect the Omicron variant.

When the first shipment of the doctor-approved vaccines arrived in Colorado in December 2020, the Polis administration implemented a plan of action to meet Coloradans where they are and remove barriers to vaccination by partnering with dozens of community organizations and building a robust network of over 2,000 vaccine providers across the state. Additionally, the state launched programs to provide free masks to schools with over 56 million masks provided to staff and students, and this year launched a free surgical-grade and KN95 mask program with community hubs, distributing 4 million masks to date. 

Two years later, Colorado leads the way on vaccination with more than 81% of all eligible Coloradans having received at least one dose and more than 90% of the population estimated to have a high level of immunity. Due to large-scale immunity and the availability of tools to mitigate the spread and severity of disease, the administration is shifting away from population-level strategies used to suppress transmission and prevent widespread disruption and significant strain on our healthcare system. As the pandemic phase of this response recedes into a more endemic response, the state will continue to operate in a state of readiness, keeping emergency response and public health systems prepared to respond and surge when needed.

“Throughout the pandemic, Coloradans have displayed our resilience. Because of everyone’s sacrifices, we are where we are today — in a place where we are able to more safely enjoy the things we love. We want every Coloradan to have the freedom that comes with being healthy and well, and trust that we will be ready to tackle the next challenge,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director, CDPHE. “Our commitment to Coloradans is to learn from the past 23 months and be prepared for the next wave and the next pandemic.” 

Colorado’s Roadmap forward outlines the four main steps the state will be taking  to maintain a level of preparedness and agility in order to keep Coloradans safe and healthy in the event of exacerbated or new public health challenges, and includes: 

  1. Establishing Hospital Readiness Standards, Surge Planning and Normalizing COVID Patient Care in Traditional Medical Settings: Ensuring health care systems are prepared for future response efforts and normalizing COVID-19 treatment and prevention back into traditional healthcare settings.
  2. Ensuring Public Health Readiness and Surge Capacity: Building on lessons learned so the public health and emergency management fields can expand and contract for disease control and other emergency needs.
  3. Investing in Healthcare Workforce Stabilization and Expansion: Stabilizing the current workforce and building and maintaining a sustainable health care workforce for the future.
  4. Engaging the Federal Government in National Endemic Response, Pandemic Readiness and Needed Reforms: Striving for a national plan for pandemic readiness and response, and investing in the public health system, including an updated and interoperable national surveillance system, and flexible, non-categorical funding to allow flexibility and increase the public health workforce.

In the coming days, Governor Polis and state public health officials will urge the federal government to implement a national strategy for long-term COVID planning as Colorado and states across the country pursue strategies to manage the pandemic while minimizing the impacts on social and economic well being of Americans. The Polis Administration also strongly urges the Federal Drug Administration to approve the vaccine for all ages. 

“This roadmap demonstrates that as we transition from the pandemic response into a new chapter where we can use more routine disease control tactics, we will not only be ready for if and when something changes, but we will build stronger and more resilient systems for the future,“ said Scott Bookman, COVID-19 incident commander, CDPHE. “Vaccinated Coloradans can now enjoy more freedom from this virus, but as Coloradans we should be nimble and flexible. I ask all Coloradans to continue to be our partners in this as we move Colorado forward.” 

“As a nurse and frontline healthcare worker, I know first hand how much pressure has been placed upon our workforce. We need to do as much as possible to ensure we’re taking care of our healthcare workforce by developing a training pipeline and making sure we are adequately staffing our healthcare facilities,” said State Representative Kyle Mullica. 

“We welcome the Governor’s fact-based roadmap forward, which includes critical support for the healthcare workforce, specifically assuring Colorado nurses safer work environments. Investments in healthcare readiness allow the medical community to develop stronger and more resilient systems, and ensure a sustainable workforce for the future,” said Colleen Casper,  Director of Practice and Government Affairs, Colorado Nurses Association.

In an effort to get even more Coloradans vaccinated, the administration worked closely with  primary care providers across the state to ensure Coloradans could visit their trusted family doctor to get the lifesaving vaccine. 

“The Governor’s roadmap provides a pragmatic path forward for the medical community and our state. We applaud the significant investments in healthcare workforce and expansion, and the support for healthcare readiness standards that enable us to better prepare for the future. Every step of the pandemic we have worked in collaboration with state leadership, and we look forward to continuing this partnership on the path forward, together,” said Craig Anthony, MD, FAAFP, President, Colorado Academy of Family Physicians.

The administration prioritized equity from the outset of the pandemic response to improve health outcomes for historically medically-underserved communities, including but not limited to communities of color, the LGBTQ+ community, people who live in rural areas, people experiencing homeless, and people with disabilities. Colorado’s State COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Team played a vital role in providing accurate and culturally-relevant information about vaccines. In partnership with dozens of community-based organizations and health providers, more than 4,740 equity pop-up clinics and mobile vaccine clinics combined have administered over 763,000 doses to date.

“Throughout the pandemic, the Polis Administration was steadfast in its commitment to equity, making sure Latino communities had access to the vaccine and resources they needed to endure the pandemic. As we transition out of the emergency and back to a more normal existence, I am confident that the Administration will use the lessons we’ve learned to continue to dismantle structural inequities that hurt us all. We know we’re stronger as a state when nobody is left behind,” said Nita Gonzales, former State COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Team Lead and community health partner at Servicios De La Raza.

The roadmap provides guidance for Coloradans based on their risk level and susceptibility to becoming infected or spreading COVID-19: 

  • If you are fully vaccinated and up to date with all three doses: You should feel comfortable living life as normal. 
  • If you are vaccinated, but immunocompromised or high-risk: Take necessary steps to protect yourself and proactively speak with a health care provider about a potential fourth dose of the vaccine, preventive treatment options, and what to do if you test positive. 
  • If you are not fully vaccinated: Get fully vaccinated with three doses as you are still at risk of contracting severe disease even with the emergence of variants that cause less severe disease in fully vaccinated people. 

“I’m proud of how Coloradans came together during this pandemic. Thanks to the comprehensive testing and vaccination systems developed by the State, it’s time now to get back to our communities' new normal. The Governor's road map is a great way to achieve this goal as we move forward together,” said Commissioner Eva J. Henry, District 1 - Adams County.

The administration and our state will be ready to surge the response should COVID-19 require it, and will continue to advocate for increased level of readiness in the private sector and on the local, state and federal levels.

“Colorado should be proud. We put our communities first. It was not easy. We scrambled at all levels of government and made mistakes. We lost too many, but looking back our response also saved many lives and supported our economies throughout.  I hope we can take the deep unity we had in the early days of the pandemic into building an even stronger Colorado,” said Hilary Cooper, San Miguel County Commissioner.

“This plan forward will serve all areas of Colorado well. The State’s efforts to provide testing and vaccines have been effective in allowing us to move forward to the next phase. I am excited for communities to have a path forward that looks a lot more normal,” said Barbara Bynum - City Councilor - City of Montrose.