Gov. Jared Polis, at a pivotal time in the evolution of the pandemic in Colorado, led a cautiously optimistic news briefing Tuesday during which he referred to the state being in “the final months of the pandemic” and announced the state had reached its vaccination goal related to people 70 and older.
With the aid of theatrics — he called for a drum roll, the audio of which was supplied by the briefing’s producers — Polis announced that 70.7% of Coloradans had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Feb. 28. The state’s goal had been to vaccinate at least 70% by that date.
That percentage equates to 397,531 Coloradans, Polis said. The state prioritizes people 70 and older for vaccine distribution, because they accounted for so many COVID deaths and severe cases — 78% of COVID deaths in Colorado were among that group, which remains the priority even as the state prepares to further widen vaccine eligibility on March 5.
Polis highlighted some other good COVID news — the imminent addition of Johnson & Johnson one-shot doses to Colorado’s vaccine distribution regime. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine earned FDA emergency use authorization over the weekend, and the state expects to receive an initial allocation of 45,500 doses this week. By the week of April 11, Colorado expects to receive 101,400 Johnson & Johnson doses per week, and a total, including the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, of 405,600 doses per week.
These developments led Polis to make a prediction: “I’m confident that summer will be very close to normal.”
Such hope comes against a backdrop of potential setbacks. The state since mid-January had experienced a steady decrease in COVID cases, hitting a seven-day average low of 931 new daily cases on Feb. 19, according to state data. That figure has since gone up, or “leveled out,” as the governor put it Tuesday. State public health officials during a news briefing on Monday acknowledged the potential danger of coronavirus variants, such as the B.1.1.7 strain from the U.K.
“Certainly variants are concerning and could be a setback,” state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy said during the briefing.
Polis pleaded with Coloradans to continue taking precautions, such as mask-wearing, social distancing, and limiting social interactions.
Starting Friday, vaccine eligibility will include people age 60 and older, those with multiple serious health conditions, and grocery and agricultural employees.
For more information about how to sign up for vaccination, visit cocovidvaccine.org or call 1-877-CO VAX CO (1-877-268-2926).