DENVER — As Colorado nears the two-year mark since COVID-19 was first detected in the state, Gov. Jared Polis said fully vaccinated individuals should feel free and comfortable to live their life normally.
In what his team called a "major announcement in response to the pandemic," Polis said it's "time to turn the page and start a new chapter" after 23 months of an aggressive and innovative pandemic response. He also introduced a four-step roadmap to outline how the state will move forward.
"There is no claiming victory with regards to the virus," he said. "The virus is here and will likely be here for the rest of our lives. But it is time to acknowledge that we have reached a point in Colorado where Coloradans who are fully vaccinated can freely live without undue fear. ... Live your life, don't feel guilty."
More than 90% of Coloradans have immunity against severe reactions from the omicron variant of COVID-19, he said. This doesn't mean that transmission will cease — it will, he said. That's why the state is continuing to urge people to get vaccinated. To find a vaccination site near you, visit covid19.colorado.gov.
"You've done your part, Colorado, and you've earned the right to move beyond the pandemic in your lives," Polis said. "And we as a state are here to help you do that and prepare just as aggressively as we fought in the days of the last two years for the path ahead and whatever nature throws our way."
Polis acknowledged that COVID-19 may have "some seasonality" to it, and there may be a time in the future when more vaccines are required to keep the high level of resistance. However, that is not the case right now, he said.
Polis and CDPHE COVID-19 Incident Commander Scott Bookman outlined a four-step roadmap to ensure Coloradans are ready if and when immunity fades or a new variant hits.
It includes these major points:
- Hospital readiness
- Public health readiness and surge planning
- Healthcare workforce expansion
- Engaging in federal government reform
"It also builds stronger and more resilient systems to strengthen our future response," Polis said. "It's about being ready for the future."
Bookman explained these four steps in-depth. Those slides are copied below. The state has also published a 13-page detailed report on how the roadmap will work.
The roadmap will include the many hard-learned lessons in the past two years, Polis said, adding that Colorado is only at this point thanks to the hard work of individuals across the state, from health care professionals to people who masked up when and where necessary.
If conditions change, the state will communicate the next steps forward, Polis said.
"Colorado is ready to move forward and we're ready to make sure that it happens in the right way," he said.
During the press conference, CDPHE Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan detailed the success stories from the past couple years.
"Together we have achieved a lot," she said. "As the governor mentioned, Colorado has the 10th lowest death rate in the United States and throughout the pandemic, we have never exceeded the cumulative death rate of the U.S. average. We're in a really good place as we sit here today."
About 81% of Coloradans have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and the state is 10th in the country for residents with a third dose. Due to this, plus the omicron wave, about 90% of residents are now immune to severe disease from that variant, she said, meaning the state can take a "breather."
She listed some widespread wins from the past two years:
- In March 2020, the CDC sent Colorado enough supplies to test about 160 people per day at the state lab. Today, that has increased to 50,000 per day.
- Colorado has stood up 150 free community test sites across the state
- More than 18 million tests have been processed as of today
- Colorado was the first state in the U.S. to launch a free, rapid at-home test program, which the federal government has replicated
- More than 2.5 million rapid tests have been delivered to Coloradans through the state
- Colorado's state lab has new technology to monitor the spread of the virus, including testing wastewater samples as an early warning system
- Colorado had six large state-run vaccination sites and hosted 2,134 pop-up clinics and 2,613 mobile vaccine clinics
- More than 2,000 providers are enrolled statewide to give vaccinations. As of now 10.2 million doses have been administered
- As of now, 3.9 million people in Colorado are fully vaccinated