DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) stressed the importance of vaccinating residents 70 and older during a Friday update on the state's response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Polis said it will still be a few more months until high-risk populations reach the levels of immunization that could allow for an easing of social distancing and mask guidelines.
He also said it will be a few months before the impact of vaccinations is reflected among hospitalizations.
“With the limited quantity we have today, we need to focus on getting it in the arms of those 70 and up,” Polis said.
Currently, the state is receiving about 70,000 vaccines per week. There are an estimated 187,000 people in Phase 1A, which includes high-risk healthcare workers and residents and staff at long-term care facilities. Phase 1B includes about 1.3 million people.
Polis said that many areas in the state have already finished Phase 1A and have moved on to Phase 1B.
However, there are potential avenues towards increasing the state's vaccine supply and the timeline for vaccinations.
One potential solution is splitting the Moderna vaccine into smaller doses, increasing its overall supply. Polis said that studies point towards the Moderna vaccine maintaining efficacy at smaller doses, especially in younger people.
Another factor that may increase supply is a decision from the incoming Biden administration to release all vaccine doses immediately.
Currently, the first of a necessary two doses is shipped first, and the second dose is shipped at a later date, according to Polis.
Polis said that may lead to lower vaccine supplies in some weeks compared to others, but still believed that it would increase the overall vaccination effort.
Polis also said he is not concerned about storing more doses of vaccines, as only the Pfizer vaccine requires special refrigeration, and he said there is plenty of space for more doses.
>> Watch the video below about Gov. Polis COVID-19 update.
Polis was joined by State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy with the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE), who provided an update on the state's modeling data.
Herlihy said there are early signs of an increase in cases after the holidays, and said that an estimated 1 out of every 105 Coloradans are actively contagious with COVID-19.
Hospitalizations are still around the levels of the April peak, but overall hospitalizations have been trending downward, according to Herlihy.
Polis said the decrease in hospitalizations, from about 1,600 to 900 a day, contributed to his decision to lower all counties in the state from Level Red to Level Orange on the COVID-19 dial.
Polis also said that there was a significant decrease in the number of tests being administered daily that has only just recovered.
"We have suffered from a major decrease in testing over the new year's period that has only now recovered to the level of testing (40,000 to 50,000 a day) that gives us more visibility," Polis said.
Polis said that only recently has there been enough of a recovery in testing that provides a clear picture of the state's COVID situation.
On Wednesday, Polis extended an executive order mandating Coloradans wear masks in public places for the ninth time.
The original order was issued April 17, 2020, and directed essential workers and those in government functions to wear masks. The mandate became statewide to all Coloradans over the age of 10 and for all indoor, public places on July 16, 2020.
As of Jan. 7, 38 states plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. have mask mandates. The dozen that do not mandate masks statewide either strongly recommend it or have partial mandates in place. In those states, many local governments do have those requirements for their residents.
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