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Polis makes appeal for safe Thanksgiving as state hits 'height of infection'

The governor asked people to spend the holiday with those in their own household while the virus' current trajectory could double the state's number of deaths.

DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis held a briefing Tuesday to encourage Coloradans to celebrate Thanksgiving safely, while state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy presented data showing deaths in Colorado could more than double by the end of the year.

During the briefing at the Governor's Residence, Polis (D-Colorado) also announced a task force aimed to help K-12 schools statewide return to in-person learning in January.

Two days before Thanksgiving, 1-in-41 Coloradans is contagious with COVID-19, which is the "height of infection" for the state, the governor said. Colorado had 4,150 newly reported cases on Tuesday.

"Now is not a time to be fearful, but a time to be cautious," Polis said as he talked about how he won't be having his 76-year-old parents over for Thanksgiving and will instead celebrate with his immediate family.

"We care deeply about our parents, our own health, our kids' future," he said. "We love them too much and they love us too much to put them at risk."

RELATED: Tips for safely celebrating Thanksgiving amid COVID-19 pandemic

For those who decide to celebrate the holiday with multiple households coming together, the governor asked people to take precautions like wearing a mask and social distancing: "It's up to you. Personal responsibility."

Herlihy shared data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) that show signs of a stabilization in case numbers, but not in hospitalizations.

Under the current trajectory, the state will exceed its ICU bed capacity by mid-January; however, an increase in transmission control could keep the state well below that level, Herlihy said.

RELATED: Colorado ICUs are filling up with COVID-19 patients

Similarly, the current trajectory shows a big increase in deaths from the virus. Herlihy said the state has had about 2,800 deaths due to COVID-19 so far, and that number could reach 6,600 deaths by the end of the year, at the current rate of transmission control.

"It has to do with the amount of disease transmission that we're seeing right now," Herlihy said. "At that high rate, we're going to see an increasing number of deaths occur in the state."

RELATED: Polis signs order allowing state to order hospitals to transfer or stop seeing more patients in light of COVID outbreak

On Monday, Polis signed an executive order that authorizes CDPHE to order hospitals and freestanding emergency rooms to transfer or cease the admission of patients should those facilities reach “capacity to examine and treat patients.”

To improve transmission control, Coloradans must do three main things, Herlihy said:

  • Don't gather with people you don't live with.
  • Wear a mask when outside the home.
  • Stay 6 feet away from others at all times.

At the briefing, Polis also announced a state task force meeting for the first time on Wednesday that will help K-12 schools statewide get students back to in-person learning in January. He said schools are a safe and regulated environment, and he pledged support and funding to districts and school boards.

"We can't let the future of our kids become another casualty of this pandemic," he said.

 Other topics discussed in the briefing:

  • Some businesses, towns and counties have announced they won't follow the rules of their county being moved to "severe risk" red level on the state's COVID-19 dial. Polis said every business must follow the law, and those that violate a public health order could find their license restricted or revoked.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chose Colorado as one of 10 states that will participate in a readiness test for COVID-19 vaccine distribution. "We're very excited about this because it will allow us to have a dry run," Polis said.
  • When asked about the national response to the pandemic, Polis said the "first round" in the spring was well-done, and "then it's like Congress and the president forgot about it. There's blame on both sides." He said they need to work together to provide economic relief to Americans.
  • Polis ended the briefing with some holiday cheer. "On behalf of the state of Colorado, I want to wish everybody a happy and safe Thanksgiving."

RELATED: Colorado submits vaccine distribution plan as cases continue to increase

RELATED: Colorado coronavirus latest numbers, Nov. 24

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