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Gov. Polis urges residents to 'live life normally' amid COVID-19

State leaders also revealed a four-step plan to make sure the state and health care system is prepared for any future public health challenge.

DENVER — Health and state leaders said Friday that Coloradans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can "live life normally."

"When we say normal, it's where many Coloradans have been for six months to a year or where other Coloradans are getting today," said Gov. Jared Polis (D). "Or where some Coloradans won't be for a few months and all of those are totally fine."

He went on to say that for those who are fully vaccinated and not immunocompromised, the risk of death or hospitalization from the virus is "very low."

Three primary factors mean Colorado is now in an endemic rather than a pandemic state, which means the virus is still present, but not disruptive in the way that it once was.

The factors include:

  • Wide availability of a vaccine that reduces the risk of death from COVID-19
  • Effective therapies to treat COVID-19
  • High level of immunity due to vaccination or infection

The state also released its roadmap for moving forward.

"We hope this plan forward can reduce the likelihood of future emergencies," said Polis. "We fully expect that there will be a seasonal impact of COVID-19, based on the limited data we have that seems likely."

The Roadmap Forward has four main steps that will make sure the state is ready for future health emergencies.

  1. Establishing hospital readiness standards and surge planning
  2. Ensuring public health readiness and surge capacity
  3. Investing in health care workforce stabilization and expansion 
  4. Engaging with the federal government for a national endemic response and reforming pandemic readiness

"We need to ensure that we have stable, reliable, and predictable amount of surge capacity in our hospitals both for staffed beds and for equipment such as personal protective equipment, ventilators, and other needed supplies," said COVID-19 Incident Commander Scott Bookman. 

As part of the plan, the state is urging the federal government to implement a national strategy for long-term COVID planning. Polis said they've already shared ideas about the need for federal reforms with the White House.

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State leaders said it's possible a new, more-severe variant may emerge or large-scale immunity could wane, which could result in a resurgence of the virus. If that happens the state may need to move back into a pandemic response.

However, the current lull is expected to last several months, which should provide time to plan and prepare for that possibility.

Polis said Friday that while masks may not be required across the board it's a good idea to have one with you.

"We want to respect any setting that requires it," he said. "Medical settings often require it, universities and colleges there might be areas of the state where the public health situation requires it."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday will significantly loosen federal mask-wearing guidelines on Friday, sources tell the Associated Press. The CDC will announce a change to the metrics it uses to determine whether to recommend face coverings.

The new guidance means most Americans will no longer be advised to wear masks in indoor public settings.

The new policy comes as the Biden administration moves to shift its focus to preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19, rather than all instances of infection, as part of a strategy adjustment for a new “phase" in the response as the virus becomes endemic.

RELATED: CDC to significantly ease pandemic mask guidelines Friday

The public health order requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all City and County of Denver employees and contractors will be lifted March 4 at 11:59 p.m.

Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE) said the order in the city for private-sector workers in high-risk settings will also be lifted.

DDPHE said the one-week positivity rate of COVID-19 cases in Denver has dropped below 5% and modeling suggests lifting the vaccine mandate will not have a negative impact on this trend.

DDPHE said declining COVID case numbers, in addition to vaccinations and boosters being free and widely available to the public, now make it possible to transition to a longer-term approach that treats COVID-19 as an endemic disease and reserves public health orders for urgent situations.

RELATED: Denver to lift vaccine requirement for city employees

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