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Polis says Colorado has just over 70% vaccination rate – including 12+ population

Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said 95.5% of new cases of COVID-19 are the delta variant.

DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) announced Monday that the vaccination rate in the state is now just over 70% of eligible Coloradans.

Polis said the number includes the younger population who weren't previously eligible for vaccination.

He did not make any additional mandates for masking nor vaccinations, but he did say, "If you’re around others in a busy place, it’s a good idea to wear a mask.”

Polis had previously announced that effective Sept. 20, the state will require that all unvaccinated state employees undergo twice-weekly testing for COVID-19 until the transmission of the virus reaches a lower level.

Polis made that announcement Friday following increased concern from public health officials about the more transmissible delta variant of COVID-19 leading to another wave of the virus.

“Based on President Biden’s announcement, newly-released information about the delta variant, and the rise in community spread across the country, the governor and department leaders informed state staff of a policy change for state workers to make our communities and workplaces safer,” Polis’ office said. “This policy enables state policy to be consistent with federal government employment policies.”

Polis also said they're monitoring what Israel is doing with giving a third shot to people over 60 years old, and they're calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to expedite a decision on whether or not a third shot is warranted. 

Polis' news conference on Monday came on the heels of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s announcement Monday that all Denver city and county employees will be required to be vaccinated by Sept. 30.

The order applies to the city's municipal workforce of more than 10,000 employees including police officers, firefighters, and sheriff’s deputies. It also applies to the workers in congregate-care settings.

The mandate, Hancock said, includes teachers, staff, and other employees working at Denver schools – including post-secondary schools.

Additionally, private-sector employees who work in high-risk areas must also get vaccinated by Sept. 30, Hancock said.

“Denver is now experiencing the most infectious strain of the virus – the delta variant, which is responsible for 90% of new cases statewide,” Hancock said. “To achieve the highest level of protection and recovery from the pandemic, especially among high-risk and vulnerable groups, we need to maximize vaccinations as quickly as possible, and mandates will do just that.”

RELATED: Denver requiring COVID vaccinations for all city employees, workers in high-risk settings

>Video below: Full press conference from Denver Mayor Michael Hancock regarding vaccine mandates

RELATED: Polis to require regular COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated state employees

When asked, Polis said he had not yet had time to review what Hancock's new mandates were, though he did say that some county governments, like Denver, are going "above and beyond" what the state is requiring. 

Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), said Monday that hospitalization rates are about five or six times higher for those who aren't vaccinated.

Herlihy said that 95.5% of new cases of COVID-19 are the delta variant. 

Additionally, Herlihy said breakthrough cases are occurring more with the Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer vaccines and less with the Moderna vaccine.

The unvaccinated, Herlihy said, are the ones who have the most work that needs to be done. She said they're the group that needs to "mask up," get tested regularly, and, of course, get vaccinated.

Polis is aiming to get the state's vaccination rate to 80% – which he said will be harder than it was going from 0% to 70%

More than 3.4 million Coloradans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

In a previous briefing on July 21, Polis said that 95.7% of COVID hospitalizations between January and the end of June were among people who were not fully vaccinated, and said the rate was similar for deaths among COVID patients.

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