Coronavirus

Labor Day Weekend COVID Warnings You Hated Last Year Are Back

Governor Jared Polis during a September 1 visit to the Colorado State Fair.
Governor Jared Polis during a September 1 visit to the Colorado State Fair. colorado.gov
The eighteen-month mark for COVID-19 in Colorado will be reached over Labor Day weekend, and during a September 2 press conference, Governor Jared Polis delivered the same kinds of warnings about gatherings that he repeatedly dispensed prior to holidays last year — another indication that a fight that we hoped would be over by now hasn't been called yet.

"It's important to recognize that the Delta variant is prevalent at high levels in the community," Polis said. "So before you fire up the grill, we encourage Coloradans to celebrate in small groups — perhaps your family, or two families. But we want to avoid superspreader events."

Polis started his talk with evidence that "our economy is roaring back": The income tax rate for next year will be reduced from 4.55 percent to 4.50 percent. But the developments weren't nearly as rosy when the topic shifted to COVID-19. Polis revealed that 796 people are currently hospitalized with the virus — a number that appears to have plateaued, but at a higher level than anyone would like. He added that of that total, 103 people had been vaccinated. But he stressed that many of those breakthrough cases involve people who are immunocompromised. Inoculations for those without such health challenges tend to either prevent infection entirely or lessen its impact in a significant way, he stated.

Regarding pediatric patients, there are currently five children younger than eleven who are hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, and six between the ages of twelve and seventeen. No members of the latter group had been immunized, Polis added, and since the vaccine has close to 100 percent efficacy for tweens and teens, he suggested that they wouldn't have needed such treatment had they simply gotten a shot. In his words, "There's no reason for someone twelve to seventeen to be in the hospital, because it's all but entirely preventable."

Right now, the vaccination rate for twelve-to-seventeen-year-old Coloradans is only at around 54 percent, well behind the amount for adults, now in excess of 75 percent.

Next, Polis turned his attention to a new, federally funded program that will provide grants to primary-care doctors who make the vaccine available at their offices and step up outreach to patients — the idea being that a conversation with a trusted physician could convince people hesitant about being dosed to roll up their sleeve. On hand to hype the new effort were Dr. Aaron Shupp, a family medicine specialist with Rocky Mountain Primary Care, and Dr. Marc Moss, division head for the pulmonary sciences and critical care medicine unit at the University of Colorado School of Medicine's Anschutz campus. But Moss quickly moved on from the benefits of the grants to the impact of the disease.

With great passion and evident frustration, Moss said that caring for so many unvaccinated patients is threatening to "break the souls of my colleagues. ... Many health-care workers are simply exhausted." He cited a recent survey revealing that one out of three health-care workers are thinking about leaving the profession. He encouraged people to get vaccinated on behalf of all the medical practitioners in the state, noting, "No one else needs to die from this preventable disease."

After seconding that emotion, Polis pitched another federal offer: payments for students who agree to be regularly tested for COVID-19. Families that sign up will receive a $25 gift card and a $10 weekly stipend.

Amid these talking points, Polis sprinkled in the sorts of safety tips that recall warnings from a year and a half ago, advising folks to wear facial coverings in public and to avoid large gatherings. Regarding Labor Day, he recommended getting together in the great outdoors — "Outside is better than inside," he said — and suggested that if everyone attending a barbecue or similar bash were vaccinated, concerns about spreading the virus would be lessened, if not eliminated entirely.

"Pandemics don't take holidays," he reminded listeners. "We want to make sure we're thoughtful and careful. ... The last thing we want to see is Labor Day leading to another potential spike that might jeopardize our hospital capacity."

Only then did Polis say "Happy Labor Day."
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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