During a February 2 press conference about Colorado's response to COVID-19, Governor Jared Polis revealed that at-home testing kits that are already being given out to educators and school personnel should also be available soon for employees at restaurants and other front-line businesses.
Polis said a firm date for distributing the Abbott BinaxNOW kits to staffers at eateries and other enterprises should be unveiled in the coming days — and added that a just-confirmed source of funding is likely to expedite the process even further.
As of February 2, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials had counted 935 new cases of the novel coronavirus, and there were 529 patients presently hospitalized for treatment of the disease — figures that are still quite high, Polis admitted, but are staying fairly stable. Meanwhile, the number of Coloradans who've received at least their first dose of the vaccine is at 473,977 and should surpass half a million soon. But this total only represents about 8 percent of the state's population, and the number of those who've gotten both doses is just over 143,000, or approximately 2 percent.
While Polis said that it's "very exciting to see" that around half of those age seventy and up — the top priority right now — have gotten inoculation number one, he conceded that it's "still a very low number that's been protected...and from an epidemiological standpoint, it's not yet significant." And so he continued to encourage everyone in the state to wear masks in public, maintain six feet or more of physical distance from others, and socialize only with members of their immediate household.
Once again, Polis talked about how easy it is for the seventy-and-over crowd to sign up for vaccinations, only to immediately undermine this message by rattling off a dizzying number of web addresses and toll-free phone numbers for providers such as Denver Health, Centura, UCHealth, Kaiser Permanente and more. He also admitted that vaccine equity remains a serious problem, since moneyed Caucasians are receiving shots at a much higher rate than are low-income community-of-color members. He highlighted partnerships with neighborhood organizations and institutions of faith as a way of bridging the gap in terms of access, and pledged greater efforts to reassure those who worry about vaccine dangers despite scientific evidence aplenty about its safety.
In recent days, Polis personally delivered some of the BinaxNOW kits to teachers and school support folks along the Front Range. The state ordered two million kits, about half of which are expected to be used for educators. That leaves another million that should be available for workers at restaurants and other businesses that serve patrons directly, and Polis suggested that paying for the give-outs should be easier after news shared with governors by the White House coronavirus task force during a conference call earlier that day. The feds promised to reimburse 100 percent of states' expenditures for items such as personal protective equipment going back to the start of the pandemic, presumably resulting in a windfall that can be repurposed for efforts such as dispensing the test kits. As a bonus, the task force is also releasing more vaccine directly to approximately fifty pharmacies in the state — probably around 5,000 to 10,000 extra doses.
This medication will come in handy on Monday, February 8, when the pool of individuals approved for vaccinations is expanded to everyone age 65 and up, as well as teachers and child-care professionals.
After playing some clips from a new safety campaign called "Do Colorado Right," in which celebrities such as Olympic gold medalist Red Gerard offer tips about how to visit resorts safely (an important message given rising case counts in places with large ski areas, including Eagle County), Polis took questions. Several reporters focused on concerns that seventy-year-olds will have to wait longer to be vaccinated because of broadened eligibility; he responded by expressing his confidence that 70 percent of those seventy and up will get their first shots by the end of February, as planned.
As for proposed changes to the state's dial dashboard, Polis predicted that a draft will be finalized by week's end. The new rules are expected to stick around until sometime in March, when one more dial adjustment will be put forward before the pandemic is declared over once and for all.
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