Polis: Colorado General Public Will Get Vaccines Before Rest of U.S.

A recent portrait of Governor Jared Polis.
A recent portrait of Governor Jared Polis.
During a nationally televised address on March 11, President Joe Biden said that the general public across the country will be eligible to sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations no later than May 1. But Colorado aims to beat that date by weeks.

"We're very competitive," Governor Jared Polis said during his own address on March 12. As a result, all adult Coloradans should have a chance to enter into the inoculation line by mid-April, he noted.

Polis, joined by Brigadier General Scott Sherman and COVID Incident Commander Scott Bookman, whom he referred to jointly as "the Scotts," began his address with an update on major statistics related to the novel coronavirus: 1,291 newly reported positive cases and 303 hospitalizations today. Both of these numbers represent increases from earlier in the week, and while Polis acknowledged that "we don't yet know if that's a trend or a normal, daily fluctuation," he stressed that the percentage of state residents who've been vaccinated isn't yet high enough to take future spikes off the table.

For that reason, Polis reinforced the importance of following long-established safety protocols such as wearing masks in public, maintaining a physical distance of at least six feet from others, and avoiding gathering with individuals from different households — unless, that is, members of both groups have been fully vaccinated. Under that scenario, indoor gatherings without facial coverings are seen as relatively safe.

Then Polis discussed vaccine prioritization. On March 5, a group of approximately one million people — anyone age sixty and over, as well as agriculture workers and individuals with at least two high-risk conditions — became eligible in the state. The next group of around 2.5 million Coloradans, encompassing the fifty-and-over crowd, front-line essential workers such as restaurant employees and people with one high-risk condition, had a previously estimated eligibility date of March 21, but that's now been moved up to March 19. As for the mid-April launch of the general-public phase, Polis predicted that more specifics will be available in the next week or two.

In the meantime, General Sherman noted, the state is working hard to set up six large-scale community vaccination sites across the state; locations include the Grand Junction Convention Center, the Broadmoor World Arena, Dick's Sporting Goods Field, The Ranch in Larimer County, the Pueblo State Fairgrounds and Denver's Ball Arena (formerly the Pepsi Center). All of the centers are expected to be up and running no later than early April, with several expected to go into operation sooner; at full capacity, they each should be able to vaccinate 6,000 people per day. More details about how the general public can schedule appointments will be coming soon, as will promotional campaigns intended to reassure those hesitant to get vaccinated about the safety and importance of doing so.

After making a brief reference to the storm expected to strike much of the state over the weekend (the Colorado National Guard has been activated through Monday, March 15), Polis stressed that vaccination appointments canceled because of inclement weather will be quickly rescheduled and no doses will go to waste.

And at the end of the session, Polis speculated about what life in Colorado will be like by June. "I'm encouraged by the rate of vaccinations," he said, "and I think we're in for a strong tourism season and very excited and relieved to be getting through this in the June and July time frame." In his view, the Fourth of July barbecues Biden discussed in his televised remarks will definitely be happening in Colorado, too.
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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