At a June 2 press conference about the state's ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Jared Polis shared the details of a contest that will award $50,000 scholarships to 25 kids in the twelve-to-seventeen age range who've been vaccinated. But he also offered some spin related to the previously announced series of five $1 million drawings for immunized Coloradans eighteen and older. While he noted that officials weren't expecting a big surge in the number of people getting shots — a good thing, because there hasn't been one yet — he explained that they merely wanted to prevent a precipitous decline in participation.
Without the announcement of the Colorado Comeback Cash drawings, Polis maintained that there would have been a "greater drop-off in interest" because "those most excited got vaccinated early on. The danger is that others will put it off like most of us would put off going to the dentist or getting a shot. We're giving them a reason to do it now."
Before getting to the main items on the agenda, Polis offered updates from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment: 576 new COVID-19 cases, 456 people currently hospitalized in Colorado for treatment of the disease (thirteen fewer than the previous day), a positivity rate of 2.82 percent (well below the 5 percent threshold considered a danger sign) and 6,741 total casualties since the start of the pandemic. After expressing his condolences, Polis said that current stats demonstrate that "the virus is still very prevalent for people who haven't been vaccinated" — but for those who have, he added, "the pandemic is over for you. It is very low-risk to go about your normal activities."
Then came specifics about the scholarship offer, which, like Colorado Comeback Cash, is fueled by federal funds. Every Coloradan between the ages of twelve and seventeen is automatically registered once they've gotten at least one shot of the Pfizer vaccine (the only one approved for the demographic thus far). Then, starting on June 7, five winners will be named each week through Friday, July 9. The $50,000 will be placed in a CollegeInvest account, where it will grow over time; Polis suggested that the prize for a thirteen-year-old could amount to $60,000 or even $70,000 by the time they're old enough to use it. Moreover, the funds can be applied to multiple forms of post-secondary education: community colleges, universities, vocational programs and more.
After Dr. Angie Paccione, the Colorado Department of Higher Education's executive director, reinforced the message about the scholarships, Polis shifted to promoting another state program, called Power the Comeback. The campaign, which comes complete with a PSA that was screened during the event, encourages businesses to sign a pledge to encourage employees to get vaccinated and do their part to provide a COVID-safe environment for customers and staffers alike. Pat Meyers, the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade's executive director, and Tamil Maldonado, co-founder and vice president of Raíces Brewing Company, which has already signed up and created a new beer called Vaccinate to Victory Over COVID-19, offered their own variations on Polis's pitch.
During a brief question-and-answer session, Polis stressed that individuals vaccinated through the Department of Defense should soon be eligible for Colorado Comeback Cash, once the feds provide the necessary data. He then offered the same explanations as to why so many vaccinated Coloradans can't find their name on the state's immunization website that the CDPHE had earlier provided to Westword. Even if a name doesn't pop up, Polis stressed that everybody who's been inoculated is in the running, and suggested that a vaccination card is proof that those holding one are in the system...somewhere.
As for the vaccination rate since Colorado Comeback Cash was announced last week, Polis argued that the assorted contests will help the volume "sustain over time," since nearly half of the eligible population still hasn't received a shot. State officials are optimistic the drawings "are having an impact, and we think there will be even more impact when people see the winners," he concluded.
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