Most Grocery Shoppers Won't Wear Masks by July, Polis Predicts

At a February 26 vaccination event, Governor Jared Polis jammed a faux-hypodermic into an angry-looking COVID-19 piñata.EXPAND
At a February 26 vaccination event, Governor Jared Polis jammed a faux-hypodermic into an angry-looking COVID-19 piñata.
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Governor Jared Polis was upbeat about the state's vaccine supply during a March 2 press conference about Colorado's ongoing response to COVID-19 — so much so that he predicted unmasked consumers will outnumber those wearing facial coverings at retail outlets as soon as this summer. And for a change, that's all right with him.

When the state is closing in on vaccinations for 70 percent of its residents eighteen and older, "which we think will occur sometime in May," Polis said, "some will wear masks and some won't. In June and July in grocery stores, you might still see people wearing masks, but I don't think it will be the majority."

After updating basic statistics related to the novel coronavirus (776 new cases for the day, as well as 355 currently hospitalized with the virus), Polis noted that "the numbers seem to be stable, but they're stable at too high a number — a number that means more Coloradans will continue to die before this pandemic is over." For that reason, he encouraged residents to keep following basic safety recommendations: donning masks in public, maintaining a physical distance of six feet or more from others, and resisting the urge to socialize with individuals from different households.

According to Polis, 988,789 Coloradans have received at least their first dose of a vaccine — approximately one of every five adults. Moreover, the state's goal of vaccinating 70 percent of those seventy and up by February 28 was met, albeit with little room to spare. Polis revealed the number — 70.7 percent — following an actual drumroll sound effect.

This achievement should significantly bring down the death and hospitalization rates for the state once the seventy-and-over group reaches maximum protection from the vaccine, around two weeks after the second injection, he noted. While all vaccinations in the state so far have been with the Moderna or Pfizer product, the federal government has approved the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine; drawing from a conversation with the White House involving governors from across the country this morning, Polis divulged that 45,500 J&J doses should arrive in Colorado this week, none the week after, and possibly around 45,500 in the following week, before a more significant ramp-up. Moreover, he said, the flow of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines should increase, too, with Colorado expected to receive a total of 256,800 doses of assorted vaccines next week. By late March or early April, the state should be approaching 400,000 doses weekly.

By then, Polis said, six large vaccine distribution sites should be operational at locations across the state and will be prepared to handle the volume of additional groups eligible to receive the medication. People sixty and up, as well as those with at least two co-morbidities, are set to enter the vaccination pool on March 5, which marks exactly one year since the state's first COVID-19 infection. Those fifty and over, along with restaurant and grocery workers, among others, are still predicted to get their chance on or around March 21.

During a question-and-answer session with journalists, the discussion drifted to topics other than COVID-19, including the controversy over Polis's declaration of "Meat Out" day on March 20. Asked how he intends to mend fences with the meatpacking industry, Polis pointed out that he'll be visiting Cargill and JBS plants on March 5, when both are scheduled to stage vaccination events for their employees. (Hard to know what kind of reception he'll receive, but it could be similar to how he treated a coronavirus piñata last week, as seen in the photo at the top of this post.)

But Polis returned to the topic of vaccines to discuss the efficacy of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is considerably lower than that of Pfizer and Moderna. After emphasizing that the medications from all three manufacturers have been found to be nearly 100 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 deaths, he said that people will be able to see which vaccine each site has on hand when they sign up for their shots — and if they don't want Johnson & Johnson, they can simply elect to go to a location that offers either Pfizer or Moderna, though he conceded that this could push back finding an appointment.

In general, Polis's outlook was decidedly sunny. "I'm confident that summer will be very close to normal based on the vaccine predictions we have today," he allowed. "I'm very hopeful that people who want the vaccine will be able to access it in April and May, so they can have a summer that supplies everything Colorado has to offer."

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