Coronavirus

Polis: Omicron Will Become Colorado's Dominant COVID Variant

Governor Jared Polis and Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman at a December 16 press conference about the fight against COVID-19 at the Aurora Municipal Center vaccination site.
Governor Jared Polis and Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman at a December 16 press conference about the fight against COVID-19 at the Aurora Municipal Center vaccination site. colorado.gov
Governor Jared Polis's December 16 discussion of Colorado's ongoing fight against COVID-19 was less a press conference than a photo opportunity, in which he and Aurora mayor Mike Coffman promoted the importance of initial immunizations and follow-up booster shots against the backdrop of the bustling vaccination site at the Aurora Municipal Center.

But Polis did impart some fresh information about the Omicron variant of the disease. He noted that a fifth case of Omicron has now been confirmed in Colorado, stressed that boosters are absolutely key when it comes to keeping vaccinated individuals safe from the strain, and said, "It's only a matter of time before it becomes the prevalent variant in Colorado."

At the outset, Polis noted that more than 10,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Colorado, adding to a U.S. total that's exceeded 800,000. After expressing condolences for these losses, the governor revealed that as of today, 1,227 people are receiving treatment for the virus in Colorado hospitals — and just 176 of them are vaccinated. He used this disparity to highlight the level of protection against the most serious outcomes afforded by the various vaccines.

Polis also touted inoculation percentages in the state, noting that 81 percent of Coloradans twelve and up have been dosed, along with 26 percent of children between five and eleven; the state ranks ninth-highest in the country in that category. Moreover, he divulged that people who have gotten boosted are 47 times less likely to require hospitalizations than unvaccinated individuals. With Omicron rising, Polis suggested that boosters are even more important for those who are planning to travel for Christmas or New Year's.

After noting that the vaccination site at the Aurora Municipal Center is open seven days a week and requires no appointments in advance, Polis introduced Coffman, who said that everyone eligible to be vaccinated should roll up their sleeves in order to protect themselves, their family, their co-workers and their community, then repeated the same thing in halting Spanish. Polis returned to the podium seconds later and reeled off more Spanish comments in a much smoother fashion — an unintentionally hilarious contrast.

In response to questions, Polis noted that hospital capacity has improved from its near-crisis status a few weeks ago, and underscored that medical supplies are available in abundance, as is monoclonal antibody therapy for those who have mild COVID symptoms; he again acknowledged that treatment supply far exceeds demand. He also emphasized that medical care for those with the most serious cases has improved dramatically since the original strain of the disease was discovered in Colorado almost 22 months ago.

Nonetheless, thousands more Coloradans died from COVID-19 in Colorado in 2021 than in 2020.
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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