Governor Polis urges hesitant Coloradans to get vaccinated

BY FREDA MIKLIN
GOVERNMENTAL REPORTER

Governor Polis is asking everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as the delta variant is now dominant.

At a press conference on August 2, Governor Polis said that COVID-19 case number and hospitalization numbers were going up in Colorado, just as they are around the country. Announcing that there are 358 people currently hospitalized with the virus in our state, compared to about 275 last week, the governor repeatedly urged all eligible Coloradans who have not done so to get vaccinated. Like President Biden and countless other elected and health officials around the country, Polis repeatedly emphasized that getting everyone who is eligible vaccinated is the most effective tool for defeating COVID-19 in Colorado and everywhere else.

Appearing with Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist, the governor said he expects hospitalization numbers “to get worse before they get better.” Over 70 percent of all eligible Coloradans, age 12 and up, are now vaccinated, and over 72 percent of all adults are vaccinated, but we “need to get to 80 percent” of adults. 

Polis said, “This is largely an epidemic of the unvaccinated,” and to those who are hesitating to rolling up their sleeves, he said, “You are more likely to get struck by lighting than you are likely to experience side effects of the vaccine… It couldn’t be more clear. Go to covid19.colorado.gov to see where you can just walk in and get a vaccine.” While supplies last, there are locations around the state where you will also receive a $100 Walmart gift card when you get the vaccine.

This graph illustrates that those who are not yet vaccinated against COVID-19 are far more likely to get sick enough to require a hospital stay if they get the virus.

Beginning September 20, Colorado’s 30,000 state employees will have to be vaccinated or undergo testing for COVID-19 twice each week, similar to federal employees all over the country. In Denver, Mayor Hancock issued a Public Health Order on August 2 that requires that all, “10,000 employees of the City and County of Denver, including police, firefighters, and sheriff’s deputies, along with workers in congregate-care settings such as nursing homes, hospitals, and correctional facilities, as well as teachers and staff in schools and post-secondary institutions will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by September 30.” 

Dr. Rachel Herlihy is the Colorado State Epidemiologist.

After the governor confirmed that the requirement to get vaccinated or be tested regularly only applied to state employees, The Villager reached out to Arapahoe County to find out if a similar action was planned there. Luc Hatlestad, Arapahoe County public information officer, told us that there are no immediate plans to take a similar action, but, “We’re tracking all the developments and taking our cues from Tri-County Health officials.”

In response to a question about what he is doing to encourage Coloradans who have not yet taken the vaccine to do so, Polis pointed to the success of the Walmart $100 gift card program, saying that vaccinations have increased 39 percent since it began. He also noted that the state has buses that serve as mobile vaccination units. Employers can arrange to have one of those buses come to their parking lot to vaccinate employees by request. One bus is permanently stationed in Mesa County full time, where, according to the Mesa County Department of Public Health, only 43 percent of residents were fully vaccinated as of July 28.

This illustrates a higher rate of breakthrough cases of COVID-19 among those who got the Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) vaccine and the Pfizer vaccine than those who received the Moderna vaccine.

Dr. Herlihy also emphasized that it is the unvaccinated who are getting sick and, “the vaccine is the best tool to control the pandemic in this state.” She said that since July, 87 percent of hospitalizations and 97 percent of COVID-19 deaths have been of the unvaccinated. 

When the governor was asked whether the delta variant, now dominant in Colorado, will impact the state’s economy, Polis said.  “Colorado still has one of the lower rates of infection nationally so I don’t think this will discourage tourism.” He also confirmed that he does not expect any significant interruptions to in-school learning this year.

When Dave Perry of the Aurora Sentinel asked the governor, “What’s the argument against a statewide indoor mask mandate?” Polis said it wasn’t necessary because, “There is not an emergency.” He also pointed to the fact that, “Masks offer 50 percent protection against infection while the vaccine offers 80 percent protection against infection and almost complete protection from getting seriously ill.”

fmiklin.villager@gmail.com