By Freda Miklin – Governmental Reporter
When Governor Polis was asked by a reporter on June 2 whether it was right to pay people up to $1,000,000 as a reward for getting a vaccine to protect them from COVID-19, the governor answered that he expects the million-dollar rewards and the $50,000 being given to 25 lucky teenagers who have been vaccinated will encourage some people to get vaccinated sooner than they otherwise might have. He added that the money was being paid from “federal funds (the CARES Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020) that are for the purpose of marketing and promoting the vaccine.” In other words, the money comes from taxpayers across the country, not just Colorado.
At a press conference on June 3, Heather Roth, Immunization Branch Chief, Division of Disease Control and Public Health Response, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) explained that everyone who has received their vaccination in Colorado should assume that they are in the state database, hence eligible for the cash prizes, even if they get an error message when they check the portal at https://ciis.state.co.us/public/Application/PublicPortal. Roth explained that error messages appear because the log-in for the portal requires a phone number or email and, in many cases, the vaccine provider didn’t enter that information when they reported the vaccination, resulting in a non-match when the patient checks the portal. Colorado residents who were vaccinated in another state need to report their vaccination to CDPHE to be in the database.
Five adults will win $1 million each, one person chosen randomly and announced on Fridays through July 7. Five teens from ages 12 to 17 will be named on each of five consecutive Fridays starting on June 11 and ending on July 9. All 25 teens will receive $50,000 scholarships for higher education. The first winner of $1 million, announced on June 4, was Sally Sliger, described as a “healthcare worker from Mead.”
COVID-19 by the numbers
Nearly 3.1 million Coloradans had received at least one dose of the vaccine and over 2.6 million were fully immunized as of June 6. In Arapahoe County, 61% of those eligible had received at least one dose of the vaccine. In Douglas County, that number was 66% and in Denver, 70%. In Elbert County, barely 32% of those eligible had received a vaccine.
Hospitalizations continue to decline. On June 1, there were 469 people hospitalized across the state with confirmed cases of the virus, compared to over 1,800 last December, according to Scott Bookman, COVID-19 incident commander at CDPHE. By June 6, the number of people hospitalized around the state had declined to 411.
On June 3, The Villager asked CDPHE how many of those hospitalized represented breakthrough cases, meaning that the patient had already been vaccinated when they tested positive for the virus. Bookman said, “Vaccine breakthrough cases are very rare, and hospitalized breakthrough cases are exceedingly rare.” While CDPHE was unable to answer our question directly because it was such a small number it could result in inadvertently identifying private patient information, they told us that the number of positive cases of COVID-19 in vaccinated patients was only one percent of all positive cases. They also told us that of the total 8,541 hospitalizations for the virus since January 15, just over two percent were breakthrough cases.
Asked what worries him as a potential cause for Colorado seeing a future surge of the virus, Bookman said, “Right now the data shows that things are headed in the right direction. At this point, the most important thing is to get as many people vaccinated as possible. The state is committed to trying to reach all Coloradans through their local providers and answering all their questions.”