Colorado Governor announces the state is leading the way in free testing that helps save lives and saves people money
It has taken only three short weeks since the latest COVID-19 variant ominously called Omicron went from one percent of U.S. cases of COVID to 77 percent of all new cases. While the Northeast, South, Pacific Northwest and Midwest are seeing the highest rates of growth, the western U.S., which just had a late Delta surge, is figuratively holding its breath waiting to see what will happen here.
“We are seeing exponential growth — that means cases are rising in a straight line — straight up,’ said a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) official. “It is spreading wildly.”
Already in tourist-centric counties of Colorado, like Eagle county, health officials there are saying of the swift rise in cases; “It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen.” The latest COVID-19 variant is spreading fast in Eagle County, but it’s too early to tell just what that means for residents and visitors. The main takeaway, according to Vail Health’s Chris Lindley is “is that we have to learn to live with the virus and use every tool at our disposal to do so.”
He adds that in that county, new cases have increased dramatically in the past few weeks, and that “there’s no doubt” that the recently-discovered omicron variant is driving the surge. In fact, as of this afternoon, Eagle county is eying a mandatory mask mandate after a record 139 new COVID cases were reported on Monday; its highest level since the beginning of the pandemic in March, 2020.
The Omicron variant is also behind more instances of breakthrough cases among those who are fully vaccinated, but cases in already-vaccinated people are generally proving to be mild. (The data on Chaffee County’s dashboard is behind at the moment because after 20 months of nearly 24/7 coverage, Chaffee county Public Health Dept. is closed until after the New Year’s.)
Colorado Governor Jared Polis isn’t waiting to see what happens, he announced this afternoon that Colorado is taking steps to deal with what may be coming. Polis provided an update on the state of the COVID pandemic in Colorado and urged Coloradans to get vaccinated and the third dose of the safe and effective vaccine.
He began today’s briefing by discussing how Colorado’s reporters continue to deliver the facts to those who need it and accurate information to make informed decisions about their health and safety during this pandemic — from the time Colorado reported its first case, to crossing the milestone of administering four million doses of the lifesaving vaccine.
The Governor also discussed the importance of getting a third dose of the vaccine in light of reports that the omicron variant has spread in the U.S.
“The simple fact is that over a thousand people are in our hospitals right now and 860 of them have not yet made the choice to get vaccinated. The Omicron variant is rapidly rising — it’s critical that everyone eligible gets three doses of the vaccine,” said Polis. “With three doses of the safe, and doctor-approved vaccine, you, your loved ones, and community members are 47 times less likely to be hospitalized with COVID. That’s why our administration offers more sites in more places available to Coloradans getting the vaccine and those who need to get tested. Bring joy to your celebrations, bring food, bring gifts, but don’t bring COVID-19.”
The state reports that 48 percent of eligible Coloradans have received their third dose of the vaccine, which provides significant protection against omicron and other variants. Many vaccinations require three doses, like the DTaP vaccine to protect kids against tetanus. Coloradans can get their third dose of the vaccine today at community vaccination sites around the state, and the state is continually adding new sites and expanding capacity.
Earlier today, President Joe Biden announced that the federal government will launch an at-home testing program to provide millions of Americans with free COVID-19 tests. Colorado launched an at-home rapid testing program earlier this year for anyone to sign up online and get BinaxNow rapid at-home test kits delivered to their homes. To date, over 1.3 million tests have been distributed to households across the state and the state’s program is reliant on available global supply.
“Earlier this year, our administration launched a free, quick, and easy at-home-testing program so Coloradans could have safety, peace of mind, and save money by testing in the comfort of their own homes. We have sent out over 1.3 million free tests to people across our state, and also offer a wide variety of other free testing options at various locations to slow the spread of the virus,” said Governor Polis. “We applaud President Biden and his administration for following our state’s lead to deliver free, at-home testing for all Americans. We look forward to helping with efforts that result in safer, healthier communities in the new year.”
To meet the demand for detection and protection, the Governor announced vaccination sites that have the capacity to administer hundreds of doses every day, as well as new sites coming online soon where people can get tested and vaccinated at the same location.
Visit covid19.colorado.gov/vaccine for updates on when these sites will be up and running, as well as the full list of providers.
Regular testing is critical to slowing the spread of the virus and staying safe during the holidays, especially if you’re traveling. In Colorado, it’s free, quick, and easy with more than 100 free community testing sites across the state. Find testing sites across the state at covid19.colorado.gov/testing.
Colorado has plenty of supply for people who test positive for COVID-19 and may be eligible for monoclonal antibody treatment, a proven way to prevent a mild case from becoming severe. Visit covid19.colorado.gov/monoclonal or call the hotline at 1-877-CO VAX CO (1-877-268-2926) to find out if you are eligible and where you can get monoclonal antibody therapy.
Coloradans can go to the state website for statewide information on COVID testing sites, vaccination sites, for information on symptoms, and when and how to isolate if exposed. https://covid19.colorado.gov/
Specifically, within Chaffee County, residents can click here to review symptoms and see a list of testing sites. Vaccinations, including getting the booster shot is still the best protection against serious illness from COVID.