Today, Governor Jared Polis and his administration released “Colorado’s Next Chapter: Our Roadmap to Moving Forward.” The announcement included the steps the administration believes are necessary to maintain a level of preparedness and agility that will keep Coloradans safe and healthy — no matter if it is for the next wave of this pandemic or an unknown pandemic in the future.
The governor pointed out that by following public health protocols including getting tested and vaccinated throughout the pandemic, Coloradans saved countless lives. The Polis administration has taken an all-state approach to forging partnerships across sectors to build an aggressive and balanced response to what has been a difficult few years.
“Thanks to the commitment and resilience of Coloradans doing our part to get vaccinated with all three lifesaving doses, our state’s balanced approach to the pandemic, and the heroism of our healthcare workers and public health professionals, the vast majority of Coloradans who are vaccinated can proceed with normal life free of fear of the virus. We now have the tools to turn the page and begin a new chapter,” said Polis. “Fully vaccinated Coloradans can rest assured that you are reasonably safe to live your normal pre-pandemic life as the State of Colorado along with our partners in local public health and healthcare providers will be hard at work ensuring our readiness for whatever curveballs or variants the future throws us.”
Colorado reported its first case of COVID-19 in March of 2020. Since then, the Polis administration says that it has worked diligently with local governments and federal administrations to respond quickly to the pandemic, taking a fair and balanced approach to protecting lives and livelihoods and detecting the virus in communities. Polis reminds the state’s residents that:
- Colorado had one of the shortest shutdown periods in the nation as a result of these efforts to detect and protect Coloradans and keep kids in the classroom.
- Colorado began running large-scale testing sites less than a week after the first confirmed case and was an early adopter of innovative testing programs — becoming the first in the country to launch a rapid at-home testing program, in addition to over 150 free community testing sites.
- Colorado has used advanced science and data to detect new variants and monitor the virus. In fact, Colorado’s state lab became the first to detect the Alpha variant (B.1.1.7) and the third state to detect the Omicron variant.
When the first shipment of the doctor-approved vaccines arrived in Colorado in December 2021, the Polis administration implemented a plan of action to meet Coloradans where they are and remove barriers to vaccination by partnering with dozens of community organizations and building a robust network of over 2,000 vaccine providers across the state.
Additionally, the state launched programs to provide free masks to schools with over 56 million masks provided to staff and students, and this year launched a free surgical-grade and KN95 mask program with community hubs, distributing four million masks to date.
Two years on since the start of the pandemic, Colorado’s vaccination rate is more than 81 percent of all eligible Coloradans having received at least one dose and more than 90 percent of the population estimated to have a high level of immunity.
Due to large-scale immunity and the availability of tools to mitigate the spread and severity of disease, the administration says it is shifting away from population-level strategies used to suppress transmission and prevent widespread disruption and significant strain on our healthcare system. As the pandemic phase of this response recedes into a more endemic response, Colorado officials will continue to operate in a state of readiness, keeping emergency response and public health systems prepared to respond and surge when needed.
“Throughout the pandemic, Coloradans have displayed our resilience. Because of everyone’s sacrifices, we are where we are today — in a place where we are able to more safely enjoy the things we love. We want every Coloradan to have the freedom that comes with being healthy and well, and trust that we will be ready to tackle the next challenge,” said Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan. “Our commitment to Coloradans is to learn from the past 23 months and be prepared for the next wave and the next pandemic.”
Colorado’s Roadmap forward outlines the four main steps the state will be taking to maintain a level of preparedness and agility in order to keep Coloradans safe and healthy in the event of new or worsening public health challenges. They include:
- Establishing Hospital Readiness Standards, Surge Planning and Normalizing COVID Patient Care in Traditional Medical Settings, thereby ensuring health care systems are prepared for future response efforts and normalizing COVID-19 treatment and prevention back into traditional healthcare settings.
- Ensuring Public Health Readiness and Surge Capacity: Building on lessons learned so the public health and emergency management fields can expand and contract for disease control and other emergency needs.
- Investing in Healthcare Workforce Stabilization and Expansion: Stabilizing the current workforce and building and maintaining a sustainable health care workforce for the future.
- Engaging the Federal Government in National Endemic Response, Pandemic Readiness, and Needed Reforms: Striving for a national plan for pandemic readiness and response, and investing in the public health system, including an updated and interoperable national surveillance system, and flexible, non-categorical funding to allow flexibility and increase the public health workforce.
In the coming days, Governor Polis and state public health officials say they plan to urge the federal government “to implement a national strategy for long-term COVID planning as Colorado and states across the country pursue strategies to manage the pandemic while minimizing the impacts on social and economic well being of Americans.” The Polis Administration is also strongly urging the Federal Drug Administration to approve the vaccine for all ages.
“This roadmap demonstrates that as we transition from the pandemic response into a new chapter where we can use more routine disease control tactics, we will not only be ready for if and when something changes, but we will build stronger and more resilient systems for the future,” said CDPHE COVID-19 incident commander Scott Bookman. “Vaccinated Coloradans can now enjoy more freedom from this virus, but as Coloradans, we should be nimble and flexible. I ask all Coloradans to continue to be our partners in this as we move Colorado forward.”
“We welcome the Governor’s fact-based roadmap forward, which includes critical support for the healthcare workforce, specifically assuring Colorado nurses safer work environments. Investments in healthcare readiness allow the medical community to develop stronger and more resilient systems, and ensure a sustainable workforce for the future,” said Colleen Casper, Director of Practice and Government Affairs, Colorado Nurses Association.
In an effort to get even more Coloradans vaccinated, the administration plans to continue working closely with primary care providers across the state to ensure Coloradans can continue to visit their trusted family doctor to get the life-saving vaccine.