Gov. Jared Polis, joined by state and local health officials, have mapped out Colorado’s likely road to the end of the pandemic.
The state could, and should, take a different path.
Last week, Polis and top state health officials relayed the unwelcome news that, despite free, easy and widespread access to a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19, state hospitals are nearly overwhelmed with cases.
Since the pandemic began in March 2020, The Sentinel and millions of others have watched as endless opportunities to mitigate the deadly virus have been discarded by millions of others for no logical reason.
Contrasting the bad news that at least 20% of eligible adults have not received vaccines, is that 80% have. Polis, state and local officials have done an outstanding job making vaccines available to anyone who wants them. Now, making the vaccine easily available for younger Colorado residents can only reduce infections and the problems the inflict.
But it’s still not enough. The world marked another dubious milestone this week, moving past 5 million deaths caused by the coronavirus. The United States retains its top rank on the list of nations with the highest number of COVID-19 deaths.
Making the climbing death toll, and unnerving news about flooded Colorado ICU wards and hospitals, all the more distressing is that the solution to saving lives, lifestyles and livelihoods is so easily available for nearly everyone in the state.
It’s been nothing short of a miracle that a provably safe, effective vaccine for COVID-19 has been discovered, scrutinized and mass produced in less than a year after the coronavirus began spreading across the planet.
It’s been nothing less than absurd that so many Colorado residents have hesitated to get it or outright rejected it for absolutely irrational and befuddling reasons.
After endless months of trying to understand it, to overcome it and even get around it, state and local health officials have wrongly decided to simply tolerate the confounding behavior of about a third of the state at the calamitous expense of everyone else.
Colorado has spent millions of dollars trying to cajole sophistic anti-vaxxers with gift cards, sweepstakes, compelling facts, dismal news of celebrity deaths — and even undeniable facts and reality. Despite that, it’s clear that hundreds of thousands of state residents will risk their lives, those of their friends and families and millions of strangers to stand their political ground on a non-political problem.
Stop coddling anti-vaxxers at the expense of the health care system and reasonable residents.
Of course the government shouldn’t, and wouldn’t, force anyone to undergo any medical procedure they don’t want.
What vaccine requirements Polis and state officials have so far backed are simply that, job requirements. Health professionals interacting with the public during a pandemic must be vaccinated, or not act as health professionals. Teachers, interacting with students, many who, until this week, cannot officially be vaccinated must vaccinate to protect themselves and children. The alternative? Don’t teach until the crisis passes.
It may be politically and logistically difficult to require people to prove they are either vaccinated or disease free before mingling with dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people. But the option is risking infection with a virus that is easily spread and too often deadly.
Instead, elected and appointed officials continue to pass the buck onto local businesses, who “can” decide themselves whether to assume the role of the health department.
Rather than mandating masks and vaccine passports in public places, we’re being forced to watch the virus burn through unvaccinated and vaccinated people, hoping to keep inevitable collateral damage at acceptable levels.
It’s easy to sympathize about the exhaustion and frustration from trying to help irrational people make a rational life-saving decision. But giving up is the wrong answer.
Polis, state and local health officials should immediately restart mask mandates and determine where and how to ensure people in public places are either vaccinated and/or virus free.
It’s not just unfair to put the majority of Colorado residents at risk to accommodate a minority of confused errants, it’s dangerous.
The misleading path of least resistance — without meaningful vaccine and mask requirements — will ultimately cost more lives, more sickness, more disruption and more pain.
But the alternative to Colorado’s laissez-faire approach to the pandemic must come from Polis, the state and local health departments, not from restaurant managers, gym owners and school principals.