DENVER | Colorado K-12 teachers, school staff and childcare workers will be eligible to begin receiving the COVID-19 vaccine on Feb. 8, Gov. Jared Polis announced at a Friday news conference.
Educators have been moved around several times in the vaccine schedule. They were first in Phase 2 with other essential workers, and then were moved to Phase 1B and some began receiving the vaccine in January until the state clarified that they weren’t eligible to be vaccinated until after everyone 70 and older was vaccinated, and would have to wait until March.
Now, Polis said that a better understanding of what the state’s vaccine supply will look like over the next couple weeks is allowing it to start vaccinating teachers without having to worry that it will cut into vaccines for the elderly. He credited the Biden administration for its efforts managing vaccine distribution at the federal level.
Inoculating teachers will help resolve one of the greatest frustration for schools. Currently, if a student tests positive in a class or cohort, it often dominoes into other classes having to end classes for up to 14 days, and the teachers as well, creating a teachers shortage. Vaccinating teachers will give schools flexibility to keep educators in school instead of forcing them to quarantine, keeping classrooms open.
Vaccinating teachers is especially important because keeping schools open helps the entire rest of the workforce, Polis said. He specifically mentioned the large number of mothers who have left the workforce due to a lack of reliable childcare as a major problem.
“It is foundational to equity across the entire economy,” he said about schools being open.
The state will use one-third to one half of its vaccine supply to vaccinate teachers, and Polis said the process should take several weeks.
Individual districts will work with providers to vaccinate their employees, and many already have partnerships in place. The Cherry Creek School District will work with Centura Health to vaccinate staff, and Aurora Public Schools will work with Centura, Kaiser Permanente and Salud Family Health Centers.
State health officials aren’t in step with some federal sources pushing for the public to begin doubling their masks in public.
Dr. Eric France, the state’s chief medical officer, said health officials currently don’t recommend wearing two mask and that it’s not considered as part of Colorado’s mask mandate. The mask mandate as it stands, however, is critical to preventing infection.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House spokesman for the nation’s virus task force, encouraged double masking on national TV news shows earlier in the week. The Centers for Disease Control, however, also are not recommending it at this time.
The state is on track to meet its goal of vaccinating 70% of Coloradans 70 and older by the end of February, Polis said. As of Friday, the state is halfway to that goal. Those in that age group who are still waiting on a vaccine will get one in the next couple weeks, he said.
Polis said state officials are anticipating most people 70 and older who want the vaccine will have received at least their first dose by Feb. 8 or be close to getting it. Officials said waiting too long to move into inoculating the next group of priority recipients would slow down the state’s pace of distribution.
All skilled nursing facility staff and residents have received the first dose of the vaccine, and 97% have received a second dose, Polis said.
After the 70+ target has been hit, Coloradans 65-69 will be eligible to be vaccinated. In March, the state plans to begin vaccinating frontline essential workers and Coloradans 16 to 64 who have two or more health conditions that make them extra vulnerable to COVID-19.
Together, that makes up for an estimated 1.1 million Coloradans, and will take time to vaccinate.
More information about the vaccine rollout is available in multiple languages at covid19.colorado.gov/vaccine or by calling 1-877-268-2926.
While people wait to be vaccinated, Polis asked for patience and for people to continue wearing masks and social distancing.
“Every vaccine administered is one step closer to ending the pandemic,” he said.