Colorado hoping to curb COVID-19 deaths by vaccinating elderly population

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DENVER | Prioritizing the COVID-19 vaccine for people 70 years and older is expected to significantly decrease deaths, Gov. Jared Polis said in a Wednesday news conference.

The state reported 2,557 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday. 911 people are hospitalized, Polis said in what was his first COVID-19 news conference of 2021.

“The virus is extremely prevalent across Colorado,” Polis said, but the state is not seeing the dramatic spikes that California and Arizona are currently experiencing.

So far about 2% of the state’s population has been vaccinated against the virus, Polis said. Vaccinations for long-term care facilities are under contract through the federal government with CVS and Walgreens. Walgreens should be finished by the end of next week and CVS by the end of the month.

After healthcare workers and residents and staff of long term care facilities are vaccinated, the state will turn its focus to vaccinating Coloradans age 70 and up, who make up 78% of COVID-19 fatalities, Polis said.

By vaccinating the elderly, the state hopes it can cut its fatality rate by three quarters and its hospitalization rate by one-third. The goal is to vaccinate everyone in that age group who wants to be vaccinated by Feb. 28, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Jill Hunsaker Ryan said at the conference.

The state decided to move up the elderly in its prioritization schedule because it will have the biggest impact on saving lives, Polis said. He evaded questions about the confusion that was caused by moving teachers up the list as well and then announcing Tuesday evening that they should not be vaccinated until all people 70 and above receive the vaccine.

Beforehand teachers would have received the vaccine in May, now they should expect to get it in March or April, he said.

Despite recently relaxing restrictions on indoor dining, Polis asked Coloradans to continue to be extremely careful about socializing.

“There is such a high level of COVID-19 in our community that if you slip up you could very well get it,” he said.

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