Polis on J & J : April 13th
Today, Governor Polis was joined by CDPHE Executive Director Jill Ryan to provide an update on the future of the county-level dial system and our COVID trends.
Tri-County Public Health Executive Director Dr. John Douglas discussed what regional coordination can and should look like after April 16th when the dial system evolves into guidance and gives even more control back in the hands of communities across the state.
Colorado’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eric France addressed our state’s response to the CDC and FDA's recommendation to pause distribution and administration of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine in the U.S. following adverse events.
Dr. France explained that today, April 13, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the Colorado Joint Vaccine Task Force asked providers to temporarily stop administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in the state after federal agencies reviewed reports of six individuals in the U.S. who got rare and severe blood clots after receiving the vaccine. The decision to pause the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is out of an abundance of caution following the FDA and CDC recommendation. The federal government is allowing states to determine whether to pause use, and CDPHE is requiring providers to stop administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until additional information becomes available.
One of the reasons the FDA and CDC are recommending this pause is to ensure that health care providers are aware of these potential but rare adverse events, and can respond accordingly. The treatment for these types of blood clots is not the common treatment for blood clots and more time is needed to make sure healthcare providers know how to recognize and treat these rare occurrences.
COVID-19 vaccine safety and the health and safety of all Coloradans is a top priority. These adverse events appear to be extremely rare.
- Individuals who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than a month ago are at very low risk of serious side effects.
- Anyone who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine within the last three weeks and develops severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath should contact their health care provider. These symptoms are different from the flu-like symptoms people may experience after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Healthcare providers should report any adverse events to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).
- Anyone scheduled to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will either receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine instead, or the vaccine provider will contact them to reschedule their appointment once FDA and CDC release additional information.
- The state’s mobile vaccination buses, which have been administering only the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, are canceled today and Wednesday.
Going forward, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will hold an emergency meeting on April 14th to further review the cases and assess their potential significance, while the FDA continues to investigate.
The State will be sharing additional information on how this affects Coloradans as soon as it becomes available.
Colorado’s latest COVID modeling shows a reverse trend based on age in hospitalizations and new cases, largely driven by the emergence of variants in Colorado.
The good news is that the vaccine is working as advertised! Colorado has never had so few people in their 70s and 80s hospitalized. The bad news is that there are increasing numbers of people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s getting hospitalized.
Colorado has confirmed:
- 1,578 cases of the B.1.1.7 (UK) variant of concern
- 12 cases of the P.1 (Brazil) variant of concern
- 25 cases of the B.1.351 (South Africa) variant of concern
- 516 cases of the B.1.427/B.1.429 (CA) variant of concern
Nearly half of the specimens the State Lab is testing weekly by whole genome sequencing are the B.1.1.7 variant, and another quarter are the B.1.427/B.1.429 variant.
The B.1.1.7 variant now represents a significant portion of new cases, and we're closely monitoring the very easily transmissible P.1 variant. If you were to contract COVID today, it’s more likely than ever that you were exposed to a variant strain.
Regardless of variants, overall we know that the long-term effects and deadly outcomes can impact Coloradans of all ages, meaning if you’re under 50 and don’t end up in the hospital right away there is still a chance you would need to be treated down the line.
That’s why next month, while more people get vaccinated, it will be critical to take actions that may seem small, but will have an outsized impact on the future of our state.
Along with getting the vaccine as soon as one becomes available, it’s crucial that Coloradans continue to take good sense safety measures including:
- Wearing masks
- Social distancing
- Staying home when sick
- Getting tested if you think you have been exposed to someone with COVID
- Gathering outside in small groups instead of opting for indoors
No one is invincible in the face of this virus, but every Coloradan 16 and older now has the opportunity to gain immunity and continue taking every precaution to save their own lives and protect others - especially people who have not yet received the vaccine
ROLE OF VACCINES
While the increase in variants of concern is just that -- concerning, our rapid and equitable vaccine distribution efforts remain critical to mitigating the spread of more resistant and easily transmissible strains.
Today, the Governor announced that 25% of eligible Coloradans are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19 - that’s 1.2 million people (1,292,845) and over 3.2 million total doses administered. To date, 2.1 million Coloradans (2,122,809) have received their first dose and are well on their way to being fully vaccinated.
We’re consistently building on this momentum by standing up dozens of equity clinics every week, getting shots into tens of thousands of arms at our six state-run Community Vaccination sites, and deploying “Power the Comeback'' mobile vaccine buses to meet more Coloradans where they are by rolling into rural locations and medically-underserved urban areas.
With higher levels of immunity, we’re confident that this fourth and final wave will not be as deadly.
EVOLUTION OF THE DIAL
Now in a world where more vaccines are being administered, we want to ensure the response at the local level is nimble and reflects our state’s progress.
Even with new variants, counties remain in very different places with disease transmission and we are confident that with great vaccination progress, shifting the role of managing the pandemic through statewide restrictions can successfully transition to greater responsibility at the local level.
As the Governor announced previously, Dial 3.0 will evolve to local control on April 16th, but that does not mean the state will be letting up our effort to suppress the virus.
- We will continue two important statewide measures to protect Coloradans no matter where they live which includes a statewide mask mandate and capacity limits for the highest risk settings of indoor mass gatherings.
- We expect that many local governments will go above and beyond these state measures to continue to protect Coloradans, especially unvaccinated Coloradans, who are still very much at risk from this deadly virus.
Tomorrow, the State is launching ads and multimedia communications campaigns in English and Spanish to inform the public of their ongoing risk and the steps they need to take to protect themselves.
TRANSMISSION CONTROL MODELING
CDPHE Executive Director Jill Ryan explained that the Colorado School of Public Health’s latest modeling report, released today, shows that the effective reproduction number for COVID-19 statewide is just above one, indicating that COVID-19 infections are increasing in Colorado. Currently 1 in 196 Coloradans are estimated to be infected. The report also shows that approximately 30% of Colorado’s population is currently immune to COVID-19, as of April 5, both by vaccination or prior infection.
However, they are also reporting that mobility is reaching its highest level since the start of the pandemic. The report suggests that we need to maintain transmission control - which means we all need to choose to act with caution at the same level for the next month in order to prevent a spike in hospitalizations and deaths from COVID 19. By then, Coloradans may be able to relax some of the behaviors that have been so critical in controlling the state’s epidemic.
We’re seeing local public health agencies doing incredible work to collaborate with neighboring counties with similar disease transmission levels to save more lives and save livelihoods. The approach the Tri-County is taking to determine the best continued response in some of our largest Colorado counties, is a great process to model.
Tri-County Public Health Executive Director Dr. John Douglas explained the plan for the Adams, Arapahoe, Douglas, Boulder, Broomfield, Jefferson, and Denver counties to safely loosen their restrictions in the future. Their collaboration with local public health departments across the Denver metro area is called the Metro Denver Partnership for Health.
While individual public health orders vary slightly, counties will ease into reopening by doing the following:
- Phase 1: Short Extension of Dial 3.0
- This extension is expected to last one month for most counties.
- After this extension, if severity of hospitalizations is at a low rate, there will be a full reopening of capacity restrictions.
- Phase 2: Observation Period
- Restrictions on counties will be reinstated only if severity of hospital admissions rates increases for those counties.
Dr. Douglas believes that this is an effective model as it gives one more month to vaccinate tri-county residents. This plan also balances thoughtful caution with the desire to reopen and creates predictability and consistency in regions where people frequently cross county lines.
Dr. Douglas also emphasized the need to continue to practice smart behaviors to slow the spread of the virus during this fourth wave and to allow the reopening of counties to be successful.
The Governor encourages other local public health agencies to take the kind of action that Tri-county is taking. We are not out of the woods yet and if sticking with some requirements of the dial system works for certain communities, then local officials should opt to do what works best to continue monitoring disease transmission and hospital capacity.
In mid-May and going into the summer months, when we estimate 75% of Coloradans will be fully vaccinated, we will no longer need the majority of the current precautions we are taking. But in some areas we do need to closely monitor the situation.
Our local public health agencies, providers, and local governments are doing their part and continuing to work in close collaboration with regional and state partners.
After April 16, should a county’s regional hospital system threaten to become overwhelmed, the State will be prepared to partner with our local health officials and assess the best risk mitigation strategies to slow the spread and prevent breaching of our hospital capacity.
POWER THE COMEBACK, FINISH STRONG
We’re not out of the woods yet, Colorado. For at least the next thirty days, we will be in a race against variants, but a full dose of the vaccine helps get every Coloradan across the finish line.
If you haven’t been vaccinated, it’s more important than before to wear a mask and avoid socializing until you get vaccinated.
There are plenty of openings, sign up today at a provider near you. You can find a list at COCOVIDVACCINE.ORG or call 1-877-CO VAX CO (1-877-268-2926).
Let’s work together to reduce hospitalizations and get our number of new cases down - wear a mask, keep your distance whenever possible, and continue doing what has worked best from the beginning so we can sooner lead normal lives.