Boulder County Public Health reported 99 new coronavirus cases and two new deaths on Wednesday as the next round of vaccine distribution starts.
Gov. Jared Polis announced Wednesday that the state will include more people — those 70 and older, teachers and state government officials — in Phase 1B of COVID-19 vaccine distribution than originally planned.
Phase 1A of the state’s plan called for vaccinating frontline health care workers with the closest contact to COVID-19 patients as well as residents and employees of nursing homes and other assisted living facilities. As the state moves to Phase 1B, the plan is to work with local public health agencies and employers to set up vaccination programs for the newly added groups.
Boulder County Public Health spokesperson Chana Goussetis said the county only learned of the changes Wednesday and so is still developing a plan to provide vaccinations to this larger group.
More details are expected next week, and residents are encouraged to follow the health department on social media or sign up for news releases at bouldercounty.org/news/ to ensure they’re notified.
“Supplies are still limited, so it will likely take until spring to complete this first phase,” Goussetis said.
The county also provided a coronavirus update during an online meeting Wednesday, sharing information about vaccination distribution.
Indira Gujral, communicable disease control division manager with Boulder County, said an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people in Boulder County are 70 years old or older.
“We definitely have a lot of work to do,” she said, adding money from the federal government would speed up the process. “That’s a lot of people to vaccinate, so we’re going to have to come up with a multi-pronged approach.”
For the first round, she said, the county’s five hospitals have finished or nearly finished distributing their vaccine doses to high-risk staff members, while long-term care facilities started distributing the vaccine on Monday through a state-managed program. Almost 400 doses also were administered to moderate risk outpatient health care workers through a clinic Wednesday, she said.
To date, Boulder County has had 14,614 positive or probable coronavirus cases and 182 deaths. The two people who died were residents of long-term care facilities in their 90s, Goussetis said. There were 67 people hospitalized as of Wednesday, and there have been a total of 413 hospitalizations.
While Boulder County remains at Level Red, which indicates severe risk, Polis announced on social media Wednesday night that he is asking the state health department to move all “red” counties to the less restrictive “orange” level on Monday because the state is seeing a steady decline in cases.
In reviewing the data, Colorado has been in a sustained decline for 13 days, and only 73% of ICU beds statewide are in use.
— Governor Jared Polis (@GovofCO) December 31, 2020
Boulder County on Wednesday reported that new cases of COVID-19 among Boulder County residents in the past two weeks is 347.2 per 100,000 — the first time in weeks that the number dipped below 350 per 100,000.
Jeff Zayach, the executive director of Boulder County Public Health, said people need to continue to avoid gathering with those outside their households and to continue to wear masks, measures that will save lives, allow businesses to stay open and keep kids in school.
“We’re doing the right things, we just need to keep it up for a little bit longer, until we have vaccines circulating widely in our community,” he said.
In response to a question about whether it’s safer to keep school remote only until teachers receive the vaccine, Zayach responded that, even though they’re now in an earlier group, it’s still unclear when teachers will receive both doses of the vaccine.
He added that data shows there’s little risk of students 10 and under transmitting the virus to adults, while those same children are at high risk of decreased learning while learning remotely. For secondary students with a higher risk of transmitting the virus, the health department continues to recommend a hybrid of online and in-person classes to reduce class sizes and allow for more social distancing, he said.
Wednesday’s updated state outbreak data shows a Boulder County Jail outbreak reported Dec. 21 remains active. According to state data, 35 inmates and staff members had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Required quarantines also have meant reduced staffing levels, according to jail officials.
Boulder County Sheriff’s Division Chief Jeff Goetz said cases have dropped this week. He said there are now just two inmates and one staff member with positive COVID tests. The rest of the staff members have been cleared, while 12 inmates are expected to finish quarantines Friday.
“We were able to get ahead of it and get it contained as quickly as possible,” Goetz said.
The University of Colorado Boulder has not shared coronavirus updates on its dashboard since last week.
The St. Vrain Valley School District, which is updating its online coronavirus dashboard on Mondays during winter break, on Monday reported two active cases, one student and one staff member. There have been a total of 541 positive cases, with 376 students confirmed positive and 165 staff.
Boulder Valley School District reported one positive and two probable cases on its online coronavirus dashboard.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported that there have been 330,859 cases statewide. Among cases, there have been 4,750 deaths, and of those, 3,901 deaths because of COVID-19. There have been 18,502 people hospitalized. Of Colorado’s roughly 5.7 million people, 2,126,572 people have been tested.
The Denver Post contributed to this report.