After ending the state’s health emergency order in February, Governor Jared Polis outlined the “Roadmap to Moving Forward,” the administration’s public health plans for returning to normalcy. The roadmap takes an endemic approach to COVID-19 by improving management in the areas of public health and emergency readiness by focusing on four lines of effort:
- Establishing hospital readiness standards, surge planning, and normalizing COVID patient care in traditional medical settings
- Ensuring public health readiness and surge capacity
- Investing in health care workforce stabilization and expansion
- Engaging the federal government in national endemic response, pandemic readiness, and needed reforms
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CDPHE announced last week that it will be closing community vaccination sites and moving that capacity directly to hospitals, community health and primary care clinics, and pharmacies. As the closure of community vaccination sites continues, health officials warned that the U.S. could see a rise in cases of the new BA.2 omicron variant.
State health officials are closely monitoring the situation and are prepared to respond should case counts surge again.
“From the moment we talked about this roadmap, we acknowledged and understood that we may see future waves of this virus. So, we continue our sentinel surveillance, we continue our wastewater surveillance, we continue monitoring our hospital capacity,” said Scott Bookman, director of the division of disease control and public health response and the state’s COVID-19 incident commander. “From day one, we talked about how the public health system will always be behind the scenes monitoring and preparing to surge up again if we need to, so that work continues today.”
COVID-19 outcomes in Colorado have fared better than in other states: Colorado has the 10th lowest number of COVID-19 deaths in the nation and 81% of its population eligible for vaccination has received one dose. 73% are fully immunized.
The Department of Health Care Policy and Financing has requested 36.3% of the state’s total proposed operating budget for FY 2022-2023, the largest portion for any state department.
Like most of the country, Colorado’s health system was overwhelmed by the past two winter surges in COVID-19 cases due to a shortage of hospital beds and staffing. Polis issued emergency orders on each occasion, diverting hospital and emergency resources to focus primarily on treatment and care for patients with severe infections. With the likelihood of another surge, state officials remain vigilant and optimistic in coordinating a more prepared response.
Bookman said his department was focused on working with care providers to determine and remove barriers to COVID testing, immunization, and treatment in the health system.
“As we look forward to the future here, what we’re really talking about is normalizing COVID within our health care system,” Bookman emphasized. “We’re no longer testing for disease suppression. We’re testing to treat people and that is a game changer.”