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Colorado announces its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan

DENVER — Colorado on Friday released its distribution plan an approved coronavirus vaccine when it becomes publicly available as the state faced a deadline to submit it to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The distribution plan prioritizes three groups of people for the order in which people in those groups will be eligible to get vaccines. The first group of recipients is broken down into three levels of prioritized people and the second has two levels.

In the first phase, the priority recipients will be assisted living facility workers, home health care workers and outpatient pharmacists. Next are police officers, firefighters, public health workers and corrections staff. The third level of vaccine recipients are nursing home and assisted living patients.

During the second phase, vaccines will be given to homeless people living in shelters, adult group home residents, workers such as ski industry and agricultural employees who share living spaces, students living in dormitories, essential workers such as grocery store workers, teachers and child care workers and employees of businesses such as the meat-packing sector where workers are in close proximity to each other. In the second part of this phase, people who are over age 65 or have certain health risks will get vaccines.

When all of those people have been given an opportunity to get the vaccine, the final phase starts with vaccine distribution to adults ages 18-64.

Earlier this week, Johnson & Johnson and Eli Lilly — two companies working on separate COVID-19 vaccines — reported they were pausing clinical trials of the vaccine because of safety concerns.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said that the company’s announcements highlight the uncertainty over the timing for when a vaccine will be ready and which company will have one approved for widespread public use.

“What we do know is we won’t initially get enough doses to cover the entire population and the people of Colorado deserve to know the process of how those initial doses will be prioritized,” Polis said.

Colorado is experiencing its biggest rise in coronavirus since late May — with over 1,000 newly confirmed cases in three days and more than 350 hospitalizations over the last week.

Polis estimated that about one in every 260 Colorado residents is infected with the coronavirus and urged residents to social distance and wear face coverings.

The spike lead Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock to announce stricter city mask mandates and to limit group gatherings from 10 to five.

Masks were previously required for people inside public places but must now be worn outdoors, with exceptions for people outside alone or with people from their own households.

City officials warned tighter restrictions could be imposed on businesses and indoor and outdoor activities if the upward COVID-19 trends continue.

Hancock called the coronavirus trends in Denver concerning and added that the increase in average daily cases is “higher than we’ve ever been over the course of this pandemic.”

The new measures come the county of Denver recorded over 700 newly confirmed cases this week, according to data from the Denver public health department.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Executive Director Bob McDonald said that enforcement will include issuing summons to appear in court. Those who don’t follow Denver’s COVID-19 restrictions may be subject to a maximum penalty of $999 per violation and up to 300 days in jail.

Hancock emphasized the importance of personal responsibility to keep others safe and to protect the city’s economy.

“Several holidays including Halloween and Thanksgiving are right around the corner and we must take these additional steps over the next 30 days and do the hard work that’s needed now so that we can enjoy the holiday seasons with our families,” Hancock said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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Nieberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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