Dr. Fauci And Gov. Jared Polis Say Coloradans Are Nearing The Coronavirus Finish Line

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
A COVID-19 rapid test in the lab at the Denver Indian Health and Family Services clinic in Sun Valley. Nov. 24, 2020.

Updated 4:45 p.m.

This month 20 million Americans will be vaccinated against COVID-19, and the first people on that list are health care workers. 

“As we get into January, February and March, and we get more and more of the priority groups, we will, soon as we get into April, have vaccines for the general population for the 20 and 30-year-old healthy man or woman who wants to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “Once we get there, we can crush this outbreak just the way we did with smallpox, with polio and with measles.”

Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, joined Gov. Jared Polis in a remote update on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday, Dec. 1.

Fauci was appointed director of NIAID in 1984 and has advised six presidents on HIV/AIDS and many other domestic and global health issues, and currently serves on the Trump administration’s Coronavirus Task Force.

Gov. Jared Polis previously predicted the state could get 100,000 to 200,000 doses in December and early January. Fauci said the 40 million doses that will be available in December — each person will receive two doses of the vaccine — will be distributed to states based on population, which means Colorado could get more than Polis has predicted. 

Colorado’s draft distribution plan calls for health care workers to be first in line for the vaccine, including those who work in assisted living facilities. 

First responders like police, firefighters, corrections workers and others deemed members of Colorado’s “critical” workforce would be next, then residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, followed by people living in close quarters like prisons and shelters for the homeless. 

Some people have expressed distrust of the new COVID-19 vaccines. Fauci said it all comes down to messaging and transparency. He explained that the vaccines have been tested in more than 70,000 Americans and then independently reviewed, and reviewed again, by career scientists at the Food and Drug Administration, who also wait 60-days to track adverse side effects before granting an emergency use authorization for a vaccine. 

“I think if every health care worker realizes how transparent and independent the process is, they would feel much more comfortable about getting vaccinated,” Fauci said. “You're seeing me now as a public health person, but I am also a health care provider. And I also see patients, and I will get vaccinated when my time arrives.”

Polis has pleaded with Coloradans to wear a mask to protect themselves and others, Fauci echoed his sentiments. 

“No intervention is 100 percent, but if we disregarded interventions that are not 100 percent, we'd be in a lot of trouble,” Fauci said. “We know that seatbelts save lives for absolutely certain, but occasionally there's a car accident that's severe enough that someone is wearing a seatbelt and they still get severely injured or even die. Does that mean people should not wear seatbelts? Absolutely not.”

The press conference with Fauci was just days after Polis announced he and his partner, Marlon Reis, tested positive for the virus

“I'm grateful to report that both of us continue to do well. Very mild symptoms — this is just such a lottery,” Polis said.

Earlier this week when he talked to CPR News he said he was grateful he didn’t see his parents for Thanksgiving.

But, plenty of Coloradans did gather for the holiday, including Republican Representative-elect Lauren Boebert, who said she hosted around 30-people.

Cases of coronavirus are expected to continue to increase the coming weeks after holiday travel and gatherings. Fauci called it a “surge upon a surge,” and said that the month ahead will be a test to see whether Americans can mitigate the spread of the virus. 

In Colorado, 4,405 new cases of coronavirus were reported today, showing signs of post-holiday case increases. The 7-day positivity rate, the percentage of positive tests, is above 11 percent after decreasing prior to Thanksgiving. The World Health Organization recommends the positivity rate stay below 5 percent for governments to consider reopening. There are nearly 2,000 people hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19.

“We just need to hang together a bit longer because not only Colorado, but so many states are at the brink of being overrun with regard to their capability of taking care of people in a proper way, particularly in intensive care,” Fauci said.