Colorado opens vaccine to adults 65-69 and teachers on Feb 8
Eagle County opens vaccine pre-registration to additional groups
Colorado will open up COVID-19 vaccine appointments to people ages 65 to 69 and educators on Feb. 8, Gov. Jared Polis announced Friday.
The news was immediately cheered by local school officials. And Eagle County Pulic Health and Environment announced it is offering pre-registration for COVID-19 vaccine for employees and residents who will be eligible to receive a first dose that day.
The upcoming eligible group generally includes educators and essential personnel for preschool through 12th grade, child care providers, and residents ages 65 to 69. Those who wish to preregister should verify their eligibility and then sign up at eaglecountycovid.org.
Once registered, no further action is required. Vaccine supply is still very limited, so if the number of sign-ups exceed the available amount of vaccine doses, appointments will be issued based on a random drawing among those who are eligible, the county said. People selected to receive a vaccination will be contacted using text messaging or the email address they provided to schedule an appointment.
People receiving the vaccine will also be asked to sign an attestation confirming they are eligible and will be available for both doses. Appointments are required; anyone who shows up at a clinic without an appointment will not receive a vaccine.
Eagle County said it estimates the new group that will be eligible for vaccination Feb. 8 includes 2,600 residents ages 65 to 69 and 1,800 educators and child care providers. So far, approximately 8,300 doses have been administered in the county to health care providers, first responders and residents 70 and older. Vaccination data and local information on COVID-19, including vaccine rollout, is updated regularly at eaglecountycovid.org.
Keeping schools open and safe
Polis made Friday’s announcement after the state updated its vaccination distribution plan to include these groups in “Phase 1b 2.”
“Our schools are a cornerstone institution of our society, and it’s important that we — just as we have focused on them returning safely to school, that we’re able to keep our schools in-person in as safe a way as possible,” Polis said. He added that the decision to move up school-facing personnel is “foundational to equity across the entire economy” and especially for essential workers who have had to choose between work and watching their children at home for remote schooling.
Coronavirus vaccinations have already started to reach some eligible staff members in Eagle County Schools, with about 100 employees getting the first of two needed doses on Jan. 23 and now in the queue for a second.
Categories of staff eligible for the Jan. 23 vaccinations included school nurses, health assistants, cooks and food-service workers, speech and language pathologists, audiologists, occupational therapists, special education staff and custodians, according to the district.
“With the start of vaccinations, the district and our staff are at the beginning of the end of the most challenging period in modern public education,” said Philip Qualman, superintendent of Eagle County Schools.
A recent survey found that about 86% of the school district’s roughly 1,000 employees plan to get the vaccination when it is available, the district said.
Eagle County Schools has continued to operate and provide in-person instruction for students throughout the unprecedented school year.
On Jan. 26, about 1.4% of staff and 0.2% of the district’s roughly 6,500 students were currently infected with the virus. Each infection, however, can result in significantly more people needing to quarantine as a precaution, disrupting operations and classroom education. That same day, 2.9% of staff and 3.3% of students were out of school in quarantine as a precaution.
The hope is that as more staff and educators are fully vaccinated — now sooner than was previously anticipated — those quarantine impacts will become less common and disruptive.
“We have received a release indicating that after full vaccination, staff will not have to quarantine if they have close contact with a positive case at school. That will ease our challenge with limited substitutes and help us maintain our current operations throughout the end of the year,” said Dan Dougherty, the chief communications officer for Eagle County Schools.
Students, however, will have to continue to quarantine if they come into close contact with a positive case. And the ongoing pandemic is anticipated to affect the remainder of the school year, with a need to continue to maintain social distancing, wear masks, monitor temperatures and follow all public health guidelines.
“Thanks to the hard work and innovation of our staff, we have had more in-person instructional time than many districts,” Qualman said, thanking parents for their cooperation and collaboration. “With the arrival of the vaccines, the district is positioned to complete the school year in our current model of modified in-person instruction.”
Statewide, officials estimate there are 408,000 people in “Phase 1b 2,” and the goal is to vaccinate 55% by March 5.
Colorado’s goal is to vaccinate 70% of residents age 70 and up by the end of February. Polis said the state will have vaccinated more than half of its 70 and older population by Feb. 8 — allowing the state to expand the eligibility group.
Between now and March 1, the state expects to receive 452,000 vaccine doses from the federal government, according to Brigadier General Scott Sherman, director of Joint Staff at the Colorado National Guard.
The state hopes to begin vaccinating 1.1 million Colorado residents in Phase 1b 3, which includes essential workers and people 16-64 years old with two or more comorbidities, by early March, depending on vaccine supply and dissemination, said Scott Bookman, incident commander at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Reporting from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Tom Lotshaw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.