DENVER — On Thursday, officials with the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment held a news conference to answer questions as the state prepares to hand over COVID restrictions to local agencies on Friday.
Officials reiterated that the state is in the beginning of what they're calling the "4th wave" of the pandemic. They said the rate of cases, percent positivity, and hospitalizations are going up across the state.
Positivity rates as of Thursday in key southern Colorado counties:
- El Paso County: 7.10%
- Pueblo County: 5.5%
- State: 5.85%
CDPHE COVID-19 Incident Commander Scott Bookman said as vaccine rates have gone up, testing for COVID-19 has gone down in some areas.
"It's really important to know that testing can help slow the spread of this virus as we continue to work on our vaccine campaign," said Bookman.
Officials said despite rising numbers, they plan to press forward with transferring COVID restrictions to local authorities.
CPDHE Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eric France said several factors led to the decision to give more authority to local control, including:
- Adequate hospital capacity
- Increasing vaccination rates
- Low rates of growth of COVID-19 infection
- Strong desire from communities to be open
- Variation of case rates across counties
"I think at this point it is county-level decision making," said Dr. France, "I would imagine if cases and hospitals became full, because of cases, and there was a risk of overwhelming hospitals again then certainly the state will be looking at that and intervening to protect our hospital systems."
Officials also addressed the incident at the Dr. Moma Clinic in Colorado Springs, where vaccines have now been declared invalid due to "irregularities in vaccine storage.”
Incident Commander Bookman stressed that the situation at the Dr. Moma Clinic was an "isolated" incident in a large vaccine campaign.
When asked if the state had done an on-site inspection before the incident, Bookman said they didn't have information at the time since it's an active and ongoing investigation.
"We're obviously incredibly disappointed that this happened and we are working at increasing our capacity, and we'll be going out and doing on-site inspections to ensure to the best of our ability that this does not happen again," said Bookman.
Officials said they encourage all Coloradans to report any issues they notice at vaccine sites.