COLORADO SPRINGS — On Friday, Gov. Jared Polis and other Colorado officials gave an update on the state of COVID-19 in Colorado.
In their update, they warned of a "fourth and final" wave and announced that more than 50% of all positive COVID-19 cases are COVID-19 variants.
"If you develop COVID now, chances are you are going to be infected with a variant that is probably more easily spread and could potentially cause more severe illness," said Dr. Rachel Herlihy of the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.
The variants are more transmissible and often more severe than regular strains of COVID-19.
Currently, 43-45 percent of the variant strains are the B.1.1.7 from the United Kingdom, followed by the B.1.427 and B.1.429 strains from California which makes up about 18-20 percent of all variants.
A dozen of the new cases reported this week were of the new P.1 variant out of Brazil. Herlihy warned about the more troublesome aspects of this new variant.
"The concerns with it are increased transmissibility, possible increased severity, decreased effectiveness of some antibody treatments, risk of re-infection, and we've seen a concerning outbreak in Brazil in particular where re-infection has been an issue," she said.
During the update, Gov. Polis said we are currently in a fourth wave of the pandemic, pointing to increased rates of cases and hospitalizations.
He noted this wave is different than previous ones, due to more of the population being fully vaccinated. The governor also said they're finding the wave is affecting younger populations more than older populations, due to older populations having higher vaccination rates.
The governor said he believes Colorado will have a "more or less" normal summer, but urged people to practice safety precautions over the next few weeks.
"We don't need to ride a fourth wave of this virus, we can end it," said Gov. Polis, "by just living like we did in February where we got it under control."
The state health department will now make rapid home test kits available for free to anyone who works directly with the public. The governor had previously restricted the distribution of those kits to educators and food service employees.
"Signing up is very easy, all you need is your email address and where we send them," Mr. Polis said. "You can apply using a Google form and receive a confirmation email within one business day from CDPHE."
The governor also announced that the color-coded COVID Dial Framework, which has been used to implement capacity restrictions and other preventative measures, will be replaced by a new public health order next Friday, April 16. The new order is expected to give more control over virus response to local communities.
Vaccine distribution is also expected to grow. The governor said everyone who wants to get a vaccine should be able to get one by the end of May.