As more restless Americans call for states to reopen, “herd immunity” has been tossed out as a purpose for less regulation. But Colorado’s top health official on Wednesday said that for herd immunity to even be effective in the state, 70% of the population would have to get sick and more would die.

“We’re really still at the beginning of this epidemic,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The Colorado School of Public Health estimated that 2.9% of Coloradans, or 167,000 people, have had COVID-19.

Regulations are slowly being lifted in various communities. The CDPHE has approved the reduction of restrictions for 14 different communities, but people must continue social distancing and mask wearing to ensure the state will not resort to another stay-at-home declaration.

Coloradans’ sacrifices have helped flatten the curve, Ryan said, but “we are not out of the woods.”

With Memorial Day weekend approaching, local enforcement will continue to monitor whether people are following official guidelines.

Ryan, joined by Scott Bookman, COVID-19 incident commander, and Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist, said that CDPHE has the following goals for the state:

  • Slow down spread of the virus so they don’t exceed hospital capacity or run out of beds or ventilators
  • Get kids back to school in the fall
  • Prevent a second wave, particularly during peak flu season from November through March.
  • Prevent a second Stay at Home order
  • Enable local decision-making on restrictions

The good news is that the curve has bent, Herlihy said, but that still reveals how fast the disease spreads. Bookman said that swab supply chain options have expanded, and new kits from the federal government include materials for 96,000 tests.

Herlihy said CDPHE is providing funding to local public health agencies for workforce enhancements and has recruited 50 public health students to work with CDPHE staff on investigations and contact tracing. AmeriCorps staff also has been a “backbone” to providing contact tracing at a larger scale, she said.

CDPHE leads multi-jurisdictional and state facility outbreak investigations, she said. Otherwise, for residential and corrections facilities, the CDPHE provides guidance for prevention, reporting and response through its team of experts.

Herlihy said that outbreaks in nursing homes have dropped, but did not comment on an outbreak at the nursing home in Broomfield that may be linked to the National Guard, which Colorado Politics reported on last week.

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