Governor Polis Announces New Free COVID Testing Program for Schools
On Thursday morning, Governor Jared Polis addressed press and the public with an update on Colorado's approach to COVID going into the fall.
Governor Polis focused a lot on the conversation of in-person education and the importance of keeping students in schools by any means possible.
To open the conference, Gov. Polis noted 1,668 new positive cases on Aug. 11, and seven of 501 reported hospitalizations were children ten and under. Polis says that they do not have a concern for Colorado hospital numbers as they are nowhere close to overwhelming facilities.
In regards to mandates across the state and in different school districts, Polis stressed that there is not one silver bullet to prevent and diminish COVID. It will be a combination of mask wearing, social distancing when possible, vaccinations and frequent screening and testing.
On top of mask wearing in schools and the encouragement for eligible groups to get vaccinated, Polis believes the best and proven way to stay on top of the spread of possible outbreaks is frequent testing. That being said, he announced that Colorado is proud to receive federal funding in order to provide all Colorado schools with free rapid testing.
The program is now open for schools to apply, and any who wish to do so will be granted two testing options. They can either opt for a full-service option that will require minimal assistance from school personnel, or they can choose a direct shipping option that will allow the schools to run and monitor all testing in a more hands-on way.
It's completely optional for schools but, as Polis stressed, mandating masks and monitoring that alone is simply not enough to get ahead on prevention.
Polis said he and the state is also working towards providing further incentive options for people getting tested and vaccinated. For vaccinations, he said they have found great success in the Walmart gifting program and how that has leant itself to higher vaccination rates in the state.
Governor Polis also introduced the idea of incentives for students K-12 to get tested. Whether that be in a $20-$25 range of incentive or something different, he and several departments are working towards a decision that will help incentivize students who are both eligible and not eligible for the vaccine.
For Polis and the state of Colorado, the top priority is to keep in person education and not come close to overwhelming numbers in hospitals. Polis stated that they will not decide on statewide mandates until two levels of metrics are observed and lead to a decision: hospital capacities and in-person education.
If both of those metrics are threatened, then the Colorado government will look at what school districts are doing and the state as a whole and revisit the potential decision for statewide mask mandates. He did not allude to anything about statewide vaccine mandates.
Polis reminded the public that vaccines are still readily available across the state, and locations are easy to find at cocovidvaccine.org. He called for students and parents to be flexible if individual class quarantines are necessary due to an outbreak in that particular classroom. However, the importance still lies with keeping students in-person in schools as much as possible for the 2021-22 school year.