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Colorado Does Practice Run To Assess Vaccine Distribution Plans

NOEL KING, HOST:

The minute a decision on the vaccine is made, states are ready to move. Colorado Governor Jared Polis says his state is absolutely ready. When he talked to our co-host Rachel yesterday, he said Colorado is expecting first doses of the vaccine to come quickly.

JARED POLIS: Likely within 24 hours or so of the approval, we expect to receive, based on what we've been told, over 40,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: Where's it going? Who's getting it?

POLIS: So the tiering is around, obviously, those who work with COVID patients, first and foremost - so nurses, doctors, hospital folks, people who are exposed every day. Many of them themselves have contracted COVID. And we want to make sure they - through our health care system and providers, we have that level of protection.

MARTIN: Are you running into any problems with storage and transport at this point as you finalize plans?

POLIS: You know, yesterday we did a dry run of what was obviously not the vaccine, but a box that we pretended had the vaccine. And we did arrival and movement to Eagle County, maintained the cold chain. And, you know, it's not without logistical difficulties. But thankfully, they've been known for some time. And we have adapted a system that will allow for the statewide distribution of the top two vaccine candidates that we expect to come in the next couple weeks.

MARTIN: You mentioned that you're expected to get 40,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine within 24 hours of the vaccine getting FDA approval. Is that number set by the federal government? Is that firm? Is it flexible? Obviously, you're going to need more.

POLIS: That's just for a given week. It'll be that first week, which the week will be triggered once the approval comes through. And that is the number that they have confirmed. And obviously, until we get it here, we never know. They - in the past, there's been confirmed deliveries of tests and other supplies that have not arrived. But that's at least what we're being told that we will get in that first week. We have been informed of different numbers before that have not been lived up to. But I think there's most likely the highest visibility and accuracy with that first number - that forty-two, 43,000 number.

MARTIN: One of the big sticking points in the congressional debate over another COVID relief package is funding for state and local governments. What does that mean for Colorado? I mean, what do you need that state and local funding for?

POLIS: We're talking about both the economic and health costs of this crisis. First of all, on the health side, there needs to be funding for vaccines distribution as well as testing. The current funding for testing expires in late December, but also economic aid. Our state legislature in Colorado stepped up. We did what we could, and I signed the bills to help restaurants and small businesses affected by the pandemic. But we do want the federal government to step up.

MARTIN: What's the situation with the virus right now in Colorado? Are your hospitals at capacity?

POLIS: We are not at capacity. Thank goodness. Anybody who contracts COVID or in a car accident or heart attack, there's space. But we watch that very closely in real time. And we are - we have some alternative care facilities that we can bring online if needed. Thank goodness we didn't need to do that yet.

MARTIN: You've got a statewide mask mandate in place. Are people adhering to that? And is it making a difference, do you think?

POLIS: We know it makes a difference. And it's a matter of percentages. And we have - I wish we had better compliance - but pretty good mask-wearing indoors. I think it's one of the reasons that we're doing a little bit better. We encourage people to wear masks indoors when they're around others. We know that they're about 50 to 75% effective in preventing the spread of the virus, so we all are excited about a vaccine that's 94% effective. But if you think about it, we have a very simple vaccine that's - already that's 50%-plus effective, and it's called a mask.

MARTIN: This is also personal for you. You and your husband, I understand, have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Your husband had to be admitted to the hospital. What message do you have for others going through this with their loved ones?

POLIS: Thank goodness we're doing better now. And it's just so many people that this has impacted from a health perspective, an economic perspective. Really, we want to make sure that everybody wears masks, avoids socializing with people outside of their home, is thoughtful, careful, keeps a distance so less people have to go through what we had to go through and even worse - obviously, the - so many families, hundreds of thousands of Americans that have paid the ultimate price.

MARTIN: Governor of Colorado Jared Polis. Thank you for your time, Governor.

POLIS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.