Colorado will offer a school-based COVID-19 testing program and provide masks to K-12 schools and school districts that want them, Gov. Jared Polis said during a Thursday press conference. 

Colorado is recommending masks in schools, and will continue a mask delivery program across the state. Since the program’s launch this year, Colorado has delivered 8 million masks to 412 schools across Colorado. 

“In addition to the regular testing for schools, our guidance as you know, which is the CDC guidance, is universal mask-wearing,” Polis said.


Polis continues to urge Coloradans to get vaccinated and remain cautious against COVID-19. 

“I strongly encourage you to have your child vaccinated,” Polis said, addressing parents of children ages 12 to 17. “That’s the most effective protection by far, by far.” 

Polis spoke about the layered protections school districts, in conjunction with county health departments, have implemented, such as COVID-19 testing, symptom screening, ventilation upgrades, mask wearing, and social distancing. “We want to make sure schools are one of the safest environments for students,” Polis said.

In July, based on updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Colorado updated its guidance for schools. One of the recommendations is regular testing, given the higher percentage of asymptomatic cases for younger people, Polis said. “One of the reasons this virus spreads so efficiently and effectively is that some people who have it simply don’t know they have it, and unwittingly spread it.” 

Polis announced that Colorado will provide free, voluntary rapid testing for schools on a regular basis. Colorado’s school-based testing program, which provides school districts with surveillance testing for every student in Colorado, will start in early September, but districts that want to begin testing earlier will be accommodated. The program, funded with federal money, allows students who are not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to be tested, with the goal of isolating positive cases prior to outbreaks. 

Every school child in Colorado can have the same level of protection as a Denver Bronco.

– Colorado Gov. Jared Polis

“Every school child in Colorado can have the same level of protection as a Denver Bronco,” Polis said when announcing the testing program. Program details are provided on the state’s COVID-19 website

“This program is completely optional, of course, for districts, schools, and parents, and nobody has to be tested, but the safety of our children is an easy choice to make,” Polis said.

The state is exploring a way to offer financial incentives to students and their families to participate in the testing program. “We hope it’s somewhere in the $5 to $25 range,” Polis said. “(It’s) just an acknowledgment of the fact that, yes, it does take a little time and maybe means your kid has to get to school 20 minutes early.”

Polis suggested Colorado would consider requiring masks, or other safety precautions for schools, if due to rising infections schools are unable to provide continuous in-person learning. 

Polis encouraged all Coloradans to get tested if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, even if they think the sickness is because of poor air quality due to wildfires. 

“We at the state are providing science-based guidance, vaccine clinics, testing, free medical grade masks, and testing options, and we look forward to working with county health departments and schools to implement those across the state,” Polis said. 

“It is our top priority to keep in-person education and for kids to be safe,” he said. 

COVID-19 cases are rising in Colorado, but hospitals are not at risk of reaching capacity, Polis said. “We are not currently in jeopardy of overwhelming our hospital capacity,” he said during the press conference. “Everybody who experiences any illness in Colorado will get the very best care that we can provide through our hospitals.” 

“We will not overwhelm our hospitals. We will take the steps necessary to avoid doing that,” Polis said. 

Walmart gift cards

Almost 99% of COVID-19 cases in Colorado came from the delta variant during the week of July 25, the last week for which data is available, according to the Colorado COVID-19 dashboard

The delta variant is more contagious for all age ranges than previous coronavirus variants, Polis said. 

The state is giving away $100 Walmart gift cards to people who get their first or second COVID-19 vaccine in some locations while supplies last, according to an Aug. 10 press release. The press release states that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will send text message alerts to unvaccinated Coloradans reminding them of the opportunity to receive a Walmart gift card. The text messages will come from 45778. 

The state’s COVID-19 website states that the gift cards are available because it may urge unvaccinated individuals to get vaccinated: “Communities across Colorado become safer each time someone decides to take the COVID-19 vaccine. For Coloradans who have yet to take their first or second dose of COVID-19 vaccine, a $100 Walmart gift card may be the extra incentive they need to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their communities.” 

Vaccine sites across the state are participating in the gift card giveaway over the next several days and into the weekend. Gift cards will be available at select vaccine clinics today in Canon City, Hooper, Westminster, Alamosa, Denver, Greeley, Longmont, Pueblo, Rifle and Delta. Gift cards will be available at certain vaccine clinics Friday in Aurora, Boulder, Antonito, Delta, Denver, Hugo, Lakewood, Sterling, Pueblo, Meeker and Woodland Park. 

Individuals who get vaccines at these state-operated clinics will not need to show insurance or ID to get vaccinated. 

Colorado’s seven-day positivity rate is 5.58%.

State data indicates that more than 3.2 million people are fully vaccinated in Colorado. Approximately 65% of eligible Coloradans are fully vaccinated. The age range with the highest levels of vaccination are Coloradans ages 30-39, which makes up about 16% of Coloradans fully vaccinated. Coloradans ages 60 to 69 and 50 to 59 have the second- and third-highest rates of vaccination, with 15.38% and 15.04% of Colorado’s total vaccinations, respectively. 

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