The city will reactivate its emergency operations center to streamline access to vaccines

Businesses will also be able to start applying next week for the 5 Star Certification Program.
3 min. read
Mayor Michael Hancock runs the mock emergency as he would in the event of a real situation. The Denver Office of Emergency Management practices a worst-case security scenario in their basement offices in the City and County Building, Dec. 15, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The city on Thursday provided details about how it's working to ensure more equitable vaccine access as data shows wealthier and whiter neighborhoods in Denver have much higher vaccination rates among people 70 years old and older.

Mayor Michael Hancock said the city will reactive its emergency operations center to make vaccine distribution more effective. The city's plan for equity in vaccine access includes working with pharmacies and community-based clinics to make sure underserved communities can get the shots.

The city doesn't distribute vaccines directly, instead it coordinates with local health care providers, who get the vaccines from the state. Hancock has asked the Biden administration to give the vaccines directly to the city. City public health director Bob McDonald said the state decides where the vaccines go.

Office of Emergency Management Executive Director Matt Mueller said the office will provide public information about the vaccine and help coordinate all city agency's resources. It will help ensure equity for its distribution by establishing community partnerships and getting the vaccine into areas in the city that need it most, which Mueller said will be its first focus once it reactivates operations next week.

Hancock anticipates vaccination supplies will be ramping up soon. He cited the White House telling governors they can expect 16 percent more doses starting next week, which the Washington Post reported is due to increased manufacturing.

Data provided by the city on Thursday showed 7.3 percent of residents received an initial COVID-19 vaccine, while 2.5 percent have received a second dose. Statewide, 6.8 percent of residents have received an initial dose, ans 1.7 percent have received a second dose.

UCHealth is planning a massive vaccination drive at Coors Field this weekend for people 70 and older, while Servicios de la Raza in West Denver will host a vaccination drive this weekend as well.

Hancock also announced businesses may begin to apply to the 5 Star Certification Program starting next week. The program will allow certain businesses to operate with looser COVID-19 restrictions. Hancock said the first round of applicants will be capped at 500 businesses.

Denver Economic Development & Opportunity Executive Director Eric Hiraga said the program will operate on a first-come first serve basis and will function like a pre-certification process. Hiraga said that's because the city's approval for the program by the state was is conditional. McDonald said the city will need to keep its the two-week COVID-19 cumulative incident rate below 350; Hiraga said this will need stay at this rate or lower for the next seven days for the city to fully qualify.  The city's two-week rate at the moment is 348, according to the city's presentation.

After applications are processed, the city will conduct an on-site inspection. If businesses pass the inspection, they will be pre-certified. Hiraga said the inspections will include things like requiring employee symptoms checks, special ventilation requirements and exposure notification procedures.

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