DENVER (CBS4) – Gov. Jared Polis told Coloradans he's confident that this summer will be "very close to normal" during a news conference Tuesday. Institutions that have been closed for nearly a year are finalizing reopening plans and submitting them to the state. The light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel is starting to peek through, but doctors say it's still too early to give up the fight.
"I hope (Polis) is right. As far as concerts and 30 person barbecues, those kind of things, I just don't know. I think a lot of that depends on what we do now. What we are doing now lays the foundation for that to even be a conversation," said Dr. Michelle Barron, Sr. Medical Director of Infection Prevention at UCHealth.
Barron says is the big concern now is whether the highly-contagious variants start to come into play. She says they're 30% more contagious than the standard variant that shut the country down for a year.
"It's so important that people get the vaccine and continue to mask, social distance and maintain small groups instead of large gatherings. The big reason for this is that we haven't reached the critical threshold of herd immunity," said Barron.
Herd immunity occurs when enough of the population is immune to a disease through vaccination or prior illness, making the spread unlikely. Barron says the threshold for herd immunity to COVID-19 is in the 70%-75% range. It's critical that everyone get vaccinated.
"There are two things you should know. Your vaccine is not fully effective for at least 14 days after the second vaccine. The second thing is, it is not a guarantee that you're not going to get sick. There are people who get sick between those two. You're just going to be less sick," said Barron. "I worry about complacency. People may get the vaccine and think 'I'm protected. I'm good now. I can do whatever I want.'"
Barron added that the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine isn't fully effective until a month after it's administered. There are still months to go before the state can return to more normalcy. In the meantime, people are preparing.
"I'm not sure what normal is anymore," laughed Chris Zacher, Executive Director of Levitt Pavilion. "I've been thinking about normal for a long time."
There hasn't been any live music at Levitt Pavilion since October 2019. Zacher has spent the last year working with the city and state on reopening plans. He recently surveyed 1,500 people to gauge consumer confidence.
When the state approaches normal, will the people be ready?
"We gave them some scenarios and people have been overwhelmingly positive. They're ready to get back out," said Zacher. "The general public understands that it's not going to look like it looked in 2019 for a while."
Zacher says he doesn't think Levitt Pavilion well get to full capacity this year, but somewhere between 75 and 80% capacity is within reach.
Levitt Pavilion isn't the only place finalizing plans. Denver Parks and Rec is in the process of finalizing their draft for phased reopening. Elitch Gardens has already submitted its plan to the City. If approved, the park can open with restrictions as early as May 1st.
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