By Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4) – Gov. Jared Polis says more than 70% of all Coloradans who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine have “done the right thing to protect themselves, their families and their community” and gotten vaccinated. He announced the new figure in a news conference on Monday afternoon alongside Colorado State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy.

(credit: State of Colorado)

“It’s really time for those who haven’t shouldered more of the consequences for the ongoing spread to make sure that they’re stepping up, too,” Polis said.

While the number of vaccinated residents is growing, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations is rising in Colorado. From last week to this week there was a jump of approximately 70 hospitalizations. There are currently 358 people hospitalized with COVID in the state.

Herlihy said Colorado is also “seeing a pretty dramatic increase” in cases of COVID, with nearly all new cases being the more transmissible delta variant. Only a small number of the new COVID cases are among people who have been vaccinated.

“Unvaccinated individuals are really driving transmission in the state right now,” Herlihy said.

During his news conference, Polis urged people numerous times to get vaccinated as soon as possible, saying people are putting themselves at great risk to the delta variant if they aren’t vaccinated.

“What makes an enormous difference here, and the course this takes over the next few months, is whether we can get to that 80% vaccination level — we’re now at 72.12% (of adults),” Polis said.

(credit: CBS)

Polis announced last week that starting Sept. 20, all State of Colorado employees need to be vaccinated or get mandatory COVID tests twice a week in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. On Monday he said it’s “an example of a workplace policy that can help people safe.”

“While the twice-a-week surveillance will help keep people with COVID out of the workplace that the state is implementing, we’re also hopeful that this will just be another reminder to people to get vaccinated.”

Things are going to get worse before they get better, Polis predicted, but he stopped short of imposing another mask mandate.

“A statewide mask requirement would be an extraordinary step. It was one we didn’t hesitate to take when our hospital capacity was in jeopardy,” Polis said.

RELATED: Vaccination Rate Keeps Colorado Hospitals Out of Jeopardy

He added a mandate is not being ordered because masks are not nearly as effective as vaccinations.

“If there are folks who are worried about side effects from the vaccine? You are more likely to get struck by lightning than experience major side effects from the vaccine,” he said.

Polis noted some of those who have been vaccinated are now opting on their own for a third shot as a booster.

Herlihy said they are urging action when it comes to booster shots.

“We really need the FDA to make that decision, and they are looking at the data and science around the safety and effectiveness.”

If you are looking for a place to get vaccinated, Polis urges you to visit covid19.colorado.gov.

Rick Sallinger