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DENVER (KDVR) — Saturday marks a major pandemic milestone in the Centennial State: two years since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in Summit County.

The state has come a long way in understanding how the virus works, as well as testing, vaccinating and treating the virus over the past two years. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment COVID-19 Incident Commander Scott Bookman discussed the progress and what the next chapter looks like on FOX31 NOW.

“We have had an incredible response in Colorado, because of the partnership and buy in from all Coloradans to work with us and respond to the pandemic,” Bookman said.

While COVID levels are among the lowest they’ve been since the pandemic began, 12,556 people have died from COVID-19 in Colorado since the pandemic began.

But efforts to monitor the virus, vaccinate and treat COVID-19 have made extraordinary progress during that time.

“At the beginning, we had to send tests to the CDC labs in Atlanta,” Bookman said. “We then were able to do 42 tests per day at the state lab.”

In the time since, Colorado now has 150 community testing sites across the state and can process 60,000 tests per day. More than 4.4 million Coloradans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, accounting for more than 81% of the eligible population.

A week ago, Gov. Jared Polis and state health officials announced the shift from the COVID-19 pandemic to an endemic response deemed “Colorado’s Next Chapter: Our Roadmap to Moving Forward.”

But despite the state’s pandemic successes, including having the tenth-lowest COVID-19 death rate in the country and being a top ten state for booster vaccination rates, state leaders are looking for outside help to manage the endemic stage.

The state put out a request for proposals, looking for someone to identify triggers for different responses, establish the roles of non-governmental entities and set a timeframe to implement the governor’s plan.  

One public document said the budget for planning this transition could be between $100,000-$170,000. This plan also includes the option to move back to emergency mode if new dangerous variants pop up once again.  

“This group that we’re bringing in, two different firms, are really to help us manage the process, and to help us document the process,” Bookman said. “The ideas, the strategy all comes from our public health and our hospital experts. We wanted to bring in firms that are familiar with the contents of the works so they can hit the ground running, but their job is to help us with the mechanics of meetings, the stakeholder process and then help us compile this into the plan.”

When asked if this would be a waste of taxpayer money, Bookman said “absolutely not.”

“This is an augmentation of the team to help us do the work, to collect our ideas and to move it forward,” Bookman said.

According to public records, CDPHE awarded two contracts for its COVID-19 Transition Plan. The Colorado Health Institute was awarded a contract for $80,000 and Jensen Partners LLC was awarded an $84,400 contract, totaling a $164,400 investment to help with the transition.