DENVER – Colorado is now the 14th highest state for transmission of the novel coronavirus across the United States, officials with the state’s department of public health and environment said during a virtual news conference Friday morning.
State epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said Colorado has seen a “clear increasing trend” in cases for the past several weeks with the state reaching a level of “high plateau” over the past two weeks, warning that it could take multiple weeks of a decrease to see if cases are declining across the state.
The cases are being driven mostly by unvaccinated people, with kids 6-11 years old – who are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine – seeing the highest rates of transmission, followed by kids ages 12-17, with adults over the age of 18 not far behind the second group. Kids up to 5 years of age show the least spread among age groups in Colorado, according to CDPHE data.
As of Thursday, Colorado was reporting 268 cases of the novel virus per 100,000 people, a 61% increase over the past two weeks, when the state was reporting 166 cases per 100,000 people, according to statewide data.
Also on Thursday, the state reported the highest number of hospital beds in use by patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19, the highest patient count so far this year, according to CDPHE’s COVID-19 Incident Commander Scott Bookman.
Most of those beds are being used by people who are not yet vaccinated against the novel virus. Only 22% of beds currently in use are being occupied by vaccinated patients, CDPHE data shows.
Currently, 89.9% of ICU beds across the state are in use, a 4.8% increase over the past 30 days, according to a slide from Friday’s news conference.
Both Bookman and Herlihy recommended Coloradans get inoculated not only with the COVID-19 vaccine, but with their annual influenza shot to reduce the risk of a surge in respiratory viruses this winter and help protect hospital capacity in 2021.
If you’re traveling for the holidays, the CDPHE recommends that gatherings be limited to those who are vaccinated among those who are eligible for the vaccine and be limited in size – smaller gatherings are always going to be lower risk for COVID-19 transmission than larger ones, Herlihy said during Friday’s news conference.
She also encouraged a multi-layered approach for those gathering over the holidays: Wearing masks, maintaining proper social distancing, testing for COVID-19 prior to gathering, having events outdoors instead of indoors, or opening windows to allow for more ventilation if outdoor events aren’t a possibility.
When asked when Colorado could start seeing a decrease from the fifth wave of the virus, Herlihy could not provide a definitive answer. She said was concerned the state could see continued increase in cases as times goes on due to arrival of the flu season in the state.
“Typically, we see respiratory virus season ... start in the fall and really increase through the winter, but COVID is unpredictable. It is challenging for us to know what the next couple of weeks and months have in store for us.”