NewsCovering Colorado


UCHealth reports an uptick in 'incidental' COVID-19 cases

Posted at 10:29 AM, Jan 14, 2022

COLORADO SPRINGS — As the omicron variant continues to spread in Colorado, UCHealth is seeing a shift in the patients who are testing positive for covid-19.

UCHealth recently released a statement saying about a third of their patients who test positive for covid-19 are visiting the hospital for that reason. The other two-thirds are visiting the hospital for other illnesses, injuries, and other health issues.

“There’s a whole lot of other people that are coming into the hospital for other reasons. Maybe you were in a car accident, maybe you broke your leg skiing, things like that. But, because we test everyone, maybe you don’t have symptoms of it. So, we’re calling this “true covid infection” versus “incidental finding of covid,” said Dr. Michelle Barron, UCHealth senior medical director of infection prevention and control.

This is different than research from the Delta variant which showed that 90 percent of patients testing positive at UCHealth were visiting the hospital specifically for covid-19.

Data from South Africathe U.K., Israel, and the U.S. shows that the omicron variant is causing less severe illness than the previous variants.

“Patients that are hospitalized with the hospital for less amount of time, end up in the ICU less often, so all of those are good signs that omicron is definitely less severe,” said Barron.

Dr. Barron explained the CDC’s decision to shorten the quarantine period to 5 days.

“There’s actually a fair amount of science on this. When you look at the original viral dynamics, when the virus factory turns on and then hits the amount it can do before your immune system turns on, with the original strand, ten days was about the average when they looked at individuals who they tested every day, and then they could actually track it...When you look at Delta, it was shortened, it was between 5-7 days, with omicron, it’s even shorter,” said Barron.

“And so that time frame in which you have a lot of virus is when you’re potentially most infectious and that’s kind of the rationale behind why they shortened the duration to five days, because the amount there is already on the downswing, said Barron. “And so, the amount there is so much lower. It doesn’t mean you can’t transmit it, but it's significantly less.”

According to the CDC, “The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after.”

Data shows that the number of UCHealth hospitalized patients with covid in intensive care units who are unvaccinated patients remains high at about 90 percent. Last week, UCHealth treated 75 people for covid-19 in the ICUs.

In terms of omicron's high transmissibility, in Colorado the positivity rate for the disease is 30%.

We are not minimizing the seriousness of the virus for this specific variant, because each body’s response works differently. We are just offering some clarity from health officials on hospitalizations and cases in hospitals.