New COVID-19 cases in Colorado are at their highest level since the second week of January, with hospitalizations approaching the spring 2020 peak.
Data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment showed 12,877 people tested positive for COVID-19 in the week ending Sunday.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 957 people were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. The last time more people infected with the virus were receiving hospital care was Jan. 6, when the state was still recovering from the massive winter spike.
Counting only people with confirmed infections, 862 were hospitalized, which is only 26 fewer than on the worst day in April 2020, said Beth Carlton, an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at Colorado School of Public Health. The state’s COVID-19 trackers generally focus on hospitalizations where the person has tested positive, because of volatility in the number of people being evaluated for the virus from day to day.
“The number of people in the hospital is high, and poised to exceed the April 2020 peak,” she said.
Deaths due to the virus also are rising. The state reported 71 COVID-19 deaths in the week ending Aug. 29, which is roughly double the 36 reported in the first week of August. It’s possible those totals could increase as delayed reports come in, though.
The percentage of tests coming back positive gave a mixed message about whether the situation is getting worse. Which way the positivity rate is trending is important, because the higher it is, the more likely it is the state doesn’t have a clear picture of how the virus is spreading.
The positivity rate fell late last week, though it still was above the state’s 5% goal. It rose again Monday, but it’s not clear if that’s a blip because people who didn’t feel sick were less likely to get tested on a holiday.
“Yesterday is one of those low days for testing,” Carlton said.
Only three of Colorado’s counties — Washington, Mineral and Baca — had fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 people, the level where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing masks indoors, as of Tuesday. More than 80% of counties had case rates that are at least twice that level over the last week.
The rate of cases as of Monday in the metro area was:
- Adams County: 199.1 cases per 100,000 people
- Arapahoe County: 192.1
- Boulder County: 163.8
- Broomfield: 155.5
- Denver: 135.1
- Douglas County: 206.8
- Jefferson County: 156.2
The risk of exposure to COVID-19 is high for everyone now, Carlton said. The difference is that vaccinated people who are exposed are less likely to get infected, and if they do, their risk of severe illness is substantially lower, she said.
“The data are clear that the best way to protect people against these more dangerous variants is to get vaccinated,” she said.
It was not clear if new vaccinations continued to increase as August ended. The number of doses administered had risen for six straight weeks, increasing from 50,381 in the week starting July 11 to 77,398 in the week starting Aug. 22. More than 74,000 doses were reported last week, and the total will likely continue rising over the next few days as delayed reports come in.
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