Colorado continues to make progress in reducing new cases and hospitalizations from COVID-19, but whether that continues will depend on what people to do — and how widely more-contagious versions of the virus are spreading.
As of Monday afternoon, 535 people were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. That’s a little over a quarter of the number of people receiving hospital care for the virus at the worst point in December, but more than twice the number at the low point over the summer.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported 8,460 new cases in the week ending Sunday. It was the lowest weekly total since mid-October.
It will be difficult to know whether the Super Bowl had any impact on the virus’ trajectory, because so many other things are changing at the same time, said Dr. Jon Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health. Many counties loosened public health restrictions Saturday, so if there is an increase, it will difficult to know whether it was due to parties or policies. And more people are getting vaccinated, which could cancel out a small bump from celebrations, he said.
The improvement since December shows restrictions put in place to fight the deadly November spike were effective, and that people generally followed them and were careful with their face-to-face interactions, Samet said. Those conditions got the virus under control enough that the state could look at easing some restrictions, he said.
On Saturday, the state’s dial framework changed, raising the number of cases a county could have before having to move up to the next level of restrictions. In Denver’s case, that meant the county could move from Level Orange down to Level Yellow. Under Level Yellow, restaurants, gyms and other businesses could operate at 50% of capacity, which is double what they were allowed under Level Orange.
Samet said he’s “hopeful” cases and hospitalizations will continue to fall, but the number of factors influencing the virus’s trajectory make it difficult to predict. The policies in place and people’s behavior pushed cases and hospitalizations down since December, and vaccinations also are working in our favor, he said. At the same time, if people feel safe and start mixing more freely, that could give the virus a boost.
“I wish I knew how this balance would come out,” he said.
New variants of the virus also are a potential wild card. The state has found 37 cases of variants that are concerning because they spread more easily, and 16 cases of variants whose significance is unknown. Viruses mutate constantly, forming new variants, but only a handful have worrisome characteristics, such as being more contagious or more deadly.
There isn’t enough data to know how widely B.1.1.7, a more-contagious version of the virus first identified in the United Kingdom, is truly spreading in Colorado, Samet said. If that variant becomes common, it will push the number of cases and hospitalizations up, he said.
Since March, 406,276 people in Colorado have tested positive for the virus, and 22,329 have been hospitalized. The state has reported 5,733 coronavirus-related deaths.
Subscribe to bi-weekly newsletter to get health news sent straight to your inbox.
Source: Read Full Article