Colorado’s COVID-19 hospitalizations continue bumpy descent as new cases fall slightly
COVID-19 hospitalizations are still trending down in Colorado, but the progress is bumpier than expected.
New cases dropped again last week, though not as sharply as they had earlier in May. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported 4,588 cases in the week ending Sunday, which was 316 fewer than in the previous week. Deaths haven’t yet returned to their levels before the latest wave, though.
The state health department reported 488 people were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 as of Tuesday afternoon. Hospitalizations had fallen since the first week of May, popped up again last week and started a jagged drop again over the weekend.
Dr. Jon Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health, said that hospitalizations from an epidemic typically fall fairly smoothly as more people are vaccinated. People taking more risks could slow down the rate of decrease, but shouldn’t make the numbers jump around as they have, he said, suggesting there might be a problem with the data.
“It’s a little perplexing,” he said.
Still, everything suggests that new cases and hospitalizations will continue to fall in Colorado, even though some of the few remaining public health rules were lifted this week, Samet said.
People already have made significant changes to their behavior, though they still have fewer contacts than they did before the pandemic — perhaps because some workplaces are still operating remotely, he said.
The state’s restrictions on events attracting hundreds of people were repealed at midnight Tuesday, meaning most that in most counties, the only public health requirement is for unvaccinated people to wear masks in a few settings.
The state health department also changed the definition of an outbreak this week, so that most facilities would need five cases before the state declares an outbreak. Health care and correctional facilities will still be held to the stricter standard, with an outbreak declared if two cases are found within two weeks.
Outbreaks are smaller than they were a few months ago, but still take a toll. Nationwide, 472 nursing home residents died of COVID-19 in the first half of May, which is a small fraction of the 10,675 who died from the virus in the first half of January, according to The Associated Press.
Denver kept slightly more restrictive rules than the state, requiring indoor events involving 2,000 or more people to get permission from the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment.
The city seems to be transitioning away from its pandemic footing, however. On Friday, the Denver health department announced it would shut down its at-home COVID-19 testing program and its Green Valley Ranch testing site, and begin phasing out community vaccination sites.
The site on the Montbello school campus closed Friday, and four others will follow this month:
- Barnum Recreation Center: First doses end Sunday, second doses end June 30
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation Center: First doses end Saturday, second doses end June 29
- Swansea Recreation Center: First doses end Monday, second doses end June 28
- John F. Kennedy High School: First doses end Wednesday, second doses end June 30
The Barnum and King sites will stop offering Pfizer vaccines sooner, so only people who need a second Moderna shot will be able to schedule at those locations during their last few days.
About 2.6 million of Colorado’s 5.8 million residents are fully vaccinated, as are about half of adults nationwide. Children younger than 12 still aren’t eligible to get the shot.
Vaccines have proven key to bringing COVID-19 under control. Some countries that initially kept the virus in check but have low vaccination rates, such as Taiwan and Singapore, are seeing increased spread. New variants also are beginning to show up in unexpected places, like Vietnam. Previous variants were found in places with out-of-control spread, like California, the United Kingdom and Brazil.
So far, the vaccines still work well against variants, and it’s important for more people to get protected to prevent even more variations of the virus from evolving, Samet said.
“The way to keep variants from developing is to keep people from being infected,” he said.
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