Colorado’s COVID-19 hospitalizations reach highest level since July
The number of people hospitalized with the new coronavirus in Colorado rose to the highest level since July on Monday, though new cases may have leveled out — or even fallen somewhat — after a four-week rise.
It’s difficult to tell the trajectory of COVID-19 cases because of delayed reporting. As of Monday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported 3,694 new cases during the week that ended Sunday, a decrease of 501 infections from the week before.
But it’s common for a week’s numbers to continue to rise well into the following week as delayed reports come in, though adding more than 500 late cases would be unusual.
The hospitalization data comes in closer to real time. As of Monday afternoon, 233 people were hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19, which was a 67% increase from the 139 people hospitalized one month earlier. That put coronavirus hospitalizations statewide at the highest level since July 30.
Deaths fluctuated between 20 and 28 per week in September, though the totals for the past two weeks could increase as delayed reports come in. This summer, the highest number of deaths following the July spike came two weeks after cases peaked.
It’s too early to tell if hospitalizations will continue to rise, said Beth Carlton, an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at the Colorado School of Public Health.
It does appear that the virus isn’t just spreading among young people — the age group that first drove the current spike — but that middle-aged and older adults are getting infected, she said. Hospitalizations usually rise or fall a week or so after the direction of new cases changes, because most people don’t become seriously ill in their first days with the virus.
“I think the question of the week is, are we on a roller coaster or are we starting to climb a mountain?” she said.
The state health department urged the public to continue following guidelines, like wearing masks and quarantining if they were close to someone who’s been infected. They also urged everyone to get a flu shot, to reduce the demand for hospital beds.
“As we enter fall and winter, we need to be vigilant,” an unidentified spokeswoman for the state health department said in an email. “We are having a rise in cases now — that could be decreased if everyone follows the guidance as closely as possible.”
The number of new cases among teens and people in their 20s dropped last week, but all older age groups showed increases. The largest number of new infections was in people in their 30s and 40s.
Cases in Boulder County, which had accounted for much of the increase in previous weeks, could be leveling off. The number of new cases there increased about 6% last week, down from about a 24% increase the previous week.
Other counties began sounding alarms, though.
On Friday, Arapahoe County officials urged residents to be vigilant about wearing masks and practicing social distancing, and to avoid indoor gatherings. The rate of increase in cases has slowly grown over the past three weeks, though it’s growing nowhere near as fast as Boulder County’s was.
The increase in cases in Arapahoe County could force it to adopt more restrictions if the rate isn’t brought under control in two weeks, though it’s hardly alone. Adams, Boulder, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas, Huerfano, Larimer, Lincoln, Logan, Mesa, Otero, Summit, Washington and Yuma counties all need to bring their two-week average of new cases down, or possibly increase restrictions, under the state’s color-coded dial framework.
Statewide, the rate of tests coming back positive was 3.56%, which was slightly higher than a week ago, but still below the 5% goal. Adams, Grand, Summit and Yuma counties exceeded 5% positivity, and Lincoln County topped 15%, suggesting there may be undetected cases in the community.
Colorado has reported 73,537 coronavirus cases and 7,693 hospitalizations in total. Since March, 1,968 people have died directly from the virus, and a total of 2,069 people have died with it in their system.
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