Denver could get out of COVID-19 Level Red in mid-January

If Denver continues its current level of progress in suppressing the new coronavirus, the city could get out of Level Red on the state’s dial framework in three or four weeks.

The number of new cases and hospitalizations in the city have improved, but that depends on the public continuing to take care, said Bob McDonald, executive director of the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment during a briefing Thursday.

If there’s a spike following Christmas and New Year’s, it’s not clear when the city might begin to loosen restrictions, he said.

“This virus could turn again,” McDonald said.

Under Level Red, indoor dining is closed and most businesses are limited to 25% of capacity.

The rate of new cases has fallen in recent weeks, from 1,319 cases per 100,000 people on Nov. 20 to 762 per 100,000 on Thursday. The rate would need to go below 350 for Denver to get out of Level Red.

To keep the downward trajectory going, Denver residents should continue to avoid large groups, gathering only with people in their households, and limiting their shopping trips, McDonald said. It’s also important to keep wearing masks in public and washing your hands, he said.

“If we can stick to that, that’s largely going to do the job,” he said.

The number of people hospitalized in the region including Denver has fallen about 18% since Dec. 3, but still remains above levels seen in the spring wave. Dr. Connie Price, chief medical officer at Denver Health, said the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 should continue to fall along with the new infections, but the situation remains challenging for staff.

“We’re still feeling the stress of this wave,” she said.

Mayor Michael Hancock said widespread acceptance of the vaccine is the only way to avoid some level of public health restrictions.

“We need to get 70%, 75% vaccination so we can return to some kind of normalcy,” he said.

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