Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have fallewn from their peak in Colorado, but now is not the time to celebrate by inviting all your friends over, health experts say.
On Monday, 1,779 people were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. That was a decrease of more than 200 from Wednesday, though it was slightly higher than the total on Sunday.
It’s too early to be sure that Colorado got through Thanksgiving without a spike, said Beth Carlton, an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at the Colorado School of Public Health. Still, it’s encouraging to see hospitalizations begin to trend down, she said.
The number of people receiving hospital care for COVID-19 had been increasing since October, and nurses warned that intensive-care units were nearing the breaking point.
“Every day that hospitalizations go down is good, because it gives us some breathing room if there is an increase,” she said.
A significant number of people are still contagious with the virus, so it’s important to continue taking precautions, Carlton said. Last week, state health officials estimated about one in 40 people was contagious, and that it would be necessary to maintain high levels of precautions to avoid overrunning hospitals.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported 30,603 new cases of the novel coronavirus last week. That was about 1,300 more than the previous week, but about 4,000 fewer than two weeks ago.
The Tri-County Health Department announced Monday afternoon that it would extend a public health order through Jan. 7 because of concerns about a “surge on surge.” The department had issued the order in early November because of high numbers of hospitalizations and cases. The order bans spectators at sporting events, prohibits indoor restaurant dining and sets a 10 p.m. curfew, except for people working in essential jobs or fulfilling urgent needs, like seeking medical care.
“We understand that people are tired of this, but these public health measures are the roadmap for a faster and more sustainable recovery in our community without the necessity of moving to the complete stay-at-home orders that we had in the spring,” said Dr. John Douglas, executive director of the Tri-County Health Department, which serves Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties.
An average 11.7% of COVID-19 tests statewide came back positive over the weekend. Anything above 5% positivity suggests the state may not be finding all cases. That means the high number of cases doesn’t just reflect the amount of testing being done.
It can take up to two weeks for cases resulting from events to show up in the state’s data, Carlton said. That means we should know whether the virus spread significantly at Thanksgiving gatherings in Colorado by the start of next week. Hospitalizations typically rise a few days after cases, she said.
Even if the current decline in hospitalizations continues, deaths likely will rise for some time as delayed reports continue to come in, Carlton said. During the summer spike, deaths peaked about two weeks after cases.
Colorado surpassed the deadliest week of the spring wave in the week ending Nov. 22, with 249 coronavirus deaths. It’s not yet clear if the death toll will fall once all deaths in subsequent weeks are counted.
Since March, 264,168 people in Colorado have tested positive for the new coronavirus, and 14,904 have been hospitalized. As of Monday, 2,776 people had died directly from the virus, while a total of 3,358 people who had it have died.
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