Letter: COVID-19 case counts don’t justify public health order
This past week, two of our county commissioners, Beth Melton and Tim Corrigan, voted to extend the public health order to Sept. 30. The justification is centered around concern about case counts. I find it very troubling that our local and state public health officials and the government are using simple case counts to make policy. Any honest risk analysis is being obscured and only highlighted when it benefits the government narrative.
For example, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment publishes daily case counts but publishes nothing meaningful about case rates or trends — data that is critical to risk management and policymaking. As a risk analyst, I’ve been calculating and tracking this information using the daily CDPHE data. Unfortunately, the rates and trends are not publicly published.
On July 14, I started tracking hospitalization and mortality trends. The three-day rolling average of daily counts had been increasing and was 400 new cases per day. The hospitalization rate for positive COVID-19 patients was 14%, and the mortality rate of those testing positive was 4.7%.
On July 16, when Gov. Polis declared a statewide mask mandate and prohibited alcohol sales after 10 p.m., the daily case count had risen to 524. But the daily hospitalization and mortality rates had dropped to 13% and 4.5%, respectively.
On July 24, the daily case count spiked at 681. Meanwhile, the hospitalization rate dropped to 12%, and the mortality rate dropped to 4.3%.
As of Aug. 2, in Colorado, the daily cases are at 449. Yet, the hospitalization rate is 11.5%, and the mortality rate is 3.9%. The positive testing rate is 4%. Factoring the positive testing rate with the hospitalization rate and mortality rate, the likelihood of being hospitalized in Colorado with COVID-19 currently is 0.5%. The likelihood of death is 0.2%.
Remember at the beginning we were simply supposed to flatten the curve? In nearly every location across Colorado and the country, we’ve done that. Our Routt County public health officials owe our citizens and business owners a justification for the continued restrictions and threat of penalties in the context of true COVID-19 risks, not simple case numbers.
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