Statewide cases plateau, but officials warn it’s too early to say COVID-19 ‘getting better’ |

Statewide cases plateau, but officials warn it’s too early to say COVID-19 ‘getting better’

Cases of COVID-19 are continuing to decline in Routt County, similar to the trend in cases across the state, but medical officials warn it is too early to know how real the drop off really is.

Colorado’s daily average case rate has declined by about 30% in the past two weeks, which is amounting to an average of near 2,200 new cases each day — about 1,000 less cases per day than during early November.

“In the last couple of weeks, the rates in Colorado seem to have plateaued,” said Dr. Eric France, Colorado’s chief medical officer in a COVID-19 update last week. “If you look across our experience from June until now, you will see these periods where we plateau and even dip. I think at the end of September (and) in early October, we dipped down a bit only to rise again.”

France said a key factor for the next few weeks will be the effect that gathering for the Thanksgiving holiday may have on the state’s cases. That effect should be understood better in the next 10 days, France said, and he wouldn’t be surprised if there was another spike in cases.

“This isn’t the time to assume things are getting better,” France said.

Routt County had its most recent peak in cases nearly three weeks ago — Nov. 10, close to the state’s last peak — with 254 cases in the previous 14 days. Since then, it has dropped off, and Nov. 26 the Routt County Public Health Department reported 143 cases over the previous two weeks.

Positivity rate has declined, as well, with it nearing 7% Nov. 10, but it is now closer to 4% and is far lower than double-digit positivity rates seen just after Labor Day.

Officials have said that spike in September was likely due to a combination of the start of school and gatherings that holiday weekend.

While cases have started to go down, hospitalization trends have not, and capacity is stretching thin in every region of the state. Almost every region in the state has less than 10% intensive care bed availability.

On Sunday, there were more than 1,500 people with COVID-19 in Colorado hospital beds, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Of those, 82% are unvaccinated.

“While we are not at that peak of 1,847 that we reached last December, we are still seeing an incredibly high rate of COVID hospitalizations,” said Scott Bookman, the state’s COVID-19 incident commander.

“The numbers that we see in cases and percent positivity are hopeful and indicate that maybe we are at the beginning of some type of plateau, (but) our hospitalizations are still high, and they are staying high,” Bookman continued.

Bookman noted that when the state set that previous hospitalization record, there were still about 1,800 beds available. Now, there are about 650 beds available, as the state’s overall capacity is less because of staffing shortages and because more people are in the hospital for other ailments after care was delayed last year, Bookman said.

Just before Thanksgiving, about 930,000 Coloradoans had received their COVID-19 booster dose, France said. About 3.6 million are fully vaccinated statewide.

“I think we are a leader across all states in the number of booster completions,” France said.

He emphasized people should get booster shots for two reasons: The vaccines have waning immunity, and boosters can protect those at higher risk from ending up in the hospital. There is also an indication that they can reduce transmission.

France pointed to a study out of Israel that showed transmission at each age group started to decline about 10 days after they got their booster. The study showed boosters also have a 93% effective rate at preventing someone from being admitted into the hospital, France said.

The booster could prove especially useful now because it appears the best level of protection seems to come about two weeks after getting one, France said. Getting a booster now means the strongest immunity would likely come around the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

“This is compelling evidence that by vaccinating with the booster, not only do you protect hospitalizations, but you actually reduce transmissions,” France said. “If you want to be excited to get out more, please go get your booster shot.”

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