'Very worrisome’: COVID-19 cases in Colorado exceed 1,000 in last 2 out of 3 days

Photo courtesy: MGN
Photo courtesy: MGN(MGN)
Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 7:28 AM MDT
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DENVER (KKTV) - Colorado has hit multiple milestones in the ongoing fight against COVID-19, none of them good.

The most coronavirus hospitalizations since May.

A positivity rate of over 5 percent.

Over 1,000 cases in the last two out of three days.

“It’s very worrisome. It’s very alarming."

Gov. Jared Polis implored Coloradans to change their behavior now, while the trend could still be easily reversed.

“We need to get this under control now as we head into winter. People are indoors, they see their families, there’s holiday travel. We have to be able to get this under control before the Thanksgiving and holiday season."

Health officials have been warning citizens that the time to act is now to avoid a dangerous surge in cases during the upcoming holiday season.

“The position that we’re going to be in going into those holidays really depends heavily on what level of disease transmission we experience here in the state in the next couple of weeks," state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said during a news conference last week. She pointed at the low transmission rate leading up to the post-Fourth of July and Labor Day surges, which kept both surges at a manageable level.

“What we’re concerned about going forward is a possible scenario where we don’t see a decrease in the level of disease transmission in the next couple weeks. What we really need to try and achieve is supression of the virus just as we did following the Fourth of July ... so we can get back down to a valley level of transmission, a lower level of transmission. That puts us in a much better place leading into Thanksgiving and leading into the winter holidays.”

In the week since those comments were made, Colorado has only entrenched itself further into its third peak of the pandemic.

oct. 14 3-day avg

As of the most current data released Tuesday, Colorado now stands at 80,085 cases and 8,003 hospitalizations since the pandemic began in March. Over 2,000 Coloradans have died from the virus.

“Frankly, it’s just time for us to change,” Polis said during one of his weekly news conferences Tuesday. “Just think, ask yourself, ‘What can I do to prevent the spread of coronavirus?’ It’s very simple.”

“We all know what to do,” he said, referring to common-sense measures such as wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing, holding small gatherings if at all.

The fact that Colorado has exceeded a 5 percent positivity rate is extremely concerning, Polis said. When states reach that number, the CDC recommends they consider more restrictions.

“This is our first time positive testing has exceeded 5 percent. ... If we are successful in controlling this in our next few weeks, it’ll set us up, not only our small businesses and restaurants for success, but it’ll set up the state for further success in being able to go into the holiday season in a safe way, which is very important, because while we always love to see our friends and our relatives in October and early November, it’s a tradition in late November around Thanksgiving, and I know many families don’t want to risk the lives of aunts and uncles and grandparents over getting together,” Polis said.

El Paso County’s rate is also climbing at an alarming rate. The county’s case rate per 100,000 people has been over 123 for the last two weeks. It was a 64 at the start of the month. In response, the El Paso County Health Department is asking people to cut down on their social gatherings, even if it’s something they don’t want to do.

“What happens to me may affect others, and really try to protect each other and have each other’s best interests at heart,” said Dr. Haley Zachary, the lead communicable disease epidemiologist for El Paso County.

Polis has not issued any additional restrictions statewide at this time, beyond extending the mask mandate another 30 days, but individual counties like El Paso, if they can’t reverse their own upward trend, could see additional restrictions imposed. Colorado currently operates on a five-point “dial” system. The better the county is doing, the lower on the dial they are and the fewer restrictions they have. The worse the county is doing, the higher on the dial they go -- and with that, more restrictions. If a county were to reach the highest level on the dial, they would be forced to revert to stay-at-home restrictions. Currently, no county in Colorado is under a stay-at-home order.

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