Colorado officials warn of potential for COVID-19 increase over holidays

Colorado officials including Gov. Jared Polis expressed concern Tuesday about the “alarming” increase in the number of people hospitalized in the state with the novel coronavirus, cautioning that if that figure continues to rise it could soon affect the quality of care for patients.

During a news conference, Polis said Colorado is at a “critical juncture” and “cannot continue this trend.”

“We’ve got to do better to avoid overwhelming our hospitals,” he said. “That means doubling down on the basics. Wearing a mask. Social distancing. Keeping activities and interactions outside where possible. Washing hands regularly.”

And while it appears COVID-19 infections may have plateaued following a spike from Labor Day weekend, state officials also said Colorado needs to decrease transmission of the virus ahead of winter because cases likely will rise as families gather around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“The position that we are going to be in going in on those holidays really depends heavily on what level of disease transmission we experience here in the state in the next couple of weeks,” said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, Colorado’s state epidemiologist, during the news briefing.

The number of new cases of COVID-19 dropped slightly last week, partly due to a decrease in infections among people ages 18 to 25. But excluding that age group, there is still a high level of transmission as new cases were flat compared to the prior week.

There were 3,813 new cases of COVID-19 last week, which is down 425 from the prior week, according to the latest data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The latest model from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Colorado School of Public Health shows an estimated 5% of Coloradans have been infected with COVID-19, and about 1 in 850 people in the state currently are infectious.

The model also predicts Colorado’s current trajectory will bring increasing growth in cases and hospital demand, but state epidemiologists don’t expect hospital or ICU capacity will be exceeded in the next month.

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