Colorado public health expert: Enjoy COVID lull, but be on alert
If you’re a generally healthy person who is up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccines, it’s a good time to go out and enjoy the things you might not get to do during a surge, the dean of the Colorado School of Public Health said Monday.
Colorado’s COVID-19 numbers continued to improve over the last week, and the projection of a lull that will last at least a few months is looking increasingly solid, said Dr. Jon Samet, the school’s leader and a remember of the state’s COVID-19 modeling team.
There’s no sign the BA.2 subvariant of omicron is any better at evading the immune system than its cousin, so it’s unlikely to cause a new spike, he said.
“Most people should be immune to that, so we shouldn’t have a problem,” he said. “I think we should take advantage of where we are now.”
As of Monday afternoon, 348 people were hospitalized in Colorado with confirmed COVID-19, down from 369 on Friday. Hospital capacity was tight, but still significantly improved, with an average of 86% of intensive-care beds and 89% of general beds in use over the last week.
The other indicators also continued to improve, with 4,478 new cases reported and just over 4% of tests coming back positive over the last week.
At the worst point of the most-recent surge, in early January, the state recorded more than 90,000 cases in a single week, and almost 30% of tests were positive, indicating the actual number of infections may have been significantly higher.
Of course, people who are at a higher risk of severe illness, or who live with someone who is, may still want to take precautions, like wearing an N95 or KN95 mask, Samet said. He’s personally no longer wearing a mask at work since the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus dropped its mandate, but said he would still use one on public transportation.
On Friday, Gov. Jared Polis declared Colorado had entered the “next chapter” of the pandemic, where most people could return to living much as they did before COVID-19 arrived on the world stage. While healthy people can feel free to do the things they want to now, there will still be outbreaks, particularly in undervaccinated areas, Samet said.
People don’t need to use excessive caution now, but need to understand that it’s possible conditions will change again and masks may be a necessity at some point in the future, Samet said.
No one’s quite sure what to expect this fall, when people’s immunity may have started to wane and new variants of the virus could be circulating, he said. Generally, COVID-19 has circulated at low levels in Colorado over the summer, then struck hard in early fall, perhaps due to some combination of cooling weather and changing patterns of interaction as kids head back to school.
“I think we have to be concerned and watchful, and recognize that a new variant could change the picture,” he said.
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