Colorado’s COVID hospitalizations steady, cases show “modest” rise
Colorado’s COVID-19 cases rose slightly over the last week, but hospitalizations remained essentially stable at the lowest levels seen since the start of the pandemic.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported 77 people were hospitalized statewide with confirmed COVID-19 as of Tuesday afternoon, which wasn’t a significant change from 80 hospitalizations a week earlier.
New cases increased by about 12%, from 2,342 in the week ending April 3 to 2,638 reported in the week ending Sunday.
It’s a good sign that the amount of severe disease in Colorado remains so low, and it also appears that the overall risk of getting infected hasn’t risen much, said Beth Carlton, an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at the Colorado School of Public Health.
While reported cases have trended up over the last two weeks, the pattern is less clear when looking at cases by the date symptoms started, she said.
“You could argue there’s signs of a very modest uptick in cases,” she said. “The big question is whether hospitalizations will follow suit.”
The percentage of tests coming back positive is higher than it was at the low point in mid-March, though not by much. It has fluctuated between 3.1% and 3.6% for the last two weeks — well below the state’s goal that the positivity rate not exceed 5%.
COVID-19 outbreaks fell for a ninth week in a row, and the number in nursing homes and assisted living facilities hit a new low of 27. Schools remained by far the most common setting for outbreaks, with 250 of the 398 clusters the state considers active found in K-12 buildings.
The latest data from the state still shows omicron as the main variant circulating, with about 36% of cases connected to its cousin BA.2. The genetic sequencing data is about three weeks old, though, so that could have changed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that BA.2 accounts for about 86% of cases nationwide. BA.2 also has largely displaced omicron worldwide, mostly because it’s more contagious.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease physician, said Friday that the United States could see a “significant upsurge” in cases in the coming weeks, based on patterns in the United Kingdom and several northeastern states. It’s possible that relatively high levels of immunity in the population will limit the severity of those cases, though, he said.
Hospitalizations did rise in the United Kingdom after BA.2 hit and cases started increasing, Carlton said. It’s not clear if the same thing will happen in the United States, though.
Other states have experienced an increase in cases, though it’s nowhere as severe as in January. Case rates in the northeast are about double what they were a month ago, but less than one-tenth of their level at the worst point of the omicron surge, according to The Washington Post. Hospitalizations have also risen in 11 states over the last two weeks, though they’ve remained near record lows, according to data compiled by The New York Times.
Still, federal officials were concerned enough to extend a mask mandate on airplanes and other forms of public transportation through May 3. It had been set to expire Monday.
Coloradans don’t need to change their behavior now, but older people might consider getting a fourth shot, especially if cases continue to trend up, Carlton said. Right now, people who have compromised immune systems or are at least 50 can get a fourth shot if they choose, though the CDC hasn’t issued a recommendation that they do so.
Data from Israel showed that for people 60 and older, a fourth dose lowered the risk of getting any COVID-19 infection for only about two months, but protection against severe disease wasn’t waning as fast. Israel only started making fourth doses widely available in January, so it’s too early to know how long protection may last.
“The protection doesn’t last as long as we would like, but it is an extra layer of protection,” Carlton said.
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