Colorado’s COVID cases are still high, but no longer unprecedented, as deaths keep rising

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Colorado’s COVID cases are still high, but no longer unprecedented, as deaths keep rising
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Colorado’s COVID-19 numbers are no longer unprecedented, but they’re still high enough that it’s wise to keep masks handy for a while, a member of the state’s modeling team said Monday.

The state reported 21,268 new cases in the week ending Sunday — near the high point of the fall 2021 surge driven by the virus’s delta variant. At the worst point of the current omicron-fueled wave, in early January, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported more than 90,000 cases in a single week.

COVID-19 deaths continued to increase, however, approaching levels seen at the peak of the delta wave in November. So far, the state has reported 258 deaths from COVID-19 in the third week of January, and that number could increase as late reports come in.

The percentage of tests coming back positive also returned to the precedented zone, averaging 12% over the last week — the lowest rate since Christmas. That’s still higher than the state’s goal of 5%, but indicates the public health system has a better picture of how many people are infected than it did in recent weeks.

Hospital admissions were at roughly the level seen at the trough between the delta and omicron waves, with 979 people hospitalized statewide with confirmed COVID-19. That’s still well above previous lows, however. During summer 2021, between 250 and 300 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 any given day.

It’s unlikely that hospital capacity will be in jeopardy again any time soon, said Beth Carlton, an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at the Colorado School of Public Health. But getting rid of masks is premature when the virus is this widespread, she said.

“Things are much better, but we still are at high levels,” she said.

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