We are now nearly five months into the COVID-19 pandemic in Colorado. Our state has done well in managing the response to these unprecedented times. Compared with other states, Colorado currently has a relatively low rate of infection and hospitalizations. We also have one of the highest rates of compliance to the public health orders, such as mask-wearing, designed to help prevent the spread of the disease.
And yet, the numbers of infections, the effective reproduction number, and hospitalizations all are steadily creeping up in our state. Across Colorado, COVID-19 hospitalizations have been increasing since late June. While we saw declining infections in May, that number is now rising again. According to current Colorado School of Public Health projections, if this increase continues, Colorado could exceed ICU capacity in early September. If our social distancing continues to decline as it has been since May (from 87 percent down to 41 percent), Colorado could exceed hospital capacity in late August. The good news is that the rate of mask-wearing has increased from 50 percent in early April to 70 percent by July.
This steady increase in cases and hospitalizations is cause for great concern. We must not become complacent about practicing the habits that will help keep the infection from spreading to ourselves and our loved ones, as well as the population in general.
There is some hopeful news about possible vaccines being developed in the U.S. and in the U.K. There is the potential for a viable, safe vaccine to become available around the end of the year, although that is far from certain. Then the questions remain about how much will be available, how it will be prioritized and what the distribution will be – processes that are now beginning to be addressed. In my opinion, if there is a vaccine in production by the end of the year, it still will not mean that everyone who wants one can get it for Christmas.
You all have done so much already to care for our community and to keep others safe. Please don’t let your guard down and continue these habits at work and away from work that are likely to be important for a long time to come.
- Wear a mask at work and in public. This is now a statewide mandate under many circumstances. We know it can help prevent the spread of disease when used appropriately.
- Maintaining six feet of distance from others and not gathering in groups will help keep people safe from infection.
- Wash your hands well and often, and use hand sanitizer in between thorough washings.
- Don’t touch your face, eyes or mouth after touching anything else. And don’t touch anything you don’t need to!
- Make smart travel decisions. Cases are currently rising in nearly every state, very rapidly in some.
We simply must continue to do what we can to keep our hospitals from being overrun. I am genuinely worried about people losing sight of the importance of these simple steps to help keep us all safe.
For reference, here are the statewide numbers for Colorado as of Sunday, Aug. 2:
- 714,560 total tests administered
- 544,023 people tested
- 47,716 positive cases
- 6,474 hospitalized (cumulative total)
- 335 currently hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID – down 12 from yesterday
- 1,844 deaths of people with COVID – unchanged from yesterday
- 1,691 deaths of people of COVID – unchanged from yesterday
- 481 outbreaks at residential and non-hospital health care facilities
- 63 of 64 counties with positive cases