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Is Colorado COVID Case Count No Big Deal or Bad Sign?

Governor Jared Polis carrying a giant mock syringe during a visit to the Mile High Flea Market for a vaccination event.EXPAND
Governor Jared Polis carrying a giant mock syringe during a visit to the Mile High Flea Market for a vaccination event.
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Governor Jared Polis revealed on February 26 that the number of current COVID-19 cases in Colorado represented a substantial increase over numbers from the past week or two; he used the rise to explain why safety protocols must be maintained even as a broader range of people become eligible for vaccination.

Although updated data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment about the novel coronavirus doesn't show an alarming spike, the stats underscore Polis's point that another wave of the disease in the state remains within the realm of possibility.

Here are the fresh figures, updated after 4 p.m. on February 28. We've juxtaposed them with numbers from February 21, highlighted in our last COVID-19 roundup:

428,303 cases (up 7,689 from February 21)
100 variants of concern (up 14 from February 21)
54 variants under investigation (up 13 from February 21)
23,476 hospitalizations (up 307 from February 21)
64 counties (unchanged since February 21)
5,951 deaths among cases (up 59 from February 21)
5,874 deaths due to COVID-19 (up 155 from February 21)
3,887 outbreaks (up 81 from February 21)

Four major takeaways:

• The pace of newly registered COVID-19 cases had been steadily declining, but that trend came to at least a temporary stop on February 28. The 7,689 cases registered over the past week was up substantially from the 6,778 listed on February 21 for the previous week.
• Hospitalization numbers continue to improve, dropping from 372 on February 21 to 307 on February 28. Just as important, new variants aren't popping up as frequently as they did earlier in the month. Variants of concern and variants under investigation climbed by only a total of 31 cases over the week. Still, the CDPHE acknowledges that these are estimates.
• Outbreaks don't offer similar good news; they went from 71 newly identified sites on February 21 to 81 a week later.
• The most important category — deaths attributed to COVID-19 — saw the most ground lost. On February 14, the total was 127. On February 21, it jumped to 128. On February 28, the death total rose to 155.

At Polis's February 26 press conference, he reported that the case count for that day showed 1,521 newly identified infections. The figures the CDPHE is now reporting for the same date are far lower, 941, suggesting that earlier estimates were revised downward. However, daily case numbers for the ten days ending February 27 are generally higher than the ones from February 11 through February 20, when the low was 561. Over the most recent ten-day span, the low was 647. Here are those counts:

February 27, 2021 — 750 Cases
February 26, 2021 — 941 Cases
February 25, 2021 — 1,181 Case
February 24, 2021 — 1,272 Cases
February 23, 2021 — 1,266 Cases
February 22, 2021 — 990 Cases
February 21, 2021 — 647 Cases
February 20, 2021 — 849 Cases
February 19, 2021 — 1,004 Cases
February 18, 2021 — 1,199 Cases

The positivity rate, shorthanded by the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins as "the percentage of all coronavirus tests performed that are actually positive, or: (positive tests)/(total tests) x 100 percent," is in better shape. The 3.27 percent on February 28 dipped below the 3.47 percent on February 21, and remains a considerable distance from the 5 percent threshold frequently noted by the CDPHE. And while the previous week's outpatient syndromic COVID-19 visits rose from 3.81 on February 21 to 3.89 on February 28, the gain was extremely slight.

There's been no such increase in current hospitalizations, which ratcheted down from the high 400s earlier in February to 393 on February 27. And new daily hospitalizations were generally stable over the most recent ten-day period for which data is available:

Patients Currently Hospitalized for COVID-19

February 28, 2021

404 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
358 (89%) Confirmed COVID-19
46 (11%) Persons Under Investigation

February 27, 2021

393 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
349 (89%) Confirmed COVID-19
44 (11%) Persons Under Investigation

February 26, 2021

409 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
358 (88%) Confirmed COVID-19
51 (12%) Persons Under Investigation

February 25, 2021
412 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
374 (91 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
38 (9 percent) Persons Under Investigation

February 24, 2021
427 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
376 (88 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
51 (12 percent) Persons Under Investigation

February 23, 2021
447 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
387 (87 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
60 (13 percent) Persons Under Investigation

February 22, 2021
433 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
392 (91 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
41 (9 percent) Persons Under Investigation

February 21, 2021
440 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
399 (91 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
41 (9 percent) Persons Under Investigation

February 20, 2021
437 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
389 (89 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
48 (11 percent) Persons Under Investigation

February 19, 2021
451 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
404 (90 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
47 (10 percent) Persons Under Investigation

New Hospital Admissions by Admission Date

February 28, 2021
39 patients admitted to the hospital
44 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

February 27, 2021
28 patients admitted to the hospital
47 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

February 26, 2021
43 patients admitted to the hospital
51 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

February 25, 2021
53 patients admitted to the hospital
48 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

February 24, 2021
56 patients admitted to the hospital
52 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

February 23, 2021
42 patients admitted to the hospital
58 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

February 22, 2021
47 patients admitted to the hospital
59 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

February 21, 2021
61 patients admitted to the hospital
57 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

February 20, 2021
57 patients admitted to the hospital
53 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

February 19, 2021
22 patients admitted to the hospital
58 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

Overall, the data is mixed. But the handful of negative numbers suggests that neither state health officials nor the general public can rest easy at this point.

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