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Sorry, but Colorado Is Flirting With a New COVID-19 Surge Again

Governor Jared Polis, center, posing with one of the State of Colorado's new mobile vaccine units.
Governor Jared Polis, center, posing with one of the State of Colorado's new mobile vaccine units.
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On April 2, Governor Jared Polis eased the COVID-19 mask mandate for counties at Level Green on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's dial dashboard, also known as Dial 3.0. His order allows facial coverings to be optional at most public places within the 31 counties currently rated Green, and relaxes regulations for the remaining, and generally more populous, 33 counties at higher levels.

But statewide data related to the novel coronavirus hardly confirms that the pandemic is over. Indeed, most of the key metrics, including number of cases, variants, hospitalizations, positivity rate, outbreaks and deaths attributed to COVID-19, have worsened over the past seven days, often significantly.

Here are the most recent figures from the CDPHE, refreshed after 4 p.m. yesterday, April 4. We've juxtaposed them with information from March 28, highlighted in our last COVID-19 roundup:

468,121 cases (up 9,567 from March 28)
1,268 variants of concern (up 481 from March 28)
31 variants under investigation (up 11 from March 28)
25,766 hospitalized (up 415 from March 28)
64 counties (unchanged from March 28)
6,126 deaths among cases (up 34 from March 28)
6,253 deaths due to COVID-19 (up 57 from March 28)
4,328 outbreaks (up 93 from March 28)

Four major takeaways:

• The number of new COVID-19 cases has been climbing of late; the 7,924 gain from March 21 to March 28 was 1,262 more than the 6.662 hike over the same period a week earlier. But the latest leap is even greater. The 9,567 case increase over the March 28 total exceeds 1,600.
• At first glance, hospitalizations would seem to have declined, given that the March 28 sum was 861 larger than on March 21. But 514 of those hospitalizations were added in a single clump because of tweaks to Banner Health's COVID-19 data reporting system. The actual rise was 347 — so the 415 recorded on April 4 is up nearly seventy hospitalizations in the past week.
• New outbreaks had been essentially static recently; they came to 77 on March 21 and 78 on March 28. The 93 extras recorded on April 4 is the most substantial bump in more than a month.
• The most important figure — deaths attributed to COVID-19 — fell from 77 new casualties on March 21 to 47 on March 28. Now, with a hike of 57 deaths on April 4, the digits are moving in the wrong direction again.

And then there are variants of concern, which, as the CDPHE notes, "may spread easier, cause more severe disease, reduce the effectiveness of treatments or vaccine, or is harder to detect using current tests."

At a press conference last week, Polis had warned, "This is a race against the clock to safely vaccinate people while variants are on the rise." Variants of concern are gaining ground, going from 787 on March 28 into four-digit territory — 1,268 — on April 4. And the CDPHE acknowledges that the actual aggregate could be higher, since the variant cases it's identified "are based on a small sampling of positive COVID-19 tests and do not represent the total number of variant cases that may be circulating in Colorado."

As for new COVID-19 cases, they topped 1,000 on nine of the past ten days, as compared to six of the past ten days on March 28. See the rundown below:

April 3 — 1,133 Cases
April 2 — 1,269 Cases
April 1 — 1,516 Cases
March 31 — 1,550 Cases
March 30 — 1,271 Cases
March 29 — 1,092 Cases
March 28 — 821 Cases
March 27 — 1,056 Cases
March 26 — 1,256 Cases
March 25 — 1,348 Cases

More bad news can be found in regard to 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." Officials become anxious whenever the rate tops 5 percent, but that hadn't happened since last year. However, the March 28 rate of 4.38 percent represented a surge from 3.69 percent on March 21 — and it hit 6.24 percent on April 4. The trend suggests that not enough people are getting tested for COVID-19, and that could result in many cases going undetected and spreading unchecked.

True, the previous week's outpatient syndromic COVID-19 visits slid a bit, from 2.96 percent to 2.52 percent. But patients currently hospitalized for the disease, as well as new admissions, remain in the same range as on March 28 — no big spikes, but no substantial improvements, either. Here's that data:

Patients Currently Hospitalized for COVID-19

April 4, 2021
376 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
324 (86 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
52 (14 percent) Persons Under Investigation

April 3, 2021
358 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
322 (90 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
36 (10 percent) Persons Under Investigation

April 2, 2021
376 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
335 (89 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
41 (11 percent) Persons Under Investigation

April 1, 2021
382 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
326 (85 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
56 (15 percent) Persons Under Investigation

March 31, 2021
367 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
320 (87 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
47 (13 percent) Persons Under Investigation

March 30, 2021
375 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
329 (88 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
46 (12 percent) Persons Under Investigation

March 29, 2021
382 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
324 (85 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
58 (15 percent) Persons Under Investigation

March 28, 2021
375 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
323 (86 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
52 (14 percent) Persons Under Investigation

March 27, 2021
365 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
325 (89 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
40 (11 percent) Persons Under Investigation

March 26, 2021
361 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
319 (88 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
42 (12 percent) Persons Under Investigation

New Hospital Admissions by Admission Date

April 4, 2021
47 patients admitted to the hospital
52 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

April 3, 2021
7 patients admitted to the hospital
51 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

April 2, 2021
70 patients admitted to the hospital
57 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

April 1, 2021
78 patients admitted to the hospital
55 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

March 31, 2021
45 patients admitted to the hospital
54 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

March 30, 2021
49 patients admitted to the hospital
55 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

March 29, 2021
70 patients admitted to the hospital
54 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

March 28, 2021
37 patients admitted to the hospital
53 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

March 27, 2021
50 patients admitted to the hospital
54 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

March 26, 2021
57 patients admitted to the hospital
49 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

For Level Green counties, Polis's latest mask mandate requires that facial coverings only be worn at K-12 schools, child-care facilities, jails/prisons, hospitals and other health-care operations, and businesses that specialize in personal services, such as hair salons. Meanwhile, people living counties at levels Blue, Yellow, Orange, Red or even Purple must follow those rules, and also require masks at indoor settings when ten or more people are present.

Colorado's vaccination pace remains strong, and over the weekend, Polis celebrated a new benchmark — at least 80 percent of residents age seventy and over have received their shots. But the latest statistics demonstrate that the risks from COVID-19 are growing again.

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