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COVID-19: Why Colorado Needs a Vaccination Sweepstakes Now

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Just days after Governor Jared Polis essentially dismissed the idea of staging a lottery-type event in an effort to encourage more Coloradans to get vaccinated, state officials began teasing the idea of a sweepstakes with potential $1,000-per-day giveaways to folks who take their shot — and the latest data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows why their tune has changed.

The pace of inoculations was slowing even before state restrictions related to mask use and social distancing were loosened on May 14 (they're only supposed to apply to fully vaccinated individuals, but the state is operating on the honor system), and the rate has dropped since.

Here are the most recent COVID-19 stats from the CDPHE, refreshed after 4 p.m. on May 23, juxtaposed with information from May 16, highlighted in our last roundup:

537,401 cases (up 5,701 from May 16)
8,334 variants of concern (up 1,271 from May 16)
644 variants under investigation (up 175 from May 16)
29,790 hospitalized (up 574 from May 16)
64 counties (unchanged from May 16)
6,505 deaths among cases (up 55 from May 16)
6,632 deaths due to COVID-19 (up 70 from May 16)
5,344 outbreaks (up 101 from May 16)

Four major takeaways:

• New hospitalizations took a substantial leap, from 389 on May 16 to 574 on May 23.

• The rate of newly identified COVID-19 outbreaks, which looked as if it had peaked, rose again, too. New outbreaks on May 16 hit 83; on May 23, they reached 101.

• The most important figure — deaths attributed to COVID-19 — nearly tripled, from 25 on May 16 to 70 on May 23.

• The best news involves the number of new COVID-19 cases, which is still shrinking. The 5,701 increase in new infections over the past week compares to 6,226 in the five days prior to May 16.

Here's the breakdown on new cases reported over the past ten days; only one saw more than 1,000 cases.

May 22 — 406 Cases
May 21 — 709 Cases
May 20 — 683 Cases
May 19 — 821 Cases
May 18 — 991 Cases
May 17 — 604 Cases
May 16 — 762 Cases
May 15 — 587 Cases
May 14 — 889 Cases
May 13 — 1,150 Cases

The state's positivity rate of 3.02 percent on May 23 is well below the 5 percent threshold established by health department officials, but there are other warning signs. For instance, variants — which, according to the CDPHE, "spread easier, cause more severe disease, reduce the effectiveness of treatments or vaccine, or [are] harder to detect using current tests" — continue to account for the majority of new COVID-19 cases in the state, and more of them are being identified. Variants of concern jumped from 881 on May 16 to 1,271 on May 23, while variants under investigation more than doubled, from 83 on May 16 to 175 on May 23.

And then there are the hospitalization stats. On May 16, just 31 new COVID-19 patients were admitted (a number raised from the original estimate of 27), inspiring hopes for further improvements. But more than 100 patients checked in on two of the seven days that followed, and the average over the past week is back to just shy of eighty. The total number of patients hospitalized for virus care is currently stuck at just under 600. Here are the specifics:

New Hospital Admissions by Admission Date

May 23, 2021
69 patients admitted to the hospital
78 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

May 22, 2021
64 patients admitted to the hospital
72 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

May 21, 2021
109 patients admitted to the hospital
75 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

May 20, 2021
73 patients admitted to the hospital
67 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

May 19, 2021
63 patients admitted to the hospital
67 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

May 18, 2021
108 patients admitted to the hospital
71 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

May 17, 2021
58 patients admitted to the hospital
67 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

May 16, 2021
31 patients admitted to the hospital
69 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

May 15, 2021
83 patients admitted to the hospital
78 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

May 14, 2021
50 patients admitted to the hospital
83 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

May 13, 2021
76 patients admitted to the hospital
87 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

Patients Currently Hospitalized for COVID-19

May 23, 2021
573 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
516 (90 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
57 (10 percent) Persons Under Investigation

May 22, 2021
576 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
525 (91 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
51 (9 percent) Persons Under Investigation

May 21, 2021
588 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
538 (91 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
50 (9 percent) Persons Under Investigation

May 20, 2021
557 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
516 (93 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
41 (7 percent) Persons Under Investigation

May 19, 2021
560 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
521 (93 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
39 (7 percent) Persons Under Investigation

May 18, 2021
565 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
528 (93 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
37 (7 percent) Persons Under Investigation

May 17, 2021
578 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
530 (92 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
48 (8 percent) Persons Under Investigation

May 16, 2021
609 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
563 (92 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
46 (8 percent) Persons Under Investigation

May 15, 2021
631 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
577 (91 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
54 (9 percent) Persons Under Investigation

May 15, 2021
631 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
577 (91 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
54 (9 percent) Persons Under Investigation

May 13, 2021
646 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
603 (93 percent) Confirmed COVID-19
43 (7 percent) Persons Under Investigation

As for the vaccination numbers, here's the information posted on the state's data dashboard on May 23:

2,447,393 people fully immunized (up 103,474 from May 15)
2,932,487 people immunized with one dose (up 119,532 from May 15)
9,310 people vaccinated on May 22 with Pfizer vaccine (down 7,517); 8,695 immunizations with Pfizer vaccine reported May 22 but administered on an earlier date
5,093 people immunized on May 22 with Moderna vaccine (down 5,323); 3,365 immunizations with Moderna vaccine reported May 22 but administered on an earlier date
243 people vaccinated on May 22 with Janssen vaccine (down 1,101); 749 immunizations with Janssen vaccine reported May 22 but administered on an earlier date

An increase of more than 100,000 fully immunized people over the course of a week seems impressive — but it becomes less so when daily vaccination rates are compared over that span. The 9,310 people immunized with Pfizer on May 22 is down from 12,231 on May 15, and the previously administered shots added to the totals on those days tumbled even more, from 20,753 on May 15 to 8,695 on May 22. The Moderna numbers show a similar trend: The 5,093 vaccinated on May 22 is down from 7,420 on May 15, and the previously administered shots slid from 5,873 on May 15 to 3,365 on May 22. And the figures from the Janssen vaccine, popularly known as Johnson & Johnson, are almost negligible, yet also heading in the wrong direction: 243 on May 22, down from 474 on May 15.

During a May 20 press conference, a reporter asked Governor Polis if Colorado is considering showier efforts to inspire vaccinations, along the lines of a $1 million lottery in Ohio. Polis argued that self-protection and helping the community as a whole end the scourge of COVID-19 should be incentive enough.

But the sweepstakes idea now being floated suggests that state officials recognize this simply isn't true — and when 9News's Kyle Clark asked Polis about it via Twitter over the weekend, he responded with two words: "Stay tuned."

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