Coronavirus

Colorado COVID Cases Rise, Theater Run Canceled as More Masks Go Away

The Arvada Center's run of Kinky Boots ended prematurely due in part to COVID-19.
The Arvada Center's run of Kinky Boots ended prematurely due in part to COVID-19. Arvada Center via YouTube
As the number of COVID cases in Colorado go up, masks are coming down.

This week, Denver International Airport and RTD announced that they would no longer require masking after a judge in Florida nixed the federal face-covering mandate — a ruling that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to appeal. But on April 20, new COVID-19 cases in Colorado hit a six-week high, and the Arvada Center prematurely ended its run of the popular musical Kinky Boots, largely because of infections among cast members.

Meanwhile, Governor Jared Polis has written an open letter to President Joe Biden encouraging him to expedite the approval of vaccines for children five and under — a timely request, given that over half of the new outbreaks of COVID-19 reported on April 20 by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment occurred at child-care centers or K-12 schools.

The airport wasted little time ditching its mask provision, issuing a traveler's alert at 7:46 p.m. on April 18, the day the judgment came down. "As a result of the recent Federal court ruling, the federal mask mandate is no longer in effect at DEN," it announced. "Please check with your airline regarding their mask policy." RTD waited until 1:59 p.m. the next day, April 19, to follow suit, announcing that "effective immediately, masks are no longer required on Regional Transportation District (RTD) vehicles or properties."

At the same time, case counts have been steadily edging up in Colorado. Here are the current COVID numbers in major categories, as updated by the CDPHE after 4 p.m. April 20, along with information from our previous COVID data roundup, which drew from April 13 statistics:

1,371,521 cases (up 9,921 from April 13)
64 counties (unchanged from April 13)
61,814 hospitalized (up 139 from April 13)
12,030 deaths among cases (down 1 from April 13)
13,151 deaths due to COVID-19 (up 61 from April 13)
8,585 outbreaks (up 21 from April 13)

Four takeaways:

• Cases increased from 9,354 for the week ending April 13 to 9,921 for the seven-day span ending April 20. The number of new cases on April 20 itself hit 714, the highest since 745 on March 2. The positivity rate that day climbed to 6.68 percent, above the 5 percent threshold that state health officials use to gauge whether enough testing is being done. Eighty testing sites are slated to close by month's end amid declining demand.

• New hospitalizations bumped up, too, but only slightly, going from 117 on April 13 to 139 on April 20. There were just nine new hospital admissions statewide yesterday.

• Deaths among COVID-19 cases remained relatively stable. The revised count for deaths among cases actually dropped by one fatality, while deaths as a result of COVID-19 slid by two, from 63 on April 13 to 61 on April 20.

• The subvariant popularly known as both Omicron 2 and stealth Omicron increased its dominance in the state. The samples sequenced by the CDPHE during the week of April 3, the most recent for which stats are available, show that Omicron 2 accounted for 84.40 percent of all cases, with Omicron 1 associated with the remaining 15.60 percent; no other variants were detected.

A blend of Omicron and the earlier Delta strain, Omicron 2 generally produces more serious symptoms than its direct predecessor but tends not to be as deadly as Delta. Still, the variant remains extremely transmissible, as evidenced by the following announcement from the Arvada Center on April 20: "In the interest of health and safety, we're sorry to announce that we have cancelled the remainder of our performances of Kinky Boots due to a number of positive COVID-19 cases and other injuries in the cast. This impacts performances through Sunday, April 24. Other performances in the Black Box theatre are not impacted."

Infections among the very young were on Polis's mind when he wrote to Biden about vaccinations for those under five on April 19. "Without access to vaccines for families with children under 5, many communities and kids remain vulnerable, leaving families and education settings vulnerable to disease transmission," the governor said. "Ensuring the vaccine is accessible for families with children under 5 will help keep our kids in the classroom, give parents more peace of mind, and help put the pandemic behind us. Colorado parents are making long-awaited plans to see grandparents and loved ones but are faced with the third summer for their children to remain unprotected — many parents of young children feel left behind, and are rightfully displeased that the FDA’s lack of action and urgency has left them unable to protect their children and loved ones like everyone else."

Polis's point is underscored by the latest outbreaks data. Over the past month or so, the new or tweaked entries on the CDPHE's roster were inflated by outbreaks dating back to the start of the year, during the height of the original Omicron surge. But on April 20, only one of the twenty new entries is actually old. The rest are from April, and they're dominated by places that serve children: eight child-care centers and three K-12 schools. Another eight outbreaks have been cited at health-care facilities, all of them specializing in serving seniors. The only outbreak that doesn't fit into these categories: spread tied to the administrative offices at the University of Denver.

Here are the twenty new or tweaked active outbreaks identified by the CDPHE on April 20, along with the date when the outbreak was cited and the people impacted:

1. Berkley Manor Care Center (020419): April 2022, Healthcare, Skilled Nursing, Denver County, 4/18/2022, 2 resident cases, 2 staff cases
2. Bethesda Gardens Loveland (23F492): April 2022, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Larimer County, 4/19/2022, 17 resident cases, 1 staff case
3. Chipeta Elementary School: April 2022, School, K-12, El Paso County, 4/14/2022, 5 attendee cases
4. Har Shalom Preschool and Kindergarten, Child Care Center, Larimer County, 4/12/2022, 7 attendee cases
5. Here We Grow, Early Childhood Learning, Child Care Center, Boulder County, 4/18/2022, 5 staff cases, 2 attendee cases
6. Life Care Center of Stonegate (02C450): April 2022, Healthcare, Skilled Nursing, Douglas County, 4/8/2022, 2 staff cases
7. Little Red School House — Breckenridge: January 2022, Child Care Center, Summit County, 1/26/2022, 8 attendee cases
8. Little Red School House — Snowmass Village, Child Care Center, Pitkin County, 4/19/2022, 3 staff cases, 4 attendee cases
9. Meadow Vista Assisted Living LLC (2304A3), Healthcare, Assisted Living, Denver County, 4/15/2022, 6 resident cases, 1 staff case
10. Midtown Montessori Academy — Sloan's Lake: April 2022, School, K-12, Jefferson County, 4/15/2022, 5 staff cases, 3 attendee cases
11. Montessori Academy of Northern Colorado, Child Care Center, Weld County, 4/14/2022, 2 staff cases, 3 attendee cases
12. Our Father Lutheran Church Preschool: April 2022, Child Care Center, Arapahoe County, 4/19/2022, 3 staff cases, 6 attendee cases
13. Rehabilitation and Nursing Center of the Rockies (020325): April 2022, Healthcare, Skilled Nursing, Larimer County, 4/8/2022, 7 resident cases, 6 staff cases
14. Stonecreek of Littleton (23N524): April 2022, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Arapahoe County, 4/18/2022, 3 resident cases, 1 staff case
15. Tavelli Elementary School, School, K-12, Larimer County, 4/18/2022, 1 staff case, 4 attendee cases
16. The Goddard School of Louisville: April 2022, Child Care Center, Boulder County, 4/18/2022, 3 staff cases, 5 attendee cases
17. The Green House Homes at Mirasol (02F496): April 2022, Healthcare, Skilled Nursing, Larimer County, 4/12/2022, 4 resident cases, 2 staff cases
18. University of Denver — Administrative Office, College/University, Denver County, 4/15/2022, 7 staff cases
19. Village at Belmar (23Z408): April 2022, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Jefferson County, 4/14/2022, 6 resident cases, 1 staff case
20. Woody Creek Kids, Child Care Center, Pitkin County, 4/13/2022, 1 staff case, 5 attendee cases

Click to read Governor Jared Polis's letter to President Joe Biden about COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages five and under.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts