Colorado COVID Update: Vaccine- and Booster-Resistant Variants Surging | Westword
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Vaccine- and Booster-Resistant COVID Variants Surging in Colorado

The variants have been linked to more than half of cases.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's offices are located at 4300 Cherry Creek Drive South.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's offices are located at 4300 Cherry Creek Drive South. Google Maps
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On the morning of December 14, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment boasted that the state has some of the best data in the country when it comes to vaccinations against COVID-19, including the bivalent Omicron booster. But statistics updated that afternoon reveal a surge in several variants that a study released hours earlier said are largely unfazed by these preventative measures.

The state health department noted that December 14 marked exactly two years since the first shipments of COVID-19 vaccine arrived here, and since then, 80.6 percent of residents age eighteen and older have completed their primary series of shots. Moreover, the state is currently ninth in the U.S. for the percentage of people ages five and older who have received a bivalent booster dose.

The CDPHE doesn't put this performance in context, however. As of November 24, only about 14 percent of folks ages eighteen and above have gotten the booster nationwide. In comparison, 24.6 percent of Coloradans in this category have rolled up their sleeves — and although that represents considerably more buy-in, it still leaves more than three-quarters of the citizenry unboosted.

Meanwhile, samples sequenced by the CDPHE reveal that Omicron 5, which once accounted for the lion's share of cases, is no longer dominant in Colorado. During the week of November 13, the most recent for which statistics are available, it was linked to 27.07 percent of positive tests. But the emergent BQ.1 and BQ1.1 variants landed at 27.07 percent and 27.51 percent, respectively, with the XBB mutation making its first appearance on the roster, at 0.87 percent.

These last digits are troubling in light of an analysis by scientists from the University of Michigan and Columbia University published by the medical journal Cell on December 14. The authors found that BQ.1, BQ1.1 and XBB are "barely susceptible to neutralization" by either the earlier vaccines or bivalent boosters. One excerpt reads: "Together, our findings indicate that BQ and XBB subvariants present serious threats to current COVID-19 vaccines, render inactive all authorized antibodies, and may have gained dominance in the population because of their advantage in evading antibodies."

This prognosis suggests that the variants in question could produce a winter surge of the disease in Colorado and beyond even though the latest CDPHE numbers are heading in the right direction for the first time in weeks.

Here are the updated CDPHE figures in major categories from December 14:

1,719,778 cases
73,133 hospitalized
13,742 deaths among cases
14,444 deaths due to COVID-19
10,310 outbreaks

And these are the details for the past seven days:

Cases reported this week: 6,297, up 1,929
Cases reported for previous weeks: 345
Seven-day positivity rate: 10.1
Currently hospitalized: 395, down 4
New hospital admissions: 695, down 156

Four takeaways from comparison of the new data to that of our previous roundup, which drew from December 7 digits:

• Weekly case counts had been hovering above the 8,000 mark for a month or so, even though most infected individuals now use home tests whose results aren't reported to the CDPHE. But on December 14, the sum fell by nearly 2,000, to 6,297.

• The two measures related to new COVID-19 fatalities were split. The 61 deaths among cases of COVID-19 on December 14 was down from 72 on December 7. But the 74 deaths directly attributable to the disease is considerably higher than the sixty counted the previous week.

• The state's seven-day average positivity rate of 10.1 percent on December 14 was still more than double the 5 percent mark the CDPHE prefers not to exceed, but represents a considerable dip from the 12.1 percent reading on December 7.

• Hospital metrics have declined, too, by varying amounts. The 395 people hospitalized on December 14 numbered four fewer than the same time a week earlier, and new hospital admissions tumbled from 851 last week to 695 at present.

COVID outbreaks also saw their first significant slide in a month or more: The forty total of new or tweaked entries — most of them at health-care facilities that specialize in senior care — is almost 30 percent lower than the 57 on December 7. But with the BQ.1, BQ1.1 and XBB variants gaining strength, it's far too early to celebrate what could prove to be an ephemeral trend.

Here are the forty new or tweaked outbreaks identified by the CDPHE on December 14, including information about categories, county of origin, and the date when the spread was officially recognized. The department no longer provides details regarding the overall number of infections or deaths, or whether they pertain to residents, staff members or attendees.

1. Amberwood Court Rehabilitation and Care Community (020460): November 2022, Healthcare, Nursing Facility, Denver County, 11/16/2022
2. Aspens at Fort Collins (23G501): December 2022, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Larimer County, 12/7/2022
3. Assisted Living of Arvada Inc (23S680), Healthcare, Assisted Living, Jefferson County, 12/12/2022
4. Balfour at Central Park (23H949): December 2022, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Denver County, 12/9/2022
5. Bethany Nursing and Rehab Center (020420): December 2022, Healthcare, Nursing Facility, Jefferson County, 12/13/2022
6. Bethesda Gardens Loveland (23F492): December 2022, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Larimer County, 12/13/2022
7. Broadmoor Court (230540): November 2022, Healthcare, Assisted Living, El Paso County, 11/21/2022
8. Cappella of Grand Junction (23U246): November 2022, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Mesa County, 12/5/2022
9. Cappella of Pueblo West (2306FN): November 2022, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Pueblo County, 12/12/2022
10. Clermont Park Assisted Living (230463): December 2022, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Denver County, 12/13/2022
11. Continuing Care at Wind Crest (02H136): December 2022, Healthcare, Nursing Facility, Douglas County, 12/13/2022
12. Creekside Village Health and Rehabilitation Center (020372): December 2022, Healthcare, Nursing Facility, Larimer County, 12/7/2022
13. Crowley County Nursing Center (020248): November 2022, Healthcare, Nursing Facility, Crowley County, 11/29/2022
14. Forest Ridge (02D453): December 2022, Healthcare, Nursing Facility, Teller County, 12/12/2022
15. Four Mile Correctional Facility: December 2022, State Prison, Fremont County, 12/12/2022
16. Fremont Home Care Cedar (23H131), Healthcare, Assisted Living, Fremont County, 12/7/2022
17. Garfield County Detention Center: December 2022, Jail, Garfield County, 12/12/2022
18. Grand Junction Regional Center — House 7 (06RBM9): December 2022, Healthcare, Intermediate Care, Mesa County, 12/14/2022
19. Greenridge Place (23Y387): December 2022, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Jefferson County, 12/9/2022
20. Hillcrest Care Center (020197): December 2022, Healthcare, Nursing Facility, Yuma County, 12/9/2022
21. Jacob Academy — Alkire St. Child Care Center, Jefferson County, 12/8/2022
22. La Vista Correctional Facility: December 2022, State Prison, Pueblo County, 12/14/2022
23. Legend of Colorado Springs (2309QO): December 2022, Healthcare, Assisted Living, El Paso County, 12/9/2022
24. Melody Living of Colorado Springs (23P166): December 2022, Healthcare, Assisted Living, El Paso County, 12/2/2022
25. Mesa County Work Release/Community Corrections: November 2022, Correctional, Mesa County, 12/7/2022
26. Montage Ridge SNF (0204C5): November 2022, Healthcare, Nursing Facility, Jefferson County, 11/29/2022
27. Monte Vista Estates, LLC (021023): December 2022, Healthcare, Nursing Facility, Rio Grande County, 12/8/2022
28. MorningStar at RidgeGate (23X760): November 2022, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Douglas County, 12/7/2022
29. Platte Valley Youth Services Center: December 2022, Correctional, Weld County, 12/9/2022
30. Prairie Creeks Living Center (23041O): December 2022, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Adams County, 12/6/2022
31. Rocky Mountain Assisted Living — Reed (2356OV), Healthcare, Assisted Living, Jefferson County, 12/6/2022
32. South Valley Post Acute Rehabilitation (020416): December 2022, Healthcare, Nursing Facility, Denver County, 12/7/2022
33. Stephen's Farm at Adeo Colorado (23A930): December 2022, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Weld County, 12/6/2022
34. The Center at Northridge, LLC (02I148): December 2022, Healthcare, Nursing Facility, Adams County, 12/12/2022
35. The Courtyards at Mountain View (23X801): December 2022, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Denver County, 12/7/2022
36. The Green House Homes at Mirasol (02F496): December 2022, Healthcare, Nursing Facility, Larimer County, 12/12/2022
37. The Residence at Oakridge (23R289): December 2022, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Larimer County, 12/9/2022
38. The Towers (23R904): December 2022, Healthcare, Assisted Living, Yuma County, 12/9/2022
39. Trinidad Inn Nursing Home (020796): December 2022, Healthcare, Nursing Facility, Las Animas County, 12/2/2022
40. Zebulon Pike Youth Services Center: December 2022, Correctional, El Paso County, 12/2/2022
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