Coronavirus

Why Polis Dialed Down Level Red Colorado Counties as of Today

The Rio Grande dining room in Park Meadows at new limited capacity under Level Orange.
The Rio Grande dining room in Park Meadows at new limited capacity under Level Orange. Patricia Calhoun
Effective today, January 4, counties at Level Red on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's COVID-19 dial dashboard will be moved to Level Orange, allowing limited indoor dining at restaurants — one of several lowered restrictions. The move, announced in a December 30 social media post by Governor Jared Polis, is a risk, given the prospect of rising case numbers related to the Christmas and New Year's holidays that could surface over the next week or two — not to mention confirmation that the extremely contagious variant of the novel coronavirus has made its way to the state.

But the latest data from the CDPHE, which continues to improve, shows why Polis is taking the gamble.

Here are the stats in major categories, as updated at 4:30 p.m. on January 3; we've juxtaposed them with the December 13 figures from our last COVID-19 weekly numbers roundup:
341,250 cases (up 53,057 from December 13)
18,713 hospitalized (up 2,587 from December 13)
64 counties (unchanged from December 13)
4,934 deaths among cases (up 976 from December 13)
3,907 deaths due to COVID-19 (up 895 from December 13)
3,053 outbreaks (up 439 from December 13)
Four major takeaways:

Cases have climbed by an average of 17,686 a week over the past 21 days. That's down significantly from the 27,612 increase between December 6 and December 13.


The same scenario can be seen in hospitalization numbers. The average over the last three weeks was 862 a week, considerably smaller than the bump of 1,258 from December 6 to December 13.

The changes in virus deaths is more of a mixed message. Deaths among COVID-19 cases are down from 502 between December 6 and December 13 to an average of 325 weekly through January 3. But the pace of deaths directly caused by the disease — the most important statistic, albeit one that lags behind the others — is up slightly, from 288 over the December 6 to13 period to an average of 298 per week since then.

On the positive side, the fearsome rate of outbreaks has fallen considerably, from 228 from December 6 to 13 to an average of 146 each week up to January 3.

The daily new COVID-19 case totals over the past ten days have vacillated, with big numbers right before Christmas and New Year's Day and lower ones since:
January 2 — 1,749
January 1 — 1,823
December 31 — 2,531
December 30 — 2,636
December 29 — 2,005
December 28 — 1,341
December 27 — 1,704
December 26 — 1,421
December 25 — 1,230
December 24 — 2,646
Shifts in Colorado's seven-day average positivity rate, defined 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," are easier to interpret. The metric currently stands at 7.67 percent, down from 8.91 percent on December 13. And outpatient syndromic COVID-19 visits have plummeted: They had skyrocketed to 20.85 percent on November 29 before sliding to 6.35 percent on December 13 — and as of January 3, they're calculated at 4.42 percent.

The hospitalization news is even better. Fewer than 1,000 patients requiring COVID-19 care were registered at such facilities as of January 3 — down more than 600 from December 13. And new daily admissions are under 100 — a far cry from 141 on December 13 and 264 on December 4.

Here are the hospitalization stats for the last ten days:
Patients Currently Hospitalized for COVID-19

January 3, 2021
991 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
908 (92 percent) Confirmed COVID-19

January 2, 2021
1,016 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
918 (90 percent) Confirmed COVID-19

January 1, 2021
1,044 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
952 (91 percent) Confirmed COVID-19

December 31, 2020
1,086 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
989 (91 percent) Confirmed COVID-19

December 30, 2020
1,150 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
1,045 (91 percent) Confirmed COVID-19

December 29, 2020
1,188 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
1,086 (91 percent) Confirmed COVID-19

December 28, 2020
1,173 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
1,094 (93 percent) Confirmed COVID-19

December 27, 2020
1,186 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
1,091 (92 percent) Confirmed COVID-19

December 26, 2020
1,168 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
1,110 (95 percent) Confirmed COVID-19

December 25, 2020
1,169 Total COVID Patients (Confirmed & Suspected/PUI)
1,091 (93 percent) Confirmed COVID-19

New Hospital Admissions by Admission Date

January 3, 2021
78 patients admitted to the hospital
108 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

January 2, 2021
83 patients admitted to the hospital
116 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

January 1, 2021
95 patients admitted to the hospital
128 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

December 31, 2020
93 patients admitted to the hospital
131 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

December 30, 2020
139 patients admitted to the hospital
141 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

December 29, 2020
125 patients admitted to the hospital
143 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

December 28, 2020
140 patients admitted to the hospital
151 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

December 27, 2020
137 patients admitted to the hospital
149 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

December 26, 2020
170 patients admitted to the hospital
150 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital

December 25, 2020
114 patients admitted to the hospital
151 seven-day average of patients admitted to the hospital
This data could take a turn for the worse as January marches on. But the lack of a feared post-Thanksgiving mega-spike offers hope that counties now switched from Level Red to Level Orange may be able to avoid a return to their old status over the next few weeks.
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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