COVID-19 Boulder Spike, Parties and Stats Most Counties Don't Share

Graduation celebrations on the Hill in Boulder may have contributed to a spike in COVID-19 cases among younger residents.
Graduation celebrations on the Hill in Boulder may have contributed to a spike in COVID-19 cases among younger residents. 9News via YouTube
The sudden spike in new COVID-19 cases for Boulder residents came as no surprise. After all, many of the parties over Memorial Day weekend weren't exactly paragons of pandemic-era safety, and there was also a large Black Lives Matter protest march on June 5. But more unexpected was the decision by Boulder officials to draw attention to the bad news during a period when a lot of virus-related information — most notably statistics about hospitalizations on the local level — isn't easily accessible in many municipalities.

Granted, Boulder has experience with publicly castigating risky behavior related to the novel coronavirus, as evidenced by its reaction to a massive bash last month at Boulder Creek, where physical distancing was mainly measured in inches, not feet, and masks were as scarce as sober people. But officials still deserve credit for revealing that 108 Boulder County residents tested positive for COVID-19 between June 11 and 8 a.m. yesterday, June 17; the majority are young adults living on the Hill, the neighborhood where most of the biggest holiday blowouts took place.

Boulder County Public Health also released a chart (below) depicting the increase in cases. Although the BCPH's COVID-19 web page offers a slew of resources and recommendations, such graphics are rare; it doesn't have a data dashboard you can check to monitor the status of the virus in the area.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has the most impressive online presence, and its hospital data — a statistical key to understanding the scope of the issue right now — is first-rate. The most recent figures, for instance, show a slight uptick in the number of hospitalized patients with a confirmed case of COVID-19, moving from 158 on June 16 to 164 on June 17. However, the number of hospitalized patients under investigation for the virus dipped from 142 on June 16 to 126 on June 17.

click to enlarge This graphic shows a rise in COVID-19 case counts in Boulder County over recent days. - BOULDER COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH
This graphic shows a rise in COVID-19 case counts in Boulder County over recent days.
Denver County and El Paso County also have robust COVID-19 websites that provide information about cases as well as hospitalizations. Denver's page shows a rise in the seven-day moving average of COVID-19 cases, which registered 24.7 on June 15 and 32.1 on June 16, but just one new hospitalization between June 15 to June 16, when the registered-patient total was 290. Meanwhile, the El Paso County site documented a recent jump in reported cases that quickly dipped back down: sixteen on June 16, followed by 45 on June 17 and 16 on June 17. But the two hospitalizations on June 17 were preceded by two days in which no one was admitted for COVID-19.

Most other Colorado counties provide a lot less info — and even some of the better sites have definite limitations. Take the COVID-19 website maintained by Weld County Public Health, for example: The agency publishes a dashboard that tracks cases and deaths and reveals flare-ups in specific areas under its jurisdiction. But there's nothing about hospitalizations, and getting that data is difficult, as we learned when we reached out to state and Weld County officials in relation to some worrisome case counts that have popped up over the past week or two: 25 on June 5, 19 on June 11, 21 on June 16.

In response to our inquiry, a CDPHE spokesperson told us that the hospital data it makes available "has been reported to the state of Colorado by hospitals across the state, and is made possible through a partnership with the Colorado Hospital Association. Because this data is created, owned and maintained by individual hospitals, any questions should be directed to the CHA and/or to individual hospitals." A representative from the Weld County joint-information center told us the same thing. The Colorado Hospital Association has yet to respond to Westword's inquiries.

In the meantime, a web tool developed by the New York Times shows that COVID-19 spread in Weld County is trending in the wrong direction. Its cases per day as of June 17 are calculated at 9.1, a little below the 9.7 two weeks ago — but most of the gains made between then and now have been erased.

Still, the hottest spot in the state right now is Boulder, where the daily case estimate of 13.9 on June 17 was more than double the 6.3 fourteen days earlier.
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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