During recent comments about Colorado's response to COVID-19, Governor Jared Polis noted differences of opinion about his decision to let the April 26 stay-at-home edict for the state expire in order to launch a phased-in reopening dubbed Safer at Home; some critics see the reopening as tardy, while others consider it premature. But one thing's clear: Three days into this latest stage, Colorado is still nowhere close to meeting federal standards for the lifting of these restrictions.
Colorado isn't alone: NBC points out that no state now allowing non-essential businesses to begin operating again is where it should be under recommendations endorsed by the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Specifically, the feds have advised states to leave stay-at-home orders in place until they can document fourteen consecutive days in which the number of positive COVID-19 cases declined. Over the past two weeks in Colorado, the longest string of consecutive daily decreases stands at just three.
Granted, changes in the way the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment divulges data complicate an analysis of the daily case figures. On April 22, the CDPHE announced what it characterized as enhancements to its approach that would make its statistics more accurate: The department began to report fatalities by the date of death, as opposed to the day it received information from local authorities, and started to include passings in which the virus was listed as the cause even if the state had not been previously informed of them. Probable COVID-19 deaths were included, too, causing a considerable spike in the toll over the next several days. Through 4 p.m. on April 21, the number of deaths from the virus stood at 508; as of the same time yesterday, April 28, the total was 736.
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In addition, the CDPHE said it anticipated a big increase in case numbers "due to widespread targeted testing in specific communities or facilities," as well as "entering positive cases not previously reported from out-of-state labs, and additional reporting of cases related to outbreaks." These bumps came to pass as predicted.
As a result, the daily case totals this month have employed separate measurement models: the one in place before April 22, and its upgraded replacement. But even before this switch, daily declines were inconsistent — and the drops since then are all but impossible to compare with the numbers that preceded them.
Here are the CDPHE's statistics for coronavirus cases per day over the last fourteen-day period, through the most recent report:
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April 14: 328
April 15: 336
April 16: 353
April 17: 389
April 18: 343
April 19: 335
April 20: 292
April 21: 359
April 22: 383
April 23: 610
April 24: 686
April 25: 719
April 26: 534
April 27: 437
The daily case count went down from April 18 to April 20, then rose again on April 21 and April 22. The next day, April 23, saw the expected increase from new reporting methods, with further upward ratcheting on April 24 and April 25.
Sizable declines followed on April 26 and April 27. But the latest total of 437 is more than 100 cases higher than the lowest count on any day in the previous two weeks, April 20.
From the CDPHE's perspective, the good news is that the current case count is more meaningful and gives epidemiologists a much better idea of what's actually going on in terms of the infection's spread. But even if cases continue to drop, Colorado is at least twelve days from reaching the goal for reopening set by the CDC.