Polis Says Colorado Still Needs To Bear Down As Coronavirus ‘Does Not Pick Favorites’

A COVID-19 testing station at Paco Sanchez Park in West Colfax. Oct. 2, 2020.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
A COVID-19 testing station at Paco Sanchez Park in West Colfax. Oct. 2, 2020.

Gov. Jared Polis said Friday Colorado’s pandemic situation remains precarious.

"What worries us is the trend," he said Friday during his coronavirus update.

He spotlighted hospitalizations: They were at 120 two weeks ago and are now above at 200.

“We need to really bear down now."

On Friday, the state reported 219 COVID positive patients hospitalized. That's up 48 in the past week and up 87 cases since a month ago. It's also the highest count since Aug. 2.

Still, Colorado's hospital system remains well below its capacity.

Other gauges offer some signs of improvement. The number of cases recorded for Thurs. Oct. 1, the day with the most recent data on the state’s website, the 7-day average of cases was 530 cases, 9.2 cases per 100,000 people. That’s down from a recent high of 612 cases on Sept. 26, which was an uptick likely caused in part by the Labor Day holiday. The high number for the pandemic to date in Colorado was 624 in late April.

Hospitalization numbers lag behind those for cases, so the bump up following a rise in cases is not unexpected.

Also, the positivity rate continues to stay below five percent, a threshold above which health experts regard as a danger sign. The seven-day positivity rate stood at 3.36 percent, continuing a slight downward trend over the last week.

The leading source of outbreaks continues to be educational settings. Eight outbreaks out of 19 total were reported at schools, camps or daycares for the week of Sept. 27.

Regions with the highest level of growth in illnesses include around Pueblo, Mesa, Weld, Adams, Arapahoe, El Paso, Mesa, and San Luis counties and the southeast corner of the state.

Deaths, on a seven-day average, remain much lower than the April peak, when more than 30 deaths were reported a day. Since early August, the daily death numbers have remained below five a day.

The day after the news that the president and first lady had contracted COVID-19, Polis expressed his concern and urged vigilance against the highly transmissible virus.

“My thoughts and prayers are with everybody who contracted COVID as part of the White House outbreak, and of course COVID victims across America and across the world,” Polis said.

President Donald Trump tweeted late Thursday night MST that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus. The news is a monumental development in both the course of the pandemic and during an intense 2020, with the presidential election just a month away.

“It affects people regardless of their income level, their race, whether they're in rural Alabama, whether they're in Denver, whether they work in the White House. And it truly does not pick favorites,” Polis said. “It's important for all workplaces to put strong precautions in place.”

Polis visited the White House and met with Trump in May.

“We all don't have the luxury of the same level of testing that the White House has had,” he said. “I visited there. I got tested before I was even allowed in, but I think one thing that this demonstrates very clearly is that while testing is very important, testing alone is not the answer.”

When asked about steps the state is taking to keep him and others safe, Polis said he's been tested eight or nine times since the pandemic started. Under new protocols, "we are testing the team around me and myself once a week," he said.

He generally keeps a busy travel schedule, with visits to communities statewide. He said meetings usually happen outdoors, with him and other participants wearing masks and social distancing.

“We are using the very best science to guide me and being able to do my job in a reasonably safe way. Like every Coloradan, I have a risk of contracting the virus,” he said.

Polis also underscored the importance of following more routine public health guidance.

“As we saw with the White House outbreak, no amount of testing prevents the need for the social distancing, the mask wearing and the safety requirements,” Polis said.

He said these sorts of measures have proven to “reduce the odds of outbreaks,” but aren’t foolproof. Polis cited the experience of sports teams, where despite operating in bubbles with high levels of testing and many precautions in place, cases have still emerged.

Polis also said more testing is on the way for Coloradans. The state would be getting 110,000 rapid tests that take 10 minutes, in the next two weeks.

“But no amount of testing will prevent the need for the safety measures that we need to take the next few weeks and months to get through this,” the governor said.