A Warning, But No New Statewide Restrictions, From Polis As Colorado Coronavirus Cases And Hospitalizations Rise

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Restaurants along Main Street in Longmont have moved seating onto the sidewalks, while also requiring social distancing rules so they can stay open during the coronavirus pandemic, Friday, Oct. 2, 2020.

COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Colorado. The positivity rate, the percent of tests performed that come back positive, averaged over three days, is at 5.4 percent, which could prompt the state to reenact stay-at-home orders.

Gov. Jared Polis warned at a press conference Tuesday that the case counts, which lag behind hospitalizations, could mean that hospitalizations spike in the coming weeks.

“This is a major risk for our health and our economy if it continues this way, and whether it continues this way, is in your hands,” Polis said. “It depends on the choices we make.”

He did not announce any new restrictions. When asked about whether warnings rather than restrictions would work to reduce cases he said it’s up to Coloradans.

“I know that our commitment to wearing masks, to reducing our number of people that we see, to keeping our distance, to washing our hands regularly will increase now that folks are aware of this dangerous level of infection in Colorado with the positivity rate above 5 percent and over a thousand new cases a day,” he said.

There are a lot of ways to measure trends in COVID-19’s spread through Colorado. As of Tuesday, all were pointing in the wrong direction.

The most concerning might be hospitalizations. There are now 290 people hospitalized with COVID-19 — the highest total since May 31. Another 95 people are hospitalized with suspected cases of the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Those numbers remain under the state’s capacity for regular acute-care beds and intensive-care beds, but with case counts, and the positivity rate of tests rising, continued growth in hospitalizations is possible.

Deaths from the disease remain low as compared to the early portion of the pandemic. In the first seven days of October, an average of just more than four deaths were reported to the state each day, though death reports can sometimes lag by weeks.

That’s far below the darkest days of the pandemic when 30 or more people were dying each day in Colorado. Polis said 2,009 Coloradans have died from the virus.

Earlier in the press conference, Polis announced a two-part grant program for restaurants that will need winter infrastructure to allow customers to dine outside safely and comfortably. Xcel Energy and its foundation have donated an initial $500,000, plus a matching potential of up to $250,000. Coloradans can donate to the grant online.