Colorado reports just 52 COVID cases on Friday as health officials see light at the end of the tunnel

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, Wednesday, March 2, 2022.

Colorado is in a really good place. 

That was the takeaway from the state health department’s director, Jill Hunsaker Ryan, during a press conference Friday. And the state data backs it up. 

For the first time since the state started collecting COVID-19 data, the number of reported cases dropped below 100 to 52 cases reported on Friday

In other encouraging signs, the seven-day test positivity rate is 3.3 percent, below the 5 percent that officials find worrisome and the lowest percent since March 2020. 

Saturday marks the second anniversary of COVID-19’s arrival in Colorado. The first positive case in the state was confirmed on March 5. 

“Who can believe it's been two years? But we are very optimistic,” Ryan said.

The numbers had officials taking a much brighter take on the future of the pandemic. 

“We have spent two years battling this unpredictable virus, and now we plan to prepare for a future in which COVID-19 remains,” said Dr. Eric France, the state’s chief medical officer.

Last week, Gov. Jared Polis rolled out a transition plan called Roadmap To Moving Forward.

“There is no declaring victory over this virus,” Polis said during a Feb. 25 press conference outlining specifics of the plan.

Health officials reiterated the transition plans Friday. Incident commander Scott Bookman called the plan part of Colorado’s next step. It includes things like better preparing hospitals for potential surges, boosting staffing for health care facilities and continuing surveillance programs, like testing wastewater.

“I want the public to understand that behind the scenes, your public health system will continue to prepare for whatever the future may hold with COVID,” Bookman said. 

France said the vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 discovered in the last two years makes health officials more optimistic about a return to normal. He said that for healthy people, it’s time to live your life, and even though people with compromised immune systems still face some risk of contracting the virus. 

“I think everyone's gonna have to make their own decisions about what risks they're comfortable with,” France said. “Good news is now we have about six cases per 100,000 population in the state of Colorado. So when you walk out your door, the probability of being exposed to somebody is quite low.”

As of Friday, 273 people were hospitalized due to COVID-19. In mid-January there were more than 1,600 people hospitalized with COVID-19 as the omicron variant hit its peak.

The state data is encouraging, but health officials acknowledged that the actual cases of COVID-19 in Colorado are likely far larger because some home tests aren’t reported to the state and the generally mild symptoms of the omicron variant meant some people forewent tests. 

The other unknown with the virus is the possibility of another variant. So far, vaccines have been effective in blocking or reducing the severity of COVID-19.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly referenced the number of COVID cases reported earlier this week in Colorado.