Colorado sees summer jump in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations

Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist, makes a point during a news conference on the state’s response to the spread of the coronavirus in this file photograph taken Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Denver.

Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have increased statewide, mirroring a rise in transmission that is taking place across the United States as immunity wanes and new variants circulate, according to public health officials.

COVID-19 cases in Colorado have gradually increased since June, but now the uptick in transmission is coming as children are heading back to school and as the cold and flu season is approaching, both of which could further spread the virus, they said.

Still, both cases and hospitalizations remain at some of the lowest levels since the pandemic began three years ago.

“Unfortunately, there’s just a lot of COVID out there so we do expect the number of hospitalizations to go up,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy.

Last week, 99 Coloradans were hospitalized with the virus – 22 more than the 77 people hospitalized the previous week, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Despite last week’s jump, COVID-19 hospitalizations remain very low compared to previous years. Hospitalizations surpassed 1,800 and 1,600 during two of the worst waves of the pandemic in 2020 and 2022, respectively, according to the data.

By comparison, hospitalizations hit their lowest point earlier this month, with only 56 people being treated for COVID-19, according to the data.

Hospitalization data is one of the best indicators of what is happening with COVID-19, Herlihy said.

It’s difficult to understand how much the virus is spreading compared to previous years because more people are not testing or if they are, they are doing so at home, and are less likely to report their results to the health department, she said.

This has made COVID-19 data a bit murky, but the state health department has also seen test positivity rates increasing, indicating that the rise in cases is not just due to more people testing but due to wider transmission of the virus, Herlihy said.

Summer bump in cases

Colorado has previously experienced small COVID-19 upticks in the late summer and early fall, with cases dropping ahead of a larger increase in cases in the winter, Herlihy said.

It’s unclear why transmission of the virus has increased in the summer, said Beth Carlton, an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at the Colorado School of Public Health.

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