White House outbreak shows testing alone can’t halt virus, Polis says

State’s COVID-19 hospitalizations at highest point since Aug. 2

Gov. Jared Polis participates in a news briefing on the state's response to COVID-19 on Oct. 2, 2020, at the University of Northern Colorado. (Governor Jared Polis Facebook)

At an Oct. 2 briefing on COVID-19, Gov. Jared Polis wished President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania — who have tested positive for COVID-19 — a speedy recovery.

Polis also remarked that the outbreak showed the White House didn’t have “strong enough precautions” around mask-wearing and social distancing. Others with connections to the president who’ve tested positive include Trump aide Hope Hicks and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

“While testing is very important, testing alone is not the answer,” Polis said, recalling that he had to test negative for the virus before entering the White House for a recent visit.

At the same time, he encouraged Coloradans to get tested if they have symptoms. Asymptomatic people who believe they were exposed to the virus should wait seven days after exposure before getting tested, or they could get a false negative result.

President Donald Trump participates in the first presidential debate against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University on Sept. 29, 2020, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

“We don’t yet know how widespread the White House outbreak is yet, (but) it’s contained with a lower number of people than it would be if there had been no testing on the front end,” Polis said.

“Early identification saves lives — could be your family, your friends, your coworkers,” he added. “And make sure that you can take the precautions that you need to, if you’re contagious, to quarantine.”

A map from 2-1-1 Colorado shows community testing sites across the state.

Colorado’s test positivity rate is still well below 5% — the upper limit recommended by the World Health Organization — but increased from a low of 2.5% in early September and is now hovering around 3.4%, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Perhaps more concerning for Colorado is the rate of COVID hospitalizations. As of Oct. 2, 219 people were hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 in the state, and an additional 85 people were hospitalized with possible cases of COVID-19. Hospitalizations for confirmed COVID-19 have not been this high since Aug. 2.

  What worries us is the trend, that it’s been going up.   -Gov. Jared Polis

“What worries us is the trend, that it’s been going up,” Polis said at the briefing. “We really need to bear down here, Colorado.”

The number of overall cases of COVID-19 added each day in the state has decreased slightly after reaching a peak of 614 daily new cases added, on average, for the week ending Sept. 26. For the week ending Oct. 1, CDPHE reported an average of 530 new cases per day — still far above numbers recorded earlier in the month.

So far, September’s increase in cases has not resulted in more deaths. Between one and two people have been dying each day in Colorado with COVID-19, way fewer than in mid-April, when 34 to 35 people were dying daily.

“I really strongly believe based on the information that I know that we’re past the halfway point” of the pandemic, Polis said, adding that he hoped the state would have doses of a safe and effective vaccine available for frontline workers in November or December, and early next year for the general public.

As Newsline has reported, Trump will undergo tests at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and remain there for a few days. The president, who at 74 is part of a high-risk group, is said to be experiencing mild symptoms.