It’s the most wonderful time of year — except, perhaps, for Coloradans.
Although 45 states are celebrating the peace of mind that comes from declining COVID-19 cases, this is not so in the Centennial State. Here we are celebrating our personal freedoms from inconvenient precautionary measures with overflowing hospitals and weekly positivity rates nearing double digits.
The responsibility falls squarely on Colorado Republicans who refuse to advocate widely for masks and vaccines, as well as Gov. Jared Polis, who continues to refuse elementary statewide policies to reduce transmission. In combination, we are now utterly failing this pandemic and remain among the top states for coronavirus infections.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, cases between Oct. 19 and 25 tally 15,603. This makes the moving weekly case average as of yesterday 2,229.
At The New York Times, cases between the same dates tally 17,840, marking a difference of 2,237 additional cases. This renders the moving weekly case average at a notably higher 2,548. Cases tracked by Johns Hopkins University and Medicine show cases most closely match that of the New York Times reporting.
The lack of congruency is odd, although upon inquiry CDPHE acknowledges there can be some delay in case numbers. Regardless of exactly where we fall on the spectrum of case counts, one thing is for certain: We’re on a grim trajectory heading into the holidays.
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In comparing case totals to this time last year, we’re generally on par or worse, depending on which case number data you use. The holiday lead-up is eerily similar to when Polis refused to take the necessary precautionary measures and ultimately launched the state into the worst spike to date in the pandemic. Here, again, without significant efforts immediately, we risk a similar fate.
Many have questioned why Colorado cases might be rising, however it’s hardly surprising. As vaccinations remain well below necessary levels to curb infections in most parts of the state, and Polis continues to refuse basic viral transmission precautions such as a statewide mask mandates, it’s all but guaranteed that cases would rise dramatically after schools reopened in-person and the colder weather moved Coloradans back inside.
There is one good sign that may prevent the full peak of last year; children ages 5 to 11 may have access to the vaccine very soon and they make up a predominant share of current cases. This will help slow transmission in vaccinated regions — although it could remain precariously high — however the unvaccinated will remain at risk. Also, due to the notable lag in vaccine rollout and the time required to achieve full protection, these protective effects may extend beyond the holidays for many families.
The impact of high case loads in the state continues to extend penalties far beyond those who refuse to get vaccinated. Hospital capacity statewide is at its highest of any time during the pandemic, with multiple regions extending well beyond staffing and bed availability. Nearly 80% of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated, further prolonging access to critical health care services for those who are vaccinated.
There are several low-hanging-fruit options that could be implemented immediately to assist in reducing cases. The first is for Polis to immediately enact a statewide indoor mask mandate — it’s long overdue. The second is to ensure the fastest delivery to children ages 5 to 11, as demand will be high. A third basic option is to enact vaccine mandates everywhere possible, alongside remote work opportunities returning as appropriate until cases subside.
The pandemic was never going to be easy, but there’s no need to make it harder. All efforts should be enacted now to provide safer holiday access to community members. Further delay will only cost more lives, money and time for us all.
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