State health officials ‘optimistic’ that Colorado’s omicron wave has peaked

By: - January 20, 2022 6:12 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – NOVEMBER 20: A woman closes her eyes as she gets a COVID-19 swab test by members of the Utah National Guard at the Utah County Health Department on November 20, 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Utah Governor called up the National Guard to assist in COVID-19 testing and tracing as Utah has seen a large spike in positive tests the last several months. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

Colorado’s surge in COVID-19 cases due to the highly infectious omicron variant appears to have reached its peak, state health officials said Thursday. 

Reports of infections and the percentage of tests coming back positive began declining last week, state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said during a media briefing. 

“At this point, I do believe that we are seeing a true decline in cases in this state,” she said. She cautioned, however, that case rates remain higher than in previous waves, though things are “headed in the right direction.”


The statewide percent positivity is a bit over 26% as of Thursday, compared to nearly 30% at the peak. 

The decline is uneven across the state, Herlihy said. The virus appears to be receding in Denver and mountain communities, but holding steady or rising in Pueblo, El Paso and Mesa counties.

“There are going to be some variable trends across the state,” she said.

At the same time of these downward trends, hospitalizations in Colorado are experiencing a plateau rather than a decrease. Often, percent positivity trends will change earlier than hospitalizations and can be an indicator of what is to come. As of Jan. 20, there were 1,641 COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state, 33 fewer than the day before.

“I’d like to see this number continue to go down to feel confident that we are in a true downward trajectory for hospitalizations,” Herlihy said. “But the timing is right, based on what we’ve seen in other locations.”

Colorado still has crisis standards of care activated for staffing and emergency medical services activated to help the strain on the state’s health care system.

Incident commander Scott Bookman said there is a slight upward trend in the number of available hospital beds, another statistic in what called a “tale of cautious optimism.”

Colorado began distribution this week of free KN95 and surgical-grade masks at libraries, fire departments and recreation centers. As of Jan. 18, 82,500 KN95 masks and 226,000 surgical masks had been distributed; 300,000 more will be delivered to 272 participating locations. Individuals can receive five masks per month, depending on availability.

“There has been emerging evidence at the national level, and recommendations from the CDC, that when possible, people (should) upgrade from a cloth mask to a surgical or KN95 mask to get a higher level of protection,” Bookman said. 

An updated list of participating locations is available online.


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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado. Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and as a student she reported on Congress and other federal beats in Washington, D.C.