As new cases of COVID-19 are being reported in Colorado, public health officials on Thursday expressed optimism that the state’s microbial growth spurt has peaked, but warned that the virus remains widespread and hospitalizations are rising. still very large.
The percentage of positive test results and the number of new cases have been declining for about a week, although it is not clear if hospitalizations are starting to decline, state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said at a briefing on Thursday.
“At this point, I really believe we’re seeing a real decline in cases in this state,” Herlihy said, adding that she’s “cautiously optimistic that we’ve turned the corner with our omicron surge.”
The virus appears to be receding in mountain resort communities and the Denver area, she said, though cases are still on the rise in Pueblo, El Paso and Mesa counties.
“We are seeing improvements,” Herlihy said. “But of course those numbers are still very high.”
As of Thursday afternoon, 1,641 people were hospitalized across the state with confirmed COVID-19. That’s a slight improvement, as hospitalizations hovered between 1,650 and 1,675 for much of the past week. But it’s too early to tell if the plateau is on a downward trend, Herlihy said.
The number of available hospital beds has increased slightly in recent days, said Scott Bookman, the state’s head of COVID-19 response. Over the past week, an average of 93% of general beds and 92% of ICU beds have been occupied.
“I think we have a history of cautious optimism,” he said.
Late last week, a trade group representing Colorado emergency room physicians asked Gov. Jared Polis to activate anti-crisis standards that would protect them from liability if they are unable to provide optimal care due to their facilities being overwhelmed.
Bookman acknowledged that emergency rooms have “been hit hard in the last few weeks” and asked the public not to increase their workload by visiting hospitals looking for COVID-19 tests. The state is working with a transfer center to transfer patients to facilities with more beds and staff, he said, adding that the current trajectory of the virus should bring relief in a few weeks.
Some people speculate that the overwhelming spread of omicrons could lead to the end of the pandemic, but it’s not clear if that’s the case, Herlihy said. More options may emerge in the future, she said, and it’s unclear how long the immunity will last.
“I wish my crystal ball was cleaner here,” she said.