In case you missed it: Colorado COVID-19 notes for the week

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Coloradans are holding the virus in check, but we're entering a precarious phase of the pandemic.

By Drew Kartos | drew.kartos@state.co.us | April 7, 2021, 12:00 p.m. MST

Vials of the covid-19 vaccine with a solid red background

We’re slowly building immunity

More than one million Coloradans are fully vaccinated and everyone 16 years and older are now eligible to book their vaccine appointments. While it will take time to vaccinate everyone who wants it, we hope that any Coloradans who want a vaccine will be able to get it by late May. Using a very rough estimate from a simple epidemiology equation, we would need anywhere from 67 to 79 percent of Coloradans vaccinated for community (herd) immunity –– which is further complicated by how many people have developed immunity after being infected with the virus and the uncertainty of how long immunity lasts. Ultimately, we still need millions of Coloradans to get vaccinated for community immunity. Luckily, most Coloradans have either already gotten vaccinated or intend to as soon as they can

Testing slump

Since the testing peak in November, we’ve seen a steady decline in the number of Coloradans being tested. 

Daily COVID-19 PCR test data from clinical laboratories with 7-day average positivity

Why is testing so important? It gives us a more accurate view of how the virus is spreading throughout the state. Fewer tests mean fewer cases reported, while the ones that are reported tend to be more severe cases. Remember, you can get tested at a free community testing center near you if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Cough
  • Fever or chills
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

We can’t let our guard down

Even as more Coloradans have gotten vaccinated, we’re entering a precarious stage in the pandemic. It may seem like the pandemic is close to being over, but it will take time for enough people to develop immunity. It’s a window of opportunity — for the virus to surge back or for us to finish strong. While it’s encouraging that hospitalizations and cases have been trending downward since the peak in December, we still have a pretty high baseline of cases. While we wait for our vaccine appointments, we still need to wear our masks, limit our personal interactions, wash our hands, and maintain physical distance. 

7-day average of COVID-19 cases in Colorado by date reported to the state

Variants of concern

Those pesky COVID-19 variants continue to pop up among confirmed cases, and this week we identified the first case of the P.1 (Brazillian) variant in Colorado. Some variants may spread easier, cause more severe disease,, or are harder to detect through testing. The CDC calls these variants of concern. Scientists are working to learn more about COVID-19 variants. Early research suggests that the currently authorized vaccines are effective against the variants, though perhaps to varying degrees depending on the strain. Coloradans should continue to wear masks, practice physical distancing, wash their hands frequently, and get vaccinated when it is their turn. These are our best tools for preventing the spread of this virus, no matter the strain.

Dial 3.0 released 

 COVID-19 dial dashboard

As more Coloradans get vaccinated and each day brings a new sense of normalcy, the state released Dial 3.0. Dial 3.0 makes it easier for counties to move into Level Green: Protect Our Neighbors, the least restrictive level on the dial. It also removes many of the restrictions that currently apply at that level. According to Jill Hunsaker Ryan, “these changes to the Dial better reflect where we are in the pandemic today, and the balance we are trying to strike between disease suppression and economic hardship.”

The bottom line: Coloradans are holding the virus in check, but we are entering a precarious and confusing phase of the pandemic where the next few months will depend on: 1) how many Coloradans prevent the spread through mask-wearing and social distancing; 2) how quickly and how many Coloradans get the vaccine; 3) how quickly the variants spread.