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

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We’ve entered the fourth wave of the pandemic. Will this be the final wave?

By Drew Kartos | drew.kartos@state.co.us | April 16, 2021, 10:40 p.m. MST

Image showing peaks of the pandemic

As we see cases and hospitalizations rise once again, it’s now clear that we’ve entered the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s already looking very different from last year. Here’s what you need to know about this fourth (and hopefully final) wave of the pandemic:

  • Younger and healthier Coloradans are getting sick — even hospitalized. We’ve seen lower rates in those over 50 years old and a steeper increase in those under 50. By vaccinating the most vulnerable first, we brought down disease transmission, hospitalizations, and new deaths in those older age groups.
  • If you get COVID-19, it’s more likely to be a variant. Currently, 43–45% of specimens tested are the B.1.1.7 (U.K.) variant, and 18–20% are the B.1.427/B.1.429 (California) variant.
  • More Coloradans are mobile. As restrictions are lifted and more Coloradans are vaccinated, mobility is reaching its highest level since the start of the pandemic.
  • Our health care capacity is protected. We’ve done our job to prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed, but the risk to unvaccinated individuals is no different.

Testing slump continues

We hadn’t seen testing levels this low since last Fall when, similarly, Colorado’s cases rose in the third wave of the pandemic. Remember: fewer tests mean fewer cases reported, and the less we know about how the virus is spreading in the state. We need to test more, and it’s never been easier. Now, all employees who are required to interact with the public at their jobs are eligible to test for COVID-19 from the comfort of their homes. No need to find a testing location; order your free BinaxNOW COVID-19 tests

Remember, you can get tested at a free community testing center near you if you think you were exposed or experience any of the symptoms.

Why the Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause should strengthen your confidence

The CDC and FDA recommended a pause in the use of the Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine after six U.S. women between the ages of 18 and 48 developed a serious but extremely rare type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) within 6 to 13 days after being vaccinated. This is not your typical blood clot and shouldn’t be compared to others, such as those linked to birth control. The pause should inspire confidence in the long-standing vaccine safety and efficacy system. Regardless, Colorado health officials have temporarily paused the use of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccines in an abundance of caution until the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) determines whether the blood clots are coincidental or associated with the vaccine. 

While serious side effects from the vaccine appear to be extremely rare and the risk of dying from COVID-19 remains much higher, the news might increase vaccine hesitancy –– making it more challenging for us to achieve community immunity. But the fact remains, getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the single best way to prevent the spread of the virus and bring us closer to the end of the pandemic, and the benefits far outweigh any perceived risks. The vaccines give your body enough protection to fight off infection, reduce your chance of being hospitalized, and might save your life.

Finishing strong

We are now closer than ever to putting the pandemic behind us, but we still need to stay vigilant and finish strong  —  especially for those who aren’t fully vaccinated. The new variants with higher transmission rates are threatening the progress we’ve made. We still have a long way to go for community immunity, especially since we still have millions of Coloradans registered for their vaccines, and it takes up to two weeks after the second dose of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for full protection. As we wait for a turn at immunity from the virus, we need to keep wearing a mask, social distancing, and staying home when sick. Let’s finish strong and ‘Power the Comeback,’ Colorado.

The bottom line: We’re getting closer to the finish line, but it’s a race against the more contagious variants. The fourth wave of COVID-19 will depend on: 1) how many Coloradans prevent the spread through mask-wearing and physical distancing; 2) how quickly and how many Coloradans get the vaccine; 3) how quickly the variants spread.