Colorado hasn’t turned the tide on rising coronavirus spread in the state, according to new data released by the state. 

Virtually every gauge state and local health leaders watch closely is headed in the wrong direction.  The three-day rate of positive tests jumped to 10.79 Tuesday, with the seven-day rate at 9.31. Doctors grow concerned about the spread of the virus when that figure hits 5 percent; the state has been above that since mid-October

The number of Coloradans hospitalized with COVID-19 neared an ominous threshold Wednesday, approaching the peak first reached last spring. A total of 847 patients who are confirmed to have the virus are now in the hospital. That number is expected to soar past the 888 reached in April within a day or two. The total patients confirmed or suspected with the virus is 970, according to data from the state health department, still considerably lower than the peak of 1277 reached on April 9.

Testing has vastly improved since spring, but top health leaders say the coming weeks will be critical to containing the spread of the virus.

“It certainly is a worrisome milestone,” said Rachel Herlihy, the state epidemiologist. “I think at this point we probably have as much disease circulating in Colorado as we did at that peak.”

Health officials are giving 18 Colorado counties two weeks to lower their COVID-19 numbers.

Colorado now faces serious headwinds in reining in the virus. Flu season has arrived.  Thanksgiving and the winter holidays could drive coronavirus transmission upward, unless families take steps to protect themselves.

That likely means the kind of restrictions last seen in some communities months ago, like curfews and limits on gatherings and capacity for businesses, are coming down the tracks unless the trends change.

Colorado’s top health officials said Wednesday that 18 counties are now seeing transmission levels that could lead to the most restrictive level of response on the state’s colored dial: Stay at Home. Dr. Eric France, the state’s chief medical officer, said local leaders must put new restrictions in place starting now — including limits on gatherings and curfews, like the one ordered last week in Pueblo. “I would not be surprised in the next weeks if we see more of that in our state,” he said.

The 18 counties, shown in dark red on the state’s dial dashboard, are:

  • Denver
  • Douglas
  • Adams
  • Arapahoe
  • El Paso
  • Jefferson
  • Broomfield
  • Weld
  • Morgan
  • Sedgwick
  • Phillips
  • Washington
  • Kit Carson
  • Crowley
  • Otero
  • Pueblo
  • Prowers
  • Alamosa

France said counties have two weeks to take steps to reduce transmission. If they don’t, the state may implement stay-at-home rules for them. “As long as these rates are going high, that will unfortunately be a real option,” he said. 

The state health department Wednesday notified Broomfield, Boulder and Jefferson counties they would be moved to Level Orange, one away from Stay At Home. Broomfield and Boulder will make the shift at 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 6; for Jefferson, it’s Monday, Nov. 9.

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