CENTENNIAL — Measures limiting Coloradans’ movement may have begun to slow the spread of the new coronavirus in the state, Gov. Jared Polis said Monday.
Polis said the number of people affected by the disease had been doubling every two days, or even less. New data from the past 24 hours indicates the spread has dropped to a doubling about every five days.
“That’s a lot better,” Polis said.
Still, he said, a doubling of cases every five days is troubling. “That is still an extremely contagious virus,” Polis said.
The governor said there are some caveats around the apparent slowing of the virus’ spread, including that health officials still believe there are thousands of infected people who have not been tested. But, he said, the peak of coronavirus patients in Colorado has been delayed.
“This is just one day of data,” Polis said. “I want everybody to realize that we want to see where the (state) is tomorrow and the next day and the next day.”
Polis said he’s hopeful the spread will continue to slow in the coming days from the impact of his other orders limiting the movement of Coloradans, including a stay-at-home directive that went into effect last week.
“As these additional measures roll on, we really, really hope that this has a bigger effect,” he said.
Polis also released data showing the number of people on Colorado’s roads has dropped over the past four weeks, a strong indicator that people are staying home. There’s been a 60% reduction in vehicle traffic from four weeks ago.
“It is a positive indicator,” Polis said. “… We expect and we need that decline to continue.”
The governor also announced some grim news Monday: Colorado has recorded two coronavirus-related deaths of people in their 40s. The total number of people killed by the COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, has reached at least 53.
Of the five new deaths announced Monday, they are:
- A man in his 8os from Eagle County
- Another man in his 8os from Eagle County
- An 80-year-old Pueblo County man
- Al Elbert County man in his 70s
- A Broomfield woman in her 70s who had “extensive underlying health conditions”
There are more than 2,600 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Colorado, including more than 400 of whom are or have been hospitalized.
Polis said it’s likely his stay-at-home order will be extended beyond April 11, when it is set now to expire.
“It’s likely additional steps will need to be taken beyond April 11,” he said.
“We’re only at the beginning of this crisis”
Dr. Marc Moss, who leads the pulmonology and critical care medicine departments at the University of Colorado medical school, accompanied Polis during Monday’s news conference.
He painted a disturbing picture of what he’s seeing in the University of Colorado Hospital intensive care unit, where nearly 40 of the more than 70 people with coronavirus who have been admitted to the hospital are being treated.
Patients young and old on ventilators. Symptoms rapidly worsening within a matter of hours. People facing a long recovery, if they are lucky enough to survive.
“We are now caring for an unprecedented number of critically ill patients,” he said, calling the situation “scary” for health care providers. “And we’re only at the beginning of this crisis. New COVID patients are being admitted to the hospital at a faster rate than patients are recovering.”
Moss dispelled the notion that the coronavirus is only a real threat to the very old or to people who have preexisting conditions.
“The COVID patients we are treating are on average in their 40s and 50s and some are as young as 19 years old,” he said. “Many of these patients were healthy with no other preexisting conditions. This pandemic can affect anyone.”
He said some have gone from needing a bit of extra oxygen to needing a ventilator within a few hours.
“The critically ill COVID patients that we are now rating are at the beginning of a very long road to recovery,” he said. “In general, those who are fortunate to survive will on average remain on the ventilator for two weeks. Sometimes it can take even longer.”
Moss said his hospital and others in the Denver area at the moment are in good shape, in terms of capacity. But they know that can quickly change.
“Having talked to the intensivists at several hospitals around the city, right now we’re doing OK,” he said. “How are we going to do in a few days or weeks? New York went from doing OK to being overwhelmed in several days.”
Updated on March 30, 2020, at 1:55 p.m.: This story wad updated to correct incorrect information provided by Gov. Jared Polis. There are now two deaths of people in their 40s attributed to the coronavirus.