Colorado’s top epidemiologist on Tuesday issued another warning about rising coronavirus cases in the state, saying the surge isn’t limited to just college students and that the spike has become “very concerning.”
“Even among other age groups we’re again seeing rapid acceleration,” Dr. Rachel Herlihy said.
Herlihy said there was a 54% increase in coronavirus cases last week compared with the previous seven days. That jump was especially pronounced among 18 to 25 year olds, which is to be expected given the worsening outbreak of COVID-19 at University of Colorado Boulder and on other campuses.
Among 18 to 25 year olds, cases rose by 74% last week over the previous seven days. For the rest of that population, the increase was 45%.
Herlihy said the increase in cases is similar to a spike in coronavirus transmission and hospitalizations in Colorado after the July 4 holiday that prompted dire warnings from Gov. Jared Polis and his public health team.
On Tuesday, Polis sounded a lot like he did when the last spike in cases happened.
“The general trend has been an increase in COVID in our state,” Polis said. “… Let’s step it up over the next couple of weeks. Let’s stamp this out.”
Colorado has not seen such a large number of coronavirus cases since late July. About 20% of the new cases are in Boulder County, where COVID-19 has sickened hundreds of CU students and prompted the Boulder campus to announce a move to remote learning for at least two weeks.
So far, hospitalizations have not risen alongside the increase in cases. Herlihy and Polis said that’s likely because many of the new cases are among younger people who are less likely to face dire consequences from coronavirus.
But Herlihy said hospitalizations are often a lagging indicator of coronavirus’ spread, meaning the numbers could begin to rise in the next week or so.
Polis said one positive sign is that it doesn’t appear the outbreak at CU Boulder has spread beyond the campus into the community. But he and other health officials are worried that could happen, worsening Colorado’s already tenuous coronavirus situation.
Herlihy said Colorado’s “R naught” number — the number of people each infected person spreads coronavirus to — is thought to be just above 1 right now, which means the disease is growing.
The rate of people testing positive for coronavirus has also steadily risen in recent weeks, Herlihy said.
More than 65,000 people have caught COVID-19 in Colorado. Of those, 2,018 have died, 1,914 directly because of the disease. As of Tuesday there were 152 people hospitalized across the state because of the virus.