Coronavirus transmission among younger Coloradans has slowed in the past week, but state health officials are now worried about spread of the disease among older people as the number of hospitalizations grows to its highest level since late July.
The number of people hospitalized because of COVID-19 has jumped from 148 to 246 in Colorado in the span of about two weeks.
Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state’s top epidemiologist, said on Tuesday that there was a 45% decrease last week in new cases among people 18 to 25 years old. She called that “substantial progress” as outbreaks at the University of Colorado Boulder and other college campuses have slowed.
But for all other Coloradans, there was a 1% increase in cases, which is what she attributed to the rising hospitalizations.
Herlihy warned that if the case-growth and hospitalization trends continue, there could be hospital capacity problems in the month or two. That would be right around the Thanksgiving and holiday seasons, when officials were already expecting rising case loads because of decreased social distancing.
“Disease levels in the next couple of weeks will really set us up for success or some challenges,” she said.
Gov. Jared Polis, speaking to reporters during a virtual briefing, urged Coloradans to remain vigilant and not let down their guard. He also pleaded with people to get tested if they have respiratory issues they think may be from wildfire smoke and not COVID-19.
“Even if you think it is the poor air quality, please get tested because it could also be the early symptoms of COVID,” Polis said. “Please, be sure. Get tested. Be safe.”
Meanwhile, on the national stage, President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he has instructed aides to stop negotiating on another round of congressional COVID-19 relief until after the election.
Trump tweeted that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was “not negotiating in good faith” and said he’s asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to direct all his focus before the election into confirming his U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.
“I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business,” Trump tweeted.
Last week, the White House said it was backing a $400 per week pandemic jobless benefit and dangled the possibility of a COVID-19 relief bill of $1.6 trillion. But that offer was rejected by Pelosi.
Trump broke off talks after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned earlier Tuesday that the economic recovery remains fragile seven months into coronavirus pandemic without further economic stimulus.
Stocks dropped suddenly on Wall Street after Trump ordered a stop to negotiations.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average swung instantly from a gain of about 200 points to a loss of about 300 points.
Powell, in remarks before the National Association for Business Economics, made clear that too little support “would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.