A test tube containing a patient sample awaiting testing for the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. (Provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Increasing coronavirus vaccination rates among older Coloradans are starting to be reflected in the state’s COVID-19 case and hospitalization numbers, health leaders said on Tuesday.

Dr. Rachel Herlihy, Colorado’s top epidemiologist, and Dr. Jon Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health, said the number of hospitalizations and cases among people age 70 and older is decreasing. Nearly 80% of people in that age group have received at least a first dose of vaccine.

“We are starting to see the beneficial consequences,” Samet said, touting the good news during a media briefing at the governor’s mansion in downtown Denver.

Herlihy said it will be several more weeks before the full effects of vaccinating people 70 and older are reflected in Colorado’s coronavirus data since many people are still awaiting their second doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

The bad news is that Colorado has reached a plateau in new daily cases that’s still above the rates the state experienced over the summer, when coronavirus transmission died down. Hospitalizations leveled recently before starting to rise again, moving above 300 in recent days.

Samet said roughly one out of every 350 Coloradans are actively contagious with COVID-19.

“We are at this plateau that is higher than we’d like it to be,” he said.


The latest from the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado:

  • MAP: Cases and deaths in Colorado.
  • TESTINGHere’s where to find a community testing site. The state is now encouraging anyone with symptoms to get tested.
  • VACCINE HOTLINE: Get up-to-date information.


Herlihy said the state is also tracking a growing number of variant coronavirus cases, which are threatening to undo the transmission-control efforts of the past several months. At least two of the variants spreading in Colorado are believed to be far more transmissible.

Here are the variant cases reported by the state health department as of Tuesday:

  • 336 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant of concern that was first identified in the United Kingdom and is believed to be far more transmissible
  • 11 cases of the B.1.351 variant of concern that was first identified in South Africa and is thought to be more transmissible. The variant was first detected in inmates and staff at Buena Vista Correctional Complex, a prison in Chaffee County.
  • 225 cases of the B.1.427 or B.1.429 variant of concerns first found in California and thought to be resistant to some treatments

Herlihy said all of Colorado’s B.1.351 cases have been identified in the Chaffee County area. All but one, which remains under investigation, are linked to the prison.

About 5% of all positive test samples in Colorado are being further analyzed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s lab for variant cases.

Colorado expects to open vaccinations to the general public in mid-April.

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....