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The emergency room entrance to Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver, photographed on Oct. 22, 2019. (John Ingold, The Colorado Sun)

The number of people hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Colorado on Friday reached their highest level since Jan. 21.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported there were 705 people hospitalized because of the virus at the end of this week, up from 263 on July 12.

Coronavirus cases have been spiking in Colorado as the delta variant spreads across the state. Officials say about 99% of all new cases in the state are caused by the variant, which was first detected in India and is thought to be as contagious as the chickenpox.

COVID hospitalizations in Colorado still remain well below their peak of 1,847 reached on Dec. 1, but the trend of increasing admissions is not showing signs of slowing.

On Thursday, Colorado reported that its seven-day average of new daily cases was 1,490, with a seven-day average test positivity rate north of 6%. That’s up from a seven-day average of new daily cases of 340 in early July, when the test positivity rate was hovering between 2% and 3%.

Colorado’s highest seven-day average of new daily cases was about 5,400 in November, when well over 10% of tests were coming back positive.

Gov. Jared Polis is urging Coloradans to stay vigilant and wear masks when gathering indoors, but he has stopped short of reviving public health orders aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.

More than 3.3 million Coloradans have been fully immunized against COVID-19, while more than 3.6 million have received at least one dose of vaccine.

Data shows that COVID-19 vaccines prevent severe illness and death in those infected with the disease.

The Colorado Sun —

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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.

A Colorado College graduate, Jesse worked at The Denver Post from June 2014 until July 2018, when he joined The Sun. He was also an intern at The Gazette in Colorado Springs and The News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware, his hometown.

Jesse has won awards for long form feature writing, public service reporting, sustained coverage and deadline news reporting.

Email: Twitter: @jesseapaul