Colorado COVID-19 deaths starting to decline after falling peak

Those looking for hope for Christmas had some glimpses on Wednesday, as Colorado health officials reported that deaths from the fall in COVID-19 in the fall are finally starting to decline, outbreaks are decreasing and vaccine shipments next week’s appear to be on schedule.

Coronavirus-related deaths peaked at the end of last week and have been declining for a few days, said epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy during a call with reporters.

The state recorded 454 deaths in the first week of December and 389 in the second week, which means that the number of deaths from COVID-19 was 80% higher than in the two worst weeks of the spring wave.

Hospitalizations and new cases are also declining, reaching levels last recorded in early November. But the virus remains widespread and hospital staff are still dealing with “incredible stress,” said Scott Bookman, commander of the state’s COVID-19 incident.

“We have made a lot of progress, but we still have a long way to go,” he said.

As of Wednesday, 1,336 people with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 were hospitalized across the state, as that number has continued to drop since the December 1 peak, although it is still higher than during the initial pandemic peak in the spring. The state has reported 4,462 virus-related deaths since March.

Bookman and Herlihy made a final appeal to the public to stay home and celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve only with the people they live with, and to avoid crowded stores by shopping online or picking up on the sidewalk. Colorado did not see an increase in COVID-19 cases after Thanksgiving, although some states have.

“If we can do this again, we can prepare to open schools in January,” said Herlihy. “What you did on Thanksgiving Day worked.”

Outbreaks fall for the first time since September

The state health department reported 1,273 active outbreaks of the new coronavirus on Wednesday. That was 39 less than the previous week, and the first time the number of outbreaks has dropped since the beginning of September.

An outbreak consists of two or more cases linked to the same place or event and does not end before four weeks without new cases.

But it was not all good news. The number of outbreaks in nursing homes and assisted living facilities has increased. More than half of Colorado’s nursing homes have a current outbreak, and these clusters have been associated with 6,152 cases and 438 deaths.

Outbreaks have been stable or have subsided in most other settings, including schools, restaurants and offices. They increased slightly at retail locations.

Joe Pumo, RN, left, gives Modern COVID-19 vaccination to Rae McLean, an RN in Emergency Care, right, at Kaiser Permanente Lone Tree Medical Offices on Wednesday. Kaiser Permanente received more than 4,000 of the recently launched Moderna vaccines, 61 of which were administered to healthcare professionals at their Lone Tree offices on Wednesday.

More photos on the way

Colorado will receive about 32,900 doses of the Modern vaccine next week, as well as 51,000 from Pfizer, said General Scott Sherman of the Colorado National Guard, who is overseeing the distribution of the vaccine. Most of Pfizer’s injections go to pharmacies, which will immunize employees and residents of long-term care facilities, he said.