If Coloradans Can’t Control The Spread Of Coronavirus, Thousands More Could Die By The New Year

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At the current level of transmission control plus a spike from Thanksgiving, Colorado could see an additional 2,600 deaths from the virus by New Years, according to state modeling. That’s not the worst-case scenario. 

“Given the fact that we’ve experienced rising cases and hospitalizations, there’s no doubt that the numbers of deaths will rise,” said Dr. Jonathan Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health in a remote update. “I hope that our numbers are overestimates, but I think we’re facing a number of deaths that’s far greater than we would like to experience.”

The worst-case scenario is an additional 4,457 deaths, which would bring the grand total for COVID-19 deaths in 2020 to 7,650 people. To date, 3,193 Coloradans have died from COVID-19. 

Samet, who oversees the team that does the state modeling, said there’s also another scenario, one in which Coloradans get better at limiting the spread of the virus, like mask-wearing, social distancing and avoiding crowds and greatly reduce the total number of deaths to an estimated 5,194 people. 

“The point here is that we need to be maintaining as high a level of transmission control as possible,” Samet said. 

One in 40 Coloradans are currently infectious, so the probability of encountering an infected person is higher than it was at any point since the pandemic began in March. That compares to 1 in 41 last week. The state’s seven-day rate of positive cases is 11.9 percent. 

While case counts and the positivity rate has fluctuated some over the last few weeks, hospitalizations have continued to steadily increase. In part, that growth is due to admissions to the hospital outpacing discharges and many people with the virus stay in the hospital for long periods of time. 

There are 6,460 hospital beds in Colorado and 1,325 intensive care unit beds. Currently, 1,841 people are hospitalized with the virus, and another 154 people are hospitalized and awaiting test results. State modeling predicts hospitals could reach capacity in the coming weeks.

The modeling also predicts that 16.5 percent of Coloradans have already been infected with COVID-19, but scientists are still unsure how long immunity from the virus lasts and what the rate of reinfections is. 

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