Jan 20, 2022 - COVID

Colorado hits peak Omicron as COVID cases begin decline

Change in reported COVID-19 cases per 100k people in the last two weeks
Data: N.Y. Times; Cartogram: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Colorado is starting to see coronavirus cases decline, an indication to public health experts that Omicron has reached its peak.

Why it matters: The COVID-19 variant led to the sharpest spike in case rates in the two-year pandemic and put hospitals on the brink of crisis.

What's happening: The seven-day moving average of cases dipped by nearly 1,000 cases, according to state data, as did the positivity rate. Hospitalizations have roughly plateaued.

  • "It looks like cases have peaked in Colorado," state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy told John on Wednesday.

Yes, but: We're not out of the woods yet. The number of cases and hospitalizations remains elevated and troubling.

  • "It's important to recognize that the hospital numbers as they are right now are still extremely high — much higher than what we saw for most of the pandemic," Herlihy cautioned. "And the case numbers are still well above what we've previously experienced."

Between the lines: The emerging trend is not yet reflected in the two-week data rates shown in the chart above, but even those figures illustrate an improvement from recent weeks.

The big picture: The Omicron wave is receding in other parts of the country, particularly the East Coast, but not everywhere, meaning it won't vanish right away, Axios' Tina Reed reports.

  • "In this country as a whole, it might take a while longer to resolve this surge," in comparison to South Africa or the U.K., said Dan Barouch, director of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center's virology and vaccine research.

What's next: If there is no variant immediately following Omicron, we could be in for a "fairly benign period where it will be appropriate to live life more normally" this spring, said Bob Wachter, chair of the University of California, San Francisco Department of Medicine.

  • But, he said, "over the past two years, if we've learned nothing else, it's that this virus surprises us and there [is] always the possibility of new factors and curveballs."

Colorado officials say the next step is tracking when hospitals will get some relief.

  • Herlihy said she is looking at the data from other places but "unfortunately there's no single clear pattern."

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