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KUNC is here to keep you up-to-date on the news about COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — Colorado's response to its spread in our state and its impact on Coloradans.

Coronavirus cases in Colorado are down slightly, but doctors warn people to stay cautious over the holidays

Virus Outbreak Colorado
David Zalubowski
/
AP
State epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy speaks during a news conference on Colorado's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dec. 7, 2021, in Denver.

The lines on statewide COVID-19 case graphs look a little more hopeful compared to a few weeks ago. Hospitalizations, a key metric for Colorado health officials, are hovering just above 1,200, down from a high of around 1,500 last month, a situation that had stretched ICU bed capacity to the limit.

Going into the holidays, Dr. Eric France, the state’s chief medical officer, expressed some optimism.

“I would say it feels much safer than it did a year ago at this time, thanks to high rates of vaccination within our state,” France told reporters this week.

Yet officials said the numbers could take another turn for the worse. That left France recommending that people take precautions at their holiday celebrations. Gatherings should be kept small, he said. Hosts could check with attendees and ask if they’re vaccinated or ask them to test for coronavirus within 72 hours of the event.

“It's important to keep a list of the people that you have at your parties so that if indeed there does appear to be a case that was at the party, you're able to do the appropriate outreach so that those persons can quarantine,” France added.

Mask and vaccine mandates remain in effect for many in Colorado, at a time when the ongoing pandemic is dragging people down. Six in 10 Americans feel worn out by the changes they’ve had to make in their daily lives since the pandemic first struck in early 2020, according to a Monmouth University Poll released this week.

Officials have repeatedly pointed to vaccinations as the pathway out of the pandemic. Gov. Jared Polis appeared at a vaccination clinic this week in Aurora to tout progress and mark the one-year anniversary of the availability of vaccines. Now, 81% of Coloradans aged 12 or older and 25% of 5- to 11-year-olds have received at least one dose.

“Spread holiday cheer this year, not COVID,” the governor said. “Get vaccinated and get boosted today.”

The remarks underscored health officials’ uncertainty about the trajectory of the pandemic. Despite rising vaccination rates, the virus continues to adapt, and Colorado’s chief epidemiologist, Dr. Rachel Herlihy, told reporters this week she is watching the omicron variant as concern about it grows.

“It does look like the omicron variant is spreading more easily from person to person and that is resulting in really steep case increases that are being observed in South Africa and now, also, some European countries,” she said. “The U.K. is seeing a steep increase. Denmark is also seeing a steep increase right now.”

Officials elsewhere are also watching, like in New York City, where the COVID-19 positivity rate almost doubled in less than a week, leading Mayor Bill de Blasio to announce new mandates and, like Polis, to emphasize vaccination.

Though Colorado has logged just five omicron cases, reports about omicron’s relatively high reinfection and breakthrough rates could mean a rapid spread of the virus and, possibly, rising hospitalization, reversing the state’s nascent downward trend. Vaccines, Herlihy said, still offer some protections against the variant.

“The vaccine does appear to continue to be highly effective against preventing severe disease in individuals and the news is even better when we look at protection with booster doses,” Herlihy said.

She added that across the state, all the COVID-19 indicators appear to be “moving in the right direction.” The percent of positivity is going down. Cases are declining. Hospitalizations and deaths are down.

Yet the pandemic plays wild cards.

“What I will be looking for in the next couple of weeks is whether or not we see that percent of positivity trend change,” Herlihy said.

Coloradans can’t control the pandemic, but their actions still matter, health officials said. What they do throughout the holidays could be the difference between graphs showing rising or declining numbers in 2022.

COLORADO CLINICS FOR VACCINATION

Aurora Municipal Center (drive-thru), 250 doses a day Monday-Thursday and 1,000 doses a day Friday-Sunday:

  • 15151 E Alameda Pkwy, Aurora, 80012
  • Days of operation: 7 days a week
  • Hours of operation: Mon-Sat 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Ball Arena (mobile vaccination site/walk-ups available) 500 doses per clinic:

  • 1000 Chopper Circle, Denver, 80204
  • Saturday, Dec. 18: Noon-8:30 p.m. (Avalanche game at 7 p.m.)
  • Thursday, Dec. 23: Noon-8:30 p.m. (Nuggets game at 7 p.m.)
  • Dec. 29: 1:00 p.m.-9:30 p.m. (Avalanche game)
  • Dec. 30: Noon-8:30 p.m. (Nuggets game)
  • Dec. 31: 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. (Mammoth game)

Arapahoe Community College (Lot B) - 250 doses per day:

  • 5900 S Santa Fe Drive, Littleton CO, 80120
  • Days of operation: 7 days a week
  • Hours of operation: Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Chapel Hills Mall - 1,000 doses per day:

  • 1710 Briargate Blvd., Colorado Springs, 80920
  • Days of operation: 7 days a week
  • Hours of operation: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Citadel Mall (parking lot next to JC Penney) - 250 doses per day:

  • 680 Citadel Drive East, Colorado Springs, 80909
  • Days of operation: Monday-Saturday
  • Hours of operation: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Douglas County Fairgrounds - 250 doses a day Monday-Thursday and 1,000 doses a day Friday-Sunday:

  • 500 Fairgrounds Road, Castle Rock
  • Days of operation: 7 days a week
  • Hours of operation: Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Jefferson Marketplace - 250 doses per day:

  • 8194 South Kipling Pkwy., Littleton, 80127
  • Tuesday-Sunday
  • 9:00 am-6:45 pm

Mesa County Community Services Building - 250 doses per day:

  • 510 29 1/2 Road, Grand Junction, 81504
  • Wednesday-Saturday
  • Hours of operation: Wednesday-Friday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. and Saturday: 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

La Plata County Fairgrounds - 250 doses per day:

  • 2500 Main Ave., Durango, 81301
  • Days of operation: Monday-Saturday
  • Hours of operation: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Pueblo Mall - 250 doses a day Tuesday-Thursday and 1,000 doses a day Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

  • 3201 Dillon Drive, Pueblo, 81008
  • Days of operation: Tuesday-Sunday
  • Hours of operation: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Weld County Clerk and Recorder Building - 250 doses per day:

  • 1250 H St., Greeley, 80631
  • Days of operation: Tuesday-Saturday
  • Hours of operation: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday - 8:30 a.m.-6:10 p.m. and Wednesday - 12:30-4:30 p.m. and Saturday - 8:30 a.m-12:30 p.m.