COLORADO SPRINGS (KXRM) — As cases skyrocket in El Paso County, a professor of microbiology and virology at Colorado College says local elected officials need to step up regulations to flatten the curve once again.
“The number of reported cases is increasing much faster,” said Phoebe Lostroh, an Associate Professor with degrees in Biology, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, and a post-doctoral degree in Microbiology.
Lostroh has been creating forecasts every week during the summer for the student-run COVID-19 reporting at the college. Her predictions have been within a handful of cases in the past three weeks.
To make her predictions, she takes a section of the steepest part of El Paso County’s reported cases (early on in Governor Jared Polis’ stay-at-home order), the flattest part of the curve (towards the end of the stay-at-home order) as well as the current trajectory. She then tacks on those trends at the end of current data to forecast where cases will be in El Paso County over the next few weeks.
A new challenge for her has arisen-El Paso County is now in the steepest part of the curve than at any part during the pandemic.
Last week, EPCPH reported 452 new cases in its cumulative total, compared to 90 new cases from June 7-June 13 and 215 from March 29-April 4 (the highest count in April). Lostroh predicts 560 new cases by weeks end and over 630 next week.
“Because of the steepness of the curve right now and because my predictions have been quite accurate over the last three weeks, I think it would be even better to return to stay-at-home conditions for 14 days until we can determine the curve is flattening again,” Lostroh said.
Lostroh points to economic research she read, showing the damage to the economy is less for a temporary economic shutdown than compared to allowing business as usual as cases increase to the level that threatens medical infrastructure.
During the Tuesday EPCPH presentation to county commissioners, Dr. Leon Kelly said hospitals are concerned about ICU space-worrying at current trajectories they could run out in two weeks, forcing the suspension of things like elective surgeries again.
Interestingly, in the time following the first reopening of the economy in El Paso County, for restaurants, retailers, and hair stylists, there was a noticeable but not sizable increase in cases.
A cluster of events came as June bled into July: Father’s Day, the Fourth of July, and a multi-sector variance allowing events and attractions, among other things, to reopen. That trio is followed by a steep increase in cases that pushed the area into the “medium” spread category as defined by CDPHE.
This past weekend, the county soared through the “high” threshold prompting mitigation plans to prevent businesses from being shut down.
“I cannot say whether the fact that the curve is getting steeper is related to things such as the multi-sector variance, or Father’s Day, or the Fourth of July,” Lostroh said. “But, I can say that our behaviors are making the curve worse. The virus doesn’t change its behavior; people change our behaviors, and whatever behaviors we are doing right now is making the situation much worse.