Sheer case numbers alone keep Level Red restrictions around


DENVER (KDVR) — Even if several metrics look good, Colorado’s sheer number of COVID-19 infections will keep tight restrictions in play for awhile yet.

State health officials and Gov. Jared Polis reminded Coloradans on Friday that our state’s cases are high even if they are declining. As of Dec. 17, the 7-day average daily case count is lower than it has been since Nov. 5, meaning the dreaded post-Thanksgiving spike has been avoided and the great Third Wave on the downswing.

The resulting restrictions may remain for weeks, however. Case counts are simply too high, even though other crucial numbers are dropping.

The state restriction levels are grouped by color. Three trigger points determine the level: the two-week cumulative incidence rate in a county, the two-week positivity rate in a county, and the number of sequential days a county has experienced stable or declining hospitalizations.

Thirty-eight percent of Colorado’s counties are currently in Level Red restrictions after Polis created new dial levels on Nov. 18. Most of these Level Red counties are Denver metro counties.

The number of counties in Level Red, however, does not synch up with the state on two of the three statewide trigger points: two-week positivity rate and hospitalization rates.

By the state dial, a two-week positivity rate over 15% puts a state into Level Red. Hospital numbers that are rising or have only been stable for 0-7 days is the Level Red hospitalization trigger.

Both trigger points are far less red than Colorado overall.

Only 16% of Colorado counties have a two-week positivity level that qualify them for Level Red restrictions. Even fewer, 9% of the state’s counties, have had Level Red hospitalization qualifiers.

If Colorado were going by these metrics, most counties would be in Levels Orange or Yellow.

The sheer number of cases, though, prevents that.

Almost every single county in Colorado has a two-week cumulative incidence rate that puts it into Level Red – 58 counties, or 91%.

These will have to come down significantly to even approach Level Orange two-week incidence levels.

On average, each of Colorado’s counties has an average 1,062 cases per 100,000 people in a two-week window – more than three times the Level Red threshold.

Hospitalization and positivity might look good, and Colorado may have ducked a holiday case spike, but Level Red will likely stay until Colorado cuts its caseload by 300%.

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