Year in review: COVID-19 in Colorado

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DENVER (KDVR) — In ten months, COVID-19 has upended global life, battered the global economy and derailed the plans and livelihoods of people everywhere. As the year closes, the world has counted 1.8 million dead from the virus, 341,000 of which are in the United States.

Colorado has managed to duck some of the worst national trends in cases and deaths, however, though the fall’s Third Wave laid it low.

The odds of contracting COVID-19 in Colorado were on par with the nation, but odds of surviving were better.

To date, Colorado has counted 330,859 cases, or 1.7% of the nation’s 19.7 million cases, exactly its share of the national population. It has only charted 4,750 deaths among cases, however, or 1.4% of the national total. Deaths due to COVID were even lower at 3,901.

If it weren’t for the state’s massive autumn spike, those numbers would have stayed even further below the national average.

Gov. Jared Polis called a statewide lockdown on March 25, shortly after President Donald Trump called a national emergency over a virus most hoped would pass quickly.

From that point until mid-October, Colorado’s average new cases per day stayed well below the national average.

Colorado’s cases per day surged above the national average on Oct. 16, six weeks after schools resumed in-class learning and Labor Day weekend produced a small bump public health officials warned could spiral out of control.

Spiral out of control they did, prompting Polis to create a new Level Red restriction zone on Nov. 20 that closed restaurants to indoor dining, among other measures. Numbers fell, but did not fall below national average until mid-December.

Similarly, deaths among Colorado’s COVID cases spent most of the pandemic below the national average and skyrocketed in the fall. They only dropped back down to the national rate in late December.

The incoming tide of hospitalizations strained healthcare facilities nationwide and in Colorado. More patients were hospitalized than at any point in time, and as many as half of hospitals were expecting staff, bed or equipment shortages.

By Dec. 30, Colorado’s number of hospitalized COVID patients had halved, and only 6% of hospitals expected bed shortages.

While Colorado’s fall wave exceeded the national averages, its demographics managed to stay ahead of the curve.

Like the U.S. at large, Colorado’s COVID flow followed age patterns. The 20-29 age group was the greatest share of infections, but those over 70 made up the large majority of deaths from COVID. Those over 80 were both the smallest share of infections and the majority of deaths.

U.S. and state public health officials both were concerned about the disproportionate impact of COVID on the Black and Hispanic communities.

In Colorado, the story was different. White and Black residents were both underrepresented – they made up half as many COVID cases as their shares of the population. Hispanic Coloradans, on the other hand, were 7% more represented in COVID cases than in the state population.

Survival rates, however, became more equitable in Colorado than the nation at large.

Hispanic Coloradans survived COVID infections at higher rates than white and Black Coloradans. Whites made up only 38% of cases but 62% of deaths, while Blacks made up 2.8% of cases and 3.6% of deaths. Hispanic patients were 20.7% of deaths, beneath their share of infections.

The first of the year will begin the third and hopefully final act of the pandemic, but challenges remain.

Case, hospitalization and death rates are coming down in time for vaccines from several companies that each claim efficacy rates in the 95% and higher range, which the state will distribute to residents on rolling basis.

Meanwhile, a new strain of coronavirus known as B.1.1.7 was discovered in Elbert County, the first sighting of the more strain in the U.S. Scientists claim it anywhere between 50%-70% more infectious, though no more dangerous.

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