Health officials in Colorado are warning about another wave of infections as new coronavirus cases in the state jump to levels not seen since January and as counties start to loosen virus restrictions.
The state is reporting an average of 1,661 new cases a day, up by 18 percent in the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database. Hospitalizations have climbed by 19 percent in the same time period. Deaths from the virus, which tend to lag behind infections for several weeks, have slightly increased.
“We are seeing what appears to be the beginning of a fourth wave of Covid-19 in Colorado,” Scott Bookman, the state’s Covid-19 incident commander, said at a news briefing on Thursday. He urged people to remain vigilant about getting tested as more of the state’s population becomes vaccinated.
As in many parts of the country seeing caseloads rise, health officials say the increase has been fueled in part by the spread of more contagious variants of the virus, particularly the B.1.1.7 variant first found in Britain. That variant is estimated to be about 60 percent more contagious and 67 percent more deadly than the original version. B.1.1.7 is now the most common source of new coronavirus cases in the United States, and tracking by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that “variants of concern,” including B.1.1.7 and a variant that emerged in California, CAL.20C, now make up more than half of all new coronavirus cases in Colorado.
Even as cases mount, the state on Friday ended its “dial system” that required counties to place capacity limits on restaurants, offices and gyms, depending on case counts, positive test percentages and hospitalizations in those areas. That change shifted control of pandemic regulations to local counties, prompting concerns from some public health experts that the move could result in cases and hospitalizations continuing to rise. Several counties experiencing an increase in cases and hospitalizations, like El Paso and Douglas Counties, have said they do not plan to impose restrictions beyond those mandated by the state.
The state still requires counties to comply with its mask mandate — which will stay in place through May 2 — and with limits on indoor mass gatherings.
“I am concerned that without policies and behaviors to slow transmission,” said Elizabeth Carlton, an associate professor at…
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