1 in 49 Coloradans now contagious with COVID-19, state estimates

One in 49 Coloradans is now contagious with COVID-19, Gov. Jared Polis said Friday, citing estimates from the Colorado School of Public Health.

That’s a dramatic leap from last week’s estimate of 1 in 110. In late October, officials estimated the average was 1 in 292.

“If you have five people over, you’ve got a 1 in 10 chance of being exposed to the virus right there,” Polis said during a virtual press conference Friday. “Literally everybody that you encounter could be contagious at this time.

“Now is the time when what was always reasonably safe is no longer reasonably safe,” he added. “We are losing Coloradans every day to this horrible virus.”

He continued to stress the importance of personal responsibility and suggested that the present challenges many small businesses face — laying off staff and cutting back capacity, if not closing altogether — are an unfortunate outcome of individuals’ lack of caution.

“It’s unfair that our small businesses are paying a price for, fundamentally, a lack of personal responsibility and us each taking charge of preventing the spread of the virus in our own lives, which is well within our own power,” Polis said.

As of Friday afternoon, the state reported 1,564 people were hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19, with another 159 suspected cases. That is a new state record, and far above the springtime peak 1,277 hospitalizations of people either confirmed or suspected to have the virus. Mesa County reported Thursday that it has no remaining ICU capacity, and Polis said Friday that Weld County had just three ICU beds remaining.

Polis also reported more than 5,000 confirmed new cases of the virus Friday, though he said the state believes the real daily number of new cases is likely as high as 12,000.

In response to the uncontrolled spread of the virus and the resulting pressure on local health care systems, the state is moving 20 of its 64 counties to Level Red on the recently revised COVID-19 restrictions dial. At that level, in-person dining is shut down, and offices and gyms must dramatically reduce capacity. This is the strictest level on the dial short of Level Purple, which the state created this week and which calls for a stay-at-home order similar to what Polis ordered in March.

For 15 counties, Level Red went into effect Friday. Those counties are Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson, La Plata, Logan, Mesa, Morgan, Routt, Summit and Washington.

Another five counties — Alamosa, Otero, Prowers, Pueblo and Weld — have been directed by the state to move to Level Red on Sunday. Weld County commissioners on Friday declared they would not enforce this new designation. It was unclear as of Friday afternoon how the state planned to respond to that declaration.

At the virtual press conference, Polis spoke generally about county-level designations and said he wants to “give the counties a chance to implement their own mitigation efforts.” That approach has led to some counties being placed at Level Red, while other counties with worse or similar virus metrics avoiding Level Red.

State officials, Polis included, remain extremely frustrated by the lack of new federal stimulus money from Congress. The state cannot deficit-spend, unlike the federal government, which means the state can do relatively little to prevent many of the business closures, layoffs and individual descents into poverty, hunger and homelessness that are likely in the offing.

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