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The spread of Covid-19 in Boulder County is dropping fast, according to state data, indicating the record-shattering wave brought by the Omicron variant has peaked and is passing.
The rapid decline of Covid-19 cases is true across much of Colorado, state health officials have said.
“We’re feeling cautiously optimistic,” Colorado State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said during a press briefing on Thursday.
But new daily case counts remain high. Residents should remain vigilant, Herlihy said.
In Boulder County, the seven-day average of daily new cases is still topping 775. That’s an increase of 72% over the previous seven-day average and more than double any daily case counts seen prior to Omicron, according to an analysis of state data by the Boulder Reporting Lab.
Research indicates Omicron is more mild than previous variants for vaccinated people. Even so, the death toll among Boulder County residents with Covid-19 exceeded 300 earlier this month, a grim milestone as the pandemic stretched into its third year.
And with the good news comes uncertainty regarding the toll left in the wake of the surge.
The fast-spreading Omicron variant pushed data collection systems to the limit, causing delays in the state’s reporting of new cases and prompting the county to stop reporting race and ethnicity information altogether.
State officials acknowledged Thursday many cases detected from at-home antigen tests may never be counted. Residents can report those results to the state, but they don’t have to.
In Boulder Valley’s schools, Omicron was hardly tracked at all. For the past month, the school district’s Covid-19 dashboard has indicated few, if any, students and teachers quarantining with Covid-19. County data indicates thousands of school-aged children contracted the virus.
The county’s data also indicates more than 100 hospital patients have Covid-19. But what exactly that means for hospitals is unclear.
First, federal data used to track strain on the healthcare system is always one week behind. Just this week, federal data indicated hospitalizations among patients with Covid-19 were reaching alarming highs. But as of Thursday, state health officials said hospitalizations appear to be plateauing.
Also, during the Delta wave in November, the county’s hospitals added nearly 20 beds to intensive care units, which on paper indicates the system is capable of handling more patients and is under less strain.
These data, however, do not capture the lasting exhaustion among health care workers made worse by the Marshall Fire on Dec. 30. The fire, which blazed past the Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville, prompted hospital staff to evacuate 51 patients. Meanwhile, hospital officials said dozens of health care workers lost their homes or were displaced by the fire.
Hospitals in Boulder County also reported patients showing up for medical treatment unrelated to Covid-19 and testing positive upon arrival. In accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some health care workers who contract Covid-19 could simply don N95 masks and return to work in as little as 24 hours.
According to state health officials, the risk of ending up in the hospital is 46 times higher for unvaccinated people than for people who have received a booster shot. For vaccinated people who are unboosted, the risk is 7 times greater compared to those who received a booster dose.
Approximately 70% of people in Boulder County have received a full dose of the vaccine, according to the county health department. Less than half have received a booster, according to recent state data.