Virus Outbreak Colorado Schools

Nine-year-old Madelyn Galindo, front, and 8-year-old Dylan Salazar wait to enter the building for the first day of in-class learning since the start of the pandemic at Garden Place Elementary School on Monday in north Denver.

Local health experts announced on Friday that Colorado has entered its fifth-wave of the COVID-19 pandemic as infections and hospitalizations have increased since July, according to a new statewide modeling report.

Health experts from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Colorado School of Public Health said the increase is driven by the Delta variant, unvaccinated population and increased population mixing, according to the report.

"The state data and the modeling indicates we are not quite out of the woods yet," said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist. "In the short-term, transmission control measures, like masking and social distancing, will continue to reduce peak hospital demand. Longer term, an increase in vaccination rate will continue to be crucial to reducing hospital demand and saving lives."

In order to keep infections and hospitalizations down throughout the early fall months, experts say transmission control measures are key. In the report, experts compared increases, decreases and current projections to create long-term projections for Colorado.

Experts said if there is a 10% increase in transmission control, it could reduce 3,100 hospitalizations and around 390 deaths in the coming months. However, if transmission control declines and vaccination rates stay consistent, hospital demand could reach the pandemic's peak of 1,847 patients by November, but this is "extremely unlikely", according to the report.

If transmission control were to remain the same, hospitalizations would continue to rise throughout September, but remain lower than the December 2020 peak.

Currently, one in 99 Coloradans are infectious with COVID-19, which is the highest since May. However, as the state enters its fifth-wave of the pandemic, 70% of residents are immune either through vaccination or prior infection, which has led to a slowing in infections, according to the report.

"Infections and severe disease are still increasing, albeit more slowly than over the month of August," the report read. "The timing and magnitude of the peak depend primarily on transmission control measure in the weeks ahead."

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