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An incoming cadet takes some hand sanitizer from an upperclassman before being sworn in as a cadet in Thursday, June during In-Processing Day at the Air Force Academy.

The "steady" spike in coronavirus cases in Colorado is less dramatic than the rise earlier this year, but it differs in another way: a lower average age of those being diagnosed.

The average age of those diagnosed with COVID-19 in Colorado is 33, down from the upper 40s in April, state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy said Friday in a press call.

In order to avoid going back to the kinds of restrictions in place earlier this year, Colorado residents need to be more vigilant about preventing the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Jared Polis said Thursday, after three weeks of rising numbers of new coronavirus cases in the state. "Wear a damn mask," he said. (Facebook, Gov. Polis)

Though the rise in cases can partially be attributed to increased testing and a backlog of results received earlier in the week, hospitalizations also are on the rise, signaling that the increase is legitimate, Herlihy said.

"What we believe is occurring is that there is less social distancing in the state at this point," she said. "Coloradans' behavior has changed."

The increase is slower than in nearby states such as Arizona and Texas, which are struggling with a resurgence of the virus, Herlihy added.

State officials are unsure what has lead to the rise in cases in younger Coloradans, saying only that more younger people are being tested due to more widely available testing.

It's also only a matter of time, they say, before an increase in the virus among younger people leads to an increase in the virus among at-risk populations.

It's also possible that older Coloradans are following public health advice and exercising more caution, reducing their share of cases, a spokesperson for the state's joint coronavirus task force said.

The three-day average of coronavirus cases reported to the state topped 400 this week for the first time since mid-May, according to state data. That statistic had peaked at more than 700 in late April.

The R0 value — the average number of subsequent infections caused by each person who contracts the virus — is slightly more than one. While down from three to four earlier this spring, cases are expected to rise any time that number tops one, Herlihy said.

Click here for the latest data from CDPHE.

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