Colorado reported nearly 1,050 new positive coronavirus cases Monday — the most since March, Gov. Jared Polis said Tuesday, when he also noted that deaths from the virus had topped 2,000 in the state.
The state sits at 2,009 deaths because of the virus, Polis said in a news conference. Saturday marked the state’s first day with more than 1,000 new daily cases since March, and Monday topped the benchmark as well, at 1,048, he added.
Compounding the situation is the state's percent positivity rate — the rate of coronavirus tests that return positive — is above 5% for the first time, Polis said. On Monday, the rate reached 6.4%. The World Health Organization recommended in the spring that communities wait to reopen until the rate was were under 5%.
"We need to get this under control now," Polis said.
With 370 patients hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 as of Monday, the state's hospital capacity is in jeopardy, he said, adding that the number of people hospitalized is the highest since May.
As of Tuesday, 70% of hospital ICU beds in the state were in use, as were 36% of adult critical care ventilators, according to state data.
"This is a critical juncture," Polis said. "We need to get this under control now as we get into winter, before Thanksgiving and the holiday season, and we have just a few-week window to do that."
If the rate of hospitalizations continues to double, "we'll be in trouble," he warned.
Polis urged Coloradans to do a better job of washing their hands, wearing masks and socially distancing themselves, saying that the longer a viral peak can be delayed, the more treatments will be available — both in variety, with new treatments under development, and quantity of existing treatments like the antiviral Remdesivir.
"It's a better time to get COVID now than it was in March, but it's also going to be [a better time] in December," he said.
The new coronavirus milestones is occurring during a third wave of the virus at a time when a fourth, holiday gatherings-induced wave is predicted, potentially pushing new daily cases past 40,000 a day, according to state officials. It puts the state at "major risk" when it comes to the health of citizens and of the state's economy, Polis said.
In El Paso County, a Colorado Springs charter school, a daycare center and a private school are among the latest COVID-19 outbreaks.
Coperni 3, which serves grades Kindergarten through 7 and is on the city's east side, and Primrose School of Springs Ranch, a daycare facility on the city's north side, are among recent outbreaks reported by the El Paso County health department. Corpus Christi Catholic School,near downtown Colorado Springs, is also listed.
Corperni 3's outbreak was first reported on Friday and involves two individuals. Primrose School's was first reported Thursday and involves two individuals. Corpus Christi's was first reported Oct. 7 and involves four individuals, according to health department data.
Last week Manitou Springs schools announced they would be moving to online learning after three people associated with the high school were diagnosed with the sometimes deadly virus. As of Tuesday, that number had risen to 11, according to health department data.
The growth in cases statewide is being driven by increases in Adams and Denver counties, while Boulder officials have succeeded at flattening the curve caused by an outbreak among University of Colorado Boulder students, Polis said.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said Monday the city's coronavirus cases had risen at a “concerning rate” over the past month, and its average daily case rate was as high as it was at the height of the pandemic in May. The city is at a "make or break moment," he said.
Denver's percent positivity rate hovered between 4% and 4.5% as of Monday, Hancock reported, and was at 4.9% Sunday, according to county data. A rate of over 5%, is going to mean "a great deal of trouble for us here in Denver," he said.
Denver and Adams counties currently are at the state's "Safer Level 2" level of restrictions, two steps less restrictive than the "Stay at Home" order the state was under earlier this spring. The counties risk being demoted to "Safer Level 3," the level in between the two, under which they would have to limit gatherings to 10 or fewer people and schools likely would operate in remote or hybrid modes. County variances would not be granted by the state.
Polis on Sunday extended the statewide mask order for another 30 days. The mandate, which requires people older than 11 to wear masks in public indoor spaces, differed from previous versions in that it allows the state health department, in conjunction with local health departments, to grant waivers for certain indoor activities that can't practically or safely be performed with a mask on.
Gazette reporters Seth Klamann, Leslie James, Hannah Metzger and Alayna Alvarez contributed to this report.