By definition, pandemics are widespread, even global. But their impact is hardly the same from one region to the next. That’s obvious but worth keeping in mind as national news reports advise us of a “summer bump” in COVID cases, fueled in large part by the incidence of the delta variant.
Colorado is experiencing more of a nudge. As a percentage of our population, our state has 57.4 cases per day per 100,000 residents. That’s one of the lower rates among all states. At the same time, there has been a notable uptick in the sheer size of Colorado’s COVID caseload. The number of new cases per day has quadrupled in the state over the past month. Yet, the delta-driven surge has been most evident, by far, in Florida, Texas, California, Missouri and Louisiana.
As reported in Tuesday’s Gazette, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has responded to the bump with a revision to some of its recent masking guidelines. It now is recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in those parts of the U.S. — essentially, the states mentioned above — where the coronavirus is surging.
On a related note sure to sour the restart of school for a lot of Colorado kids in a few weeks, the CDC also recommended that students and teachers wear masks indoors at school even if they have been vaccinated. That could change yet again, of course, by the time school starts. The CDC’s guidelines are not mandatory but do heavily influence state and local regulations.
Not ready to mask up again so soon? Coloradans might not have to, depending, as always, on how our state’s numbers trend.
Health care providers, epidemiologists and public health officials are once again exhorting the public to step up to the plate and get vaccinated. They point to a correlation between the vaccination rate and the COVID rate in the states. The data shows heavily vaccinated states have low COVID rates, and vice versa, according to the CDC.
Colorado ranks 20th among U.S. states in the percentage of its population that has been vaccinated. Its COVID rate is commensurate with that. Overall, 3,110,403 people or 54.01% of Colorado’s population have been fully vaccinated, by one recent tally.
Apart from basic public health measures like vaccinations and masks — and without wading into the heated debates over their efficacy — we urge Colorado’s state and local authorities to proceed with caution when considering other steps in response to an increase in the COVID caseload.
Notably, limiting business activity and shuttering our schools — even for a short time — should be viewed strictly as a last resort. Our state’s economy and our children’s development simply cannot take another such blow. Nor, in hindsight, does the data suggest such measures are like to be necessary.
The level of COVID-related hospitalizations in our state doesn’t come close to warranting an extreme response. Neither does Colorado’s experience last year with closing schools and businesses, and the data that emerged, suggest such steps are particularly effective in stopping the spread of the virus. Children turned out not to be superspreaders but rather displayed a lower likelihood of transmitting the virus. Restaurants weren’t necessarily viral hot spots, either.
In other words, it is far too soon amid the delta boomlet for Colorado to seriously consider stepping back into a more restrictive approach to COVID. We can keep calm and carry on, for now, at least.
However, it is not too soon to learn from the mistakes we made last year and don’t wish to repeat. And to implement changes in response. Along those lines, we called just the other day for some hard limits on the duration of the governor’s emergency powers.
Possibly, limits on the scope of those powers, too. Colorado’s citizens — as well as the elected and appointed officials who have navigated the pandemic thus far — all could benefit from sensible checks and balances. They could use some brighter lines to make clear how far they can, and can’t, go in addressing a public health emergency.
The latest news on the ebb and flow of Colorado’s, and the nation’s, COVID caseload should inspire us to prepare for the next public health emergency. But this time, we must do so in a way that keeps us as safe as is reasonably possible while attempting to keep society’s diverse needs in better balance.
The Gazette editorial board