Colorado health officials hope vaccinations will prevent COVID-19 upsurge

New omicron-targeted vaccines, along with treatment, aim to thwart virus this fall

Ellis Arnold
earnold@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 10/28/22

The omicron variant is causing milder illnesses than earlier variants of COVID-19, but Elizabeth Carlton implores Coloradans not to underestimate it. 

“It still killed a lot of …

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Colorado health officials hope vaccinations will prevent COVID-19 upsurge

New omicron-targeted vaccines, along with treatment, aim to thwart virus this fall

Posted

The omicron variant is causing milder illnesses than earlier variants of COVID-19, but Elizabeth Carlton implores Coloradans not to underestimate it. 

“It still killed a lot of people,” said Carlton, an associate professor at the Colorado School of Public Health. “So it’s no joke.”

Coronavirus data watchers see signs of a possible upswing in COVID-19 case in the coming months and are working to minimize the impact of upswing on Colorado’s health care system by imploring residents to stay up to date on vaccinations and to take prudent measures to protect others if they become ill.

Reported COVID-19 cases plateaued in the past several weeks. There are less than 900 cases across the state, down from surges in excess of 3,000 cases in June and more than 20,000 in January. 

Colorado is also far from the bed crises hospitals weathered during some of the worst months of the pandemic. In late October, roughly 3% of hospital beds were in use by coronavirus patients, according to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment data.

But the numbers don’t tell the whole story, Carlton said.

“Reported cases are the tip of the iceberg,” Carlton said.

The percent of tests coming back positive has jumped up from around 5% in early October to about 9%. And wastewater data from the Denver area also indicates the virus is more prevalent.

 Carlton doesn’t know for sure what’s causing it, but after two years, pandemic restrictions have loosened everywhere. The way people “mix” with each other is different.

 “Not just school, but all the ways people gather is probably closer to pre-pandemic levels than it has been before,” Carlton added.

 Spikes have been tracked in the fall and it is unclear exactly why, she said. It could be that the colder weather leads people to gather more indoors. Or it could be due to changes in humans’ immune system at this time of year.

With flu cases typically rising around the same time of year, health officials are doubling down on their messaging about vaccines and haven’t ruled out that a more severe version of coronavirus can appear, as strains have in the past.

New shots can protect self, vulnerable Coloradans

Coronavirus vaccines don’t always stop the illness, but they may prevent a serious case that requires hospitalization. Vaccines also help protect people who cannot take the vaccine, like those who have imparied immune systems. Health officials recommend a mindset that minimizes risks for exposure to oneself and others.

 “People who are at higher risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 or who interact with people at higher risk should consider their individual risk, which may include taking additional precautions such as masking and avoiding crowded public spaces,” said a statement from the Colorado State Joint Information Center.

 People at high risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID include those older than 65, people who are medically obese or overweight, people with other medical issues.

For those who are infected, Paxlovid, an oral antiviral pill that targets COVID-19, is available.

 Another form of treatment is “monoclonal antibodies,” which are given as infusions, either through an IV or through injections, like with a vaccine. They help a person’s immune system recognize and respond to the virus.

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