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Colorado in 'good place' as health officials prepare for COVID-19 impacts from schools, Labor Day holiday

Health officials said Wednesday data shows strategies are working but everyone must remain vigilant as less social distancing is likely over the holiday weekend.

DENVER — Colorado health officials said Wednesday we've been in a "good place" over the last few weeks when it comes to the novel coronavirus, but urged residents not to let their guard down as they celebrate Labor Day weekend.

"We know there's certainly the potential with the upcoming holiday also with schools back in session and colleges and universities reopening there could be less social distancing.," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy who noted there was a "rapid acceleration" in cases and hospitalizations in early to mid-July right around the 4th of July holiday.

During a briefing at 11 a.m., Herlihy said officials estimated that right now social distancing in Colorado is at a level of about 75%. The goal is to stay above 65%. 

She was joined at the briefing by the Dean of the School of Public Health Dr. Jonathan Samet, who outlined potential impacts in the coming weeks if the level of social distancing declines. He showed slides that illustrated declines of 10, 20 or 30% social distancing and the potential impacts.

Credit: CDPHE
A graphical illustration of a potential peak if less social distancing occurs over Labor Day holiday.

One slide (pictured above) showed the impact related to the Labor Day holiday. Another slide showed potential impacts related to schools.

Most schools opened between Aug. 17 and Aug. 24, and Herlihy noted the earliest they would expect to see an impact in the data related to schools is Aug. 31, which was Monday.

Credit: CDPHE
A graphical representation of potential impacts of schools reopening.

There are 144 patients currently hospitalized in Colorado as of Sept. 1, and the seven-day moving, average positivity rate stands at 2.86%, according to the latest data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

Positivity is an important indicator of the status of COVID-19 in the state. The World Health Organization (WHO) in May 2020 recommended that the positivity rate be at 5% to contain the virus.

All of that is good news and is an indication that precautions such as social distancing and mask wearing are working, according to health officials who said they will be monitoring the data closely and are not ready to recommend that restrictions be reduced at the state level

"With the transmission going down I think we are in a good place, our strategies are working well," said Herlihy. "Our guidance to the governor's office from an epidemiologic standpoint is to stay the course, to move cautiously."

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