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COVID-19 hospitalizations could approach late 2020 levels in Colorado, report says

A report released this week found increasing vaccination rates among adults now will prevent a substantial number of hospitalizations through the fall.

COLORADO, USA — A report released this week laid out the worst case scenario if more people don't get vaccinated for COVID-19 in Colorado.

The state's modeling group compared several vaccination scenarios and found immediately increasing vaccination rates to 80% among adults will prevent a substantial number of COVID-19 hospitalizations this fall. 

If vaccination rates remain low in August and people substantially lower control behaviors such as mask wearing, the report found Colorado could see a peak in COVID-19 hospitalizations this fall that approaches the peak in December 2020. 

"This week we have seen an acceleration of the number of cases and number of people in hospitals," said Jon Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health

Samet is the lead on Colorado's COVID-19 Modeling team. The group began its work back in March of 2020 to track the pandemic. 

To reach 80% of Colorado adults with at least one shot, state health officials said 456,000 first doses will need to be administered in August. State vaccine data shows less than 230,000 total doses were administered in July. 

Vaccinations were declining over the summer in all age groups, but Colorado saw an uptick in vaccinations in the last week. The Weld County Health Department said it saw a 20% increase in vaccination rates over the past several weeks. 

"The reasons for an increase may be varied-- school is starting soon, employer requirements, and the emerging Delta variant," the department's release said.

The purpose of the modeling group's report was to find out the benefit of increasing the percentage of adults that have received at least one dose to 80% by Labor Day and the benefit of increasing the percentage of teens vaccinated to 70% by Labor Day.

The report found the impact of vaccinations is greater if the state reaches the goal of 80% of adults vaccinated compared to 70% of teens.

The modeling team's report found more shots in arms could prevent thousands of hospitalizations over the next few months if mitigation efforts, like mask-wearing, continues to decline.

"We show in the report, if we just stay on that vaccine trajectory we have been on, the answer is there will literally be thousands of avoidable hospitalizations and of course that means avoidable deaths," Samet said. 

According to the report, more than 2,000 hospitalizations will be avoided by vaccinating 80% of adults if transmission control declines by 10%.

"If the contact rates in children and teens increase in the fall, leading to greater declines in transmission control in these age groups, vaccinating 80% of Colorado adults will prevent thousands of hospitalizations, vaccinating 70% of Colorado teens could prevent nearly 1,000 hospitalizations," said the report.

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