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Colorado sees greatest increase in COVID cases since May

Polis and health officials gave an update after multiple local health departments issued mask mandates for schools this week.

DENVER — There are 606 Colorado residents currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state – an increase of 20 people from Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis said during a briefing on the virus.

The state also reported 2,023 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday. Polis said the state is not yet seeing a downward trend in cases or hospitalizations of the virus. He urged Coloradans to be vigilant and said over 98% of new COVID cases in the state are the delta variant.

Overall, Colorado is experiencing lower rates of cases and death rates compared to the rest of the country, according to Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). Right now, the highest rates of cases in the country are being seen in Southeast states, Herlihy said. 

Herlihy suggested that kids returning to schools in the Southeast may be a factor in the higher case rates, and warned that Colorado is not immune to seeing a rapid increase in new COVID cases. 

“Today, we actually saw our greatest increase in cases that we’ve see in a single day since May, so I do think we are at risk of seeing a rapid increase of cases here," Herlihy said. 

As of Wednesday, 72.5% of Colorado adults and 66% of those ages 12 and up have received at least one dose of vaccine, Polis said. 

As kids begin going back to school, the state is offering schools the option of free voluntary rapid testing for students on campus.

The testing option is free, and the state can even provide a contractor to help with the testing. Polis said the testing is paid for with federal funding.

Information on this program is available on the state’s COVID-19 website.

The state is providing medical-grade masks to schools, and Polis said Colorado recommends masks be worn in schools but is not yet mandating them. Though, if schools can’t prevent the spread of the virus on their campuses, the state may look at taking stronger measures.

He added that the state will do everything in its power to ensure schools keep in-person learning, and the state will not allow a lack of mask-wearing to cause schools to go remote.

Polis said quarantined classes are on the table, and you may see short-term remote learning if there are COVID exposures. 

RELATED: 7 kids ages 10 and under are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Colorado, governor says

As the debate over whether to require masks in schools rages on, some county health departments are taking the decision out of the hands of individual districts and instead issuing public health orders requiring the use of masks in school settings. 

On Tuesday, the City and County of Denver issued a public health order that requires face coverings in schools and childcare facilities for all people ages 2 and older.

The Tri-County Health Department (TCHD) also voted Tuesday to pass a mask mandate for all students ages 2-11 in public and private school in Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties.

The Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) Department issued a public health order Monday requiring masks while inside at schools and childcare settings for anyone over the age of two starting on Tuesday.

RELATED: Masks required in schools in Denver, Jefferson, Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties

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