COVID-19 is down but not out

BY FREDA MIKLIN
STAFF WRITER

In a press conference on March 28 from Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) presented by Dr. Rachel Herlihy, State Epidemiologist, Dr.  Emily Travanty, State Lab Director, and Heather Roth, Immunization Branch Chief, it was reported that the COVID-19 testing percent positivity rate is still low but has recently increased slightly. Current hospitalizations are only 135, which is very low. 

Health officials are keeping a close eye on Omicron subvariant BA.2 that presently accounts for 35% of U.S. cases and 21% of Colorado cases. Colorado continues to use wastewater to monitor COVID-19 in the state through 47 participating utilities. Health officials reported that, “BA.2 is present in half of Colorado’s wastewater monitoring utilities.” Additionally, “BA.2 is now responsible for over 50% of cases in Europe and in the northeast U.S.”  It does not appear to be more severe than the original Omicron but does seem to be more transmissible.

The state still has many PCR testing sites that can be found at covid19.colorado.gov/testing. Only about 5% of testing capacity is currently being used so some may be closed eventually. People are also encouraged to use at-home free tests, which can now be re-ordered from the federal government. Anyone experiencing symptoms is encouraged to get tested. 

On the vaccine front, more than two million Coloradans have now gotten boosters in addition to their first two doses and less than one million people remain unvaccinated. Both Pfizer (for ages 65+) and Moderna (for ages 18+) are seeking authorization for a second booster dose, which is expected to be optional.  Pfizer and Moderna are also both expected to submit data to the FDA next month for COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 6 months to 4 years old. The FDA will hold a public meeting on April 6 to discuss considerations for future vaccine doses.

In response to a reporter’s question, Heather Roth said that federal funding programs that may be ending will not have any impact on available vaccinations presently. If/when we receive a recommendation that all Coloradans should get a fourth dose, funding could be an issue.

Regarding the BA.2 subvariant, Dr. Herlihy said that CDPHE will continue to watch trends over consecutive days of case data and hospital data to determine if we might be facing a new potential surge, but there is no indication of that now. Officials are also keeping an eye on the east coast and Europe, due to the higher prevalence of  BA.2 in those locations, on the assumption that we may be following behind them.

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