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Colorado will likely see an increase in COVID-19 cases across the state with a peak in the middle of June, public health officials said during a press conference Thursday.
The current test positivity rate is 8.7%, according to state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy. There has also been a gradual increase in hospitalizations in the past week, from 116 to 144.
Herlihy said the expected peak of the current surge will not be as bad as previous surges. However, there is an expectation for stress on health care systems as there will likely be a greater need for testing, emergency room admissions and use of hospitals’ ICUs.
The omicron BA.2.12.1 subvariant continues to account for 40% of cases in Colorado. Recently, the state has seen a handful of BA4 cases and one BA5. While BA4 and BA5 cases continue to grow in South Africa and European countries, officials have noticed high transmissibility. In people who have previously been infected or are vaccinated against COVID-19, there still is a risk of infection to the subvariants.
A third round of free at-home testing orders became available on Monday. People can now receive up to eight rapid tests with their orders. Scott Bookman, the state’s COVID-19 incident commander, said the state’s supply of both rapid and PCR tests is strong in the event of a surge.
Testing is still an essential part of acting against COVID-19, officials say. People who have an at-home positive test should report it to the state’s rapid test reporting site.
The Food and Drug Administration authorized a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for kids 5 to 11 five months after their second dose. In Colorado, 98,000 kids are eligible, and approval for administering the doses could come within days.
“Vaccination continues to be the best protection for everyone,” said Diana Herrero, deputy director for the state’s Division of Disease Control and Public Health Response.
Gov. Jared Polis has sent letters to federal officials urging them to approve a vaccine for kids 4 and under. Possible approval and distribution of Moderna vaccines for the age group could come as soon as mid-June. Families can expect vaccine clinics with Children’s Hospital when vaccines are approved for the 4 and under age group. The clinics will also be an opportunity for others to receive doses.
Colorado continues to have a relatively high vaccination rate. The state is currently 10th in the nation, with 55.7% of people 12 and older receiving a third vaccine dose.
For people who are immunocompromised, are ineligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, or did receive a vaccine and did not develop immunity, providers are distributing Evusheld, a preventative medication.
A return of a statewide mask mandate remains unlikely at this time. However, wearing a mask is recommended for people who are high-risk or interact with high-risk people. Officials also suggest continued social distancing and testing before and after gatherings.
Editor’s note: This story first appeared on Colorado Newsline, which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.