For the second consecutive week, the number of outbreaks in Colorado have increased, continuing a reversal after weeks of improvement.
There are now 678 active outbreaks in Colorado, according to data released Wednesday by the state Department of Public Health and Environment. That's up from 626 last week and 578 on March 31. It's part of a broader collage of COVID-19 metrics that have prompted Gov. Jared Polis to label the current spike a fourth pandemic wave.
The number of nursing home and assisted-living outbreaks both increased. The numbers are still small -- 15 assisted-living and 34 skilled nursing outbreaks -- particularly compared to the scores of clusters ravaging facilities at the beginning of 2021. Still, this latest growth comes despite mass vaccinations in long-term care facilities, which led to the vast majority of residents being inoculated. Most staffers have also been vaccinated, though uptake among that group is still far below that of the residents staff serve.
Of the 678 current outbreaks, more than 22% -- or 150 clusters -- are in K-12 schools. That, too, is more than last week, though educational outbreaks have remained high throughout this semester, as students return to classrooms.
There were more restaurant and child care center outbreaks this week, as well.
The week-over-week growth joins statewide COVID-19 case totals, hospitalizations and positivity rates in all increasing this month. The seven-day average of newly reported cases hit its highest point since January this week. There are now 513 people hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, the first time admitted patients have topped 500 since the second week of February.
In all, Colorado's total hospitalization number has risen by 150 in less than two weeks. According to state data, most Colorado counties are rated as having high levels of COVID-19 incident rates. If Colorado were following its own dial thresholds, the level of transmission in many counties would be in Level Yellow -- a mid-tier level of restrictions. Instead, 34 counties are in the lowest-level of restrictions, and more, including Denver, will loosen restrictions in the coming days.
Despite this fourth wave, Colorado will move ahead with ceding much of the COVID-19 response authority to individual counties. Polis has acknowledged the high numbers and urged people to wear masks and socially distance, he's also said that the risk of overwhelming hospitals is now mitigated enough that the state can step back.