Virus Outbreak Colorado (copy)

A patient waits to be called for a COVID-19 vaccination booster shot outside a pharmacy in a grocery store Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021, in downtown Denver.

Colorado's pandemic picture has improved over the past two weeks, as key metrics have declined after reaching peaks well below previous surges.

The state is reporting fewer COVID-19 cases on average every day now than it has since the end of May, a welcome reprieve from a spike that began in early April and climbed steadily until June 9.

The positivity rate over the past week has also declined to its lowest point in nearly a month, albeit at high levels that warn of the transmissibility of the current strain of the virus. 

Those trends began earlier this month and have largely held true. More encouraging was the release of new state data Wednesday, which showed hospitalizations have decreased modestly from the week before, from 323 to 304. That's the first week-over-week drop since the second week of April. If the peak of this wave is 323, it's well below any previous surge in Colorado. And it's also below projections for what the state was likely to experience this month.

For at least the next few weeks, the state is hoping those declines will continue, Alicia Cronquist, of the Department of Public Health and Environment, told reporters Thursday morning. 

What comes after that, particularly in the fall, will likely depend on what strain of the virus is dominant and what level of immunity the state's residents have against it. Since omicron arrived in December, two of its subvariants have become dominant in succession. Two more — BA.4 and BA.5 — are now slowly gaining prominence in the state.

"We really are going to see waves depending on the national and international movement of variants across the world," Eric France, Colorado's chief medical officer, told reporters, "and they will likely be independent of season. It will be what's spreading around, what’s becoming the most common virus in our communities."

But state officials are particularly focused on the fall, France said, which is when COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations peaked in 2020 and 2021. 

"We have to prepare ourselves for the potential of peak cases occurring again this fall," he said. "I’ll feel more confident that we've moved into an endemic stage if the peaks are small this fall and are manageable. I'm hopeful that will be our experience, but I don't have a crystal ball to understand what variant we will have and how impactful it will be in late fall, early winter."

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