Latina Vaccine

National Jewish Health President and CEO Michael Salem, MD administers a dose of the Phizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine to Maria Ibarra outside St. Cajetan Catholic Church on Friday, Feb. 5, 2021 in Denver. Latina leaders organized the clinic to combat vaccine disparities in the community after early data showed that residents of color were receiving the vaccine at lower rates. (Michael Ciaglo/Special to The Denver Gazette)

Denver's COVID numbers have steadily ticked downward over the past 10 days, a promising sign that the city's vaccination effort is at least keeping pace with the rise of disease variants and the state's fourth pandemic wave.

Colorado has been in the midst of this latest spike for much of April, with cases rising and hospitalizations following. Denver had its own spike, but it appears to have abated already: The one-week cumulative incident rate dropped from just over 207 cases on April 12 to 136 as of late Thursday. That's the lowest since third week of March, according to data published by Denver Public Health.

There are still some worrying signs: The number of people in Denver hospitals has still continued to trend upward, though new daily admissions have also fallen for several straight days. 

Bob McDonald, the executive director of Denver's Department of Public Health and Environment, said there was "something to" the decline. But he warned that the situation was tenuous, and a slip in mask wearing, distancing or vaccination rates could send Denver tumbling back in the wrong direction. 

"It’s been said that at this point in the pandemic is a race between getting people vaccinated and the speed that the mutations spread," said Bob McDonald, the executive director of Denver's Department of Public Health and Environment. "I think we’re in that part right now where it’s easier to tip the scales either way."

The numbers are still higher than McDonald would like, and are certainly higher than they were pre-spike. The United Kingdom variant, which is more infectious, is now the predominant strain in the area, he said. But it's encouraging sign, particularly as Denver and its neighboring counties shift into lower levels of restrictions. 

McDonald said that change could drive numbers up, but coordination between most metro area counties should help to shield the area from patchwork orders. 

Throughout the pandemic, officials have said that an increase in cases follows two weeks after a spreader event -- like the Fourth of July -- or after a general lax in behavioral measures. Hospitalizations follow two weeks later, then deaths after that. So, McDonald said, Denver would soon know if the loosening had a negative impact.

If it does, that could mean a re-tightening.

"If we start to see for a seven-day timeframe that numbers are spiking, we’re going to react quickly," he said. "I hope we don't have to put more orders in place, but if that’s what we need to do, that’s what we’ll do."

The keys to avoiding that are the same as they've been for months: Get vaccinated, wear a mask, don't gather.

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