Colorado hit milestones on Thursday that Gov. Jared Polis and public health officials hoped would never come: the highest number of daily cases of COVID-19 and worse, the highest number of people hospitalized for the virus since the pandemic began in March.
Polis said 894 people are now in the hospital with the virus; the previous peak had been 888, back in April. He also said that as of today, one in every 100 Coloradans is contagious with the virus.
The governor also said 3,368 new cases were diagnosed on Wednesday, also a new record. October was far worse and more deadly than in previous months, and the state cannot afford to have a November like that.
However, despite questions about whether he's considering a lockdown — which is what happened in April when the pandemic was at its first of three waves — the governor asked instead for people to cancel social plans and more strictly adhere to mask wearing, social distancing and hand-washing.
He also suggested people should cancel in-person Thanksgiving plans. "Have Thanksgiving in February or March," when a vaccine is likely to be available, he said.
Polis called his statements Thursday an intervention, but issued no directives to back it up.
In response to questions about why Coloradans aren't taking the virus seriously, Polis said people have been focused on the elections and the wildfires. "We're past that now," he said, although adding that neither is yet resolved.
The virus has "taken second or third place" to those issues, and "now is the time to return the focus to being responsible and having the resolve we need" to save lives in Colorado.
He also dismissed notions of another "stay at home" order. Many counties are looking at additional mitigation steps, Polis said, but added that more people are catching the virus in the last few weeks than predicted by any model.
Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state epidemiologist, said trends show cases among older age groups — those over the age of 40 — are increasing significantly, especially in the last few days. That translates into more hospitalizations, Herlihy said. Eventually, that will lead to more deaths in the coming days and weeks.
"There is more COVID-19 circulating in Colorado now than in the beginning of the pandemic," she said. "We see no signs" of it slowing or reaching a plateau, adding she believes this trend will continue into the near future. "We are moving in the wrong direction."
The situation is deteriorating quickly, Polis said. "We need to live in November like we did in August," after the second wave had peaked.
Polis, who recently met with Dr. Deborah Birx, the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Polis quoted Birx, who said "we are entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of the pandemic."
"We are going to do our part as a state." Polis said.