Colorado saw nearly 1,050 new positive coronavirus cases Monday — the most since March, Gov. Jared Polis said at a Tuesday press conference, where he announced that deaths due to the virus had topped 2,000 in the state.
The state now sits at 2,009 deaths due to the virus, Polis said. Saturday marked the state’s first day with more than 1,000 new daily cases since March, and Monday topped the benchmark as well, at 1,048, he added.
Compounding the situation, the state's percent positivity rate — or the rate of coronavirus tests that return positive — sits above 5% for the first time, Polis said — at 6.4% as of Monday. This spring the World Health Organization recommended that communities wait to reopen until they were under 5%.
"We need to get this under control now," Polis said sternly.
With 370 patients hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 as of Monday, the state's hospital capacity is in jeopardy, Polis said, adding that the number of hospitalized is the highest it's been since May.
As of Tuesday, 70% of hospital ICU beds in the state were in use, and 36% of adult critical care ventilators, according to state data.
"This is a critical juncture," he said. "We need to get this under control now as we get into winter, before Thanksgiving and the holiday season, and we have just a few-week window to do that."
If the rate of hospitalizations continues to double, "we'll be in trouble," he warned.
Polis urged Coloradans to do a better job of washing their hands, wearing masks and socially-distancing themselves, saying that the longer a viral peak can be delayed, the more treatments will be available — both in variety, with new treatments under development, and quantity, of existing treatments like the antiviral Remdesivir.
"It's a better time to get COVID now than it was in March, but it's also going to be [a better time] in December," he said.
The new coronavirus milestones — occurring during a third wave of the virus at a time when a fourth, holiday gatherings-induced wave is predicted, potentially pushing new daily cases past 40,000 a day, according to state officials — put the state at "major risk" when it comes to the health of citizens and of the state's economy, Polis said.
The rise in cases statewide is being driven by upticks in Adams and Denver counties, while Boulder officials have succeeded at flattening the curve in that county caused by an outbreak among University of Colorado Boulder students, Polis said.
On Monday Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said that the city's coronavirus cases have risen at a “concerning rate” over the past month, and its average daily case rate is as high as it was at the height of the pandemic in May. The city is at a "make of break moment," he said.
The city's percent positivity rate hovered between 4% and 4.5% as of Monday, Hancock reported, and was at 4.9% Sunday, according to county data. A rate of over 5%, he said, is going to mean "a great deal of trouble for us here in Denver."
Denver and Adams counties currently sit at the state's "Safer Level 2" level of restrictions, two steps below a "Stay at Home" order like the state saw earlier this spring. They risk being demoted to "Safer Level 3," the level in between the two, under which they would see gatherings limited to 10 and schools likely operate in remote or hybrid modes. County variances would not be granted by the state.
On Sunday Polis extended the statewide mask order for another 30 days. The mandate, which requires people older than 11 to wear masks in public indoor spaces, differed from previous versions in that it allows the state health department, in conjunction with local health departments, to grant waivers for certain indoor activities that can't practically or safely be performed with a mask on.