The nation’s top infectious disease expert addressed Coloradans Tuesday, assuring them that while the state isn’t the only one experiencing a COVID-19 spike, extra care must be taken in the coming weeks to tamp down an expected “surge upon a surge” largely fueled by recent Thanksgiving gatherings and travel.
“If you look across the United States, we really are in a public health crisis right now,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday afternoon.
“The numbers were already going up,” he added, referencing the increasing numbers of reported cases, hospitalizations and deaths associated with COVID-19 across the country this fall.
Fauci, the longtime director of National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leading member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, joined Gov. Jared Polis for a livestreamed update on the state’s COVID-19 response.
Nationwide, Fauci estimated that the United States has been seeing between 100,000 and 200,000 new COVID-19 cases per day, between 1,000 and 2,000 daily deaths and more than 90,000 hospitalizations due to the virus in this ongoing fall wave.
In Colorado, hospitalizations and cases have been largely on the rise, with a slight stabilization in new case numbers seen in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Colorado reported 4,405 new cases Tuesday, according to Gov. Jared Polis. The state’s all-time high daily case count was 6,584 on Nov. 12.
During the update, Polis addressed he and his partner’s recent COVID-19 diagnoses — he and First Gentleman Marlon Reis continue to have mild symptoms — and Fauci voiced concerns over forthcoming spikes in infection thanks to Thanksgiving gatherings and holiday travel.
“What we have seen already is the (Thanksgiving gatherings and travel) has occurred and we’re going to be seeing the results of that in the next couple of weeks,” he said, adding that if an event causes a spike in cases, those effects are typically seen about two to three weeks later.
This possible Thanksgiving spike could be further worsened by even more upcoming holiday traditions, including holiday shopping, “ill-advised” office holiday parties, Christmas celebrations, New Year’s Eve parties and more, Fauci said.
“We have about a month or more of a situation where it is in our hands right now to see if we can mitigate it,” he added, making a plea for uniform mask wearing, regular hand washing, social distancing and avoidance of crowds.
“Help is in fact on the way,” Fauci said in reference to forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine doses expected to be given out to to-be-determined groups later this month and more widely available to the public around April.
“Once we get there, we can crush this outbreak just the way we did with smallpox, with polio and with measles,” Fauci said. “We can do it, we just need to hang together a bit longer.”
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory group planned to meet Tuesday, where they’d formally vote on what directions to provide to states when it comes to who should receive the first round of doses later this year. Polis said states can then take those directions and tweak them to best fit their own unique needs.
In Colorado, health care workers are listed as part of the critical workforce that will receive the first doses of the vaccine when they become available later this month, according to the state health department’s vaccine distribution plan.
Other critical workers deemed a high priority for the vaccine are first responders, public health personnel and correctional workers.
Following those critical workers, residents of assisted living or long-term care facilities are set to be next up for the vaccine, with those vaccines likely being distributed early next year, Polis said.
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To bridge Coloradans to a vaccine, Polis said the stimulus he announced in late-October will be sent out starting this week. The one-time direct payments of $375 will go to 435,000 Coloradans earning less than $52,000 a year who received unemployment benefits between March 15 and Oct. 24.
Polis also reminded viewers that Colorado lawmakers met Monday for their first day of a special legislative session, where they reconvened to discuss $200 million in proposed relief packages that would include direct payments to Colorado’s small business owners, tax forgiveness, grants for child care providers and funding for the expansion of broadband service, according to the Colorado Sun.
“There is hope, we are very close,” Polis said. “Mile 22 or 23 of the marathon … the last few miles are the hardest.”
“This is a different kind of tired,” he added. “We’re tired of not seeing our friends and loved ones, we’re tired of not having the quality of life we know we want to have. But, you know what? We’re almost there.”
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Erin Udell reports on news, culture, history and more for the Coloradoan. Contact her at ErinUdell@coloradoan.com. The only way she can keep doing what she does is with your support. If you subscribe, thank you. If not, sign up for a digital subscription to the Coloradoan today.