DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado is beginning to show an arc of omicron cases as the COVID-19 pandemic moves toward better days.
“I’m optimistic about the trajectory and data. We see this downward trend,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy. 75% of Coloradans are currently immune to omicron, Herlihy said, and by mid-February experts believe the percentage will rise to 80%.
“This high level of immunity, either through infection or through vaccination, leaves us in a very different place than we were before in the pandemic.”
“I’m not surprised,” Cody Ann Carpening said as she waited at a COVID Check Colorado testing site at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. “Because at this point I know so many people who have it.”
About 12,000 tests were being conducted daily at its locations across the state in early January, according to COVID Check Colorado. This week that number had dropped to 5,000 to 6,000 a day. Weather may have contributed to some of the decline, spokeswoman Chyrise Harris said.
“I think we’re all hoping to get out of this acute state of crisis where you’re worried about hospitals and worried about your kids going to school,” said Dr. Elizabeth Carlton from the COVID Modeling Group at CU Anschütz. The state relies on the team’s view of COVID studies when making policy decisions. “I think things are changing. And I think we’re going to see a lull soon, but the question remains how long and how do we make sure we’re ready when the next variant comes out or if omicron comes back in the fall?” she added. That means down, but not out. There is still a significant chance of developing a heavier variant.
The herd immunity that experts spoke of at the beginning of the pandemic would hopefully be achieved with a vaccination rate between 70% and 90%. 80% is in the middle, but no one is sure, Carlton says, about what an Omicron infection might do in terms of protection.
“We don’t know whether omicron protects you from the next variant.”
And immunity, either from previous infection or vaccination, could wane.
“Will a new variant emerge that has a competitive advantage over omicron, or will omicron rise again in the fall when immunity has gone down?”
But in the short term, as interest rates are expected to fall, some of the preventive measures may also recede.
“I think that in the long term I am very confident that we can slowly phase out mask mandates. In the short term, over the next few weeks, I think it’s still important to recognize that we’re in the acute phase,” Carlton said. But she is optimistic.
“For example, I’m hopeful that as a parent of a child, we’re coming to a stage where we’re not as concerned about transmission in schools because we have high levels of vaccination, we have high levels of immunity , our children can have a more normal life… I think we have to get through the next few weeks, but I’m cautiously optimistic that spring will look very different than the past few months.”
At JeffCo Fairgrounds, Christine Hendrickson pondered the potential.
“We don’t know what that could be. And hey, in the best-case scenario, it goes away.”
But a lot of viruses were hanging around.
“Polio did until we eradicated it with vaccines,” she noted.