DENVER – Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in Colorado are projected to continue decreasing well into mid-October, but the course of the pandemic after that remains unknown and will be determined by the next variant of concern, according to the latest modeling report from the Colorado School of Public Health.
Having peaked at 323 on June 14, hospitalizations for COVID-19 have been decreasing over the past several weeks and these, along with trends in the positivity rate and wastewater data, show that infections of the virus are on the decline and are projected to continue trending in that direction over the next two months, the Colorado COVID-19 Modeling Team wrote in their latest assessment, published Thursday.
Approximately 1 in 162 people were infectious with SARS-CoV-2 as of Aug. 16, the modeling team wrote, down from their previous estimate of 1 in 108 in mid-May. The BA.5 sublineage of the omicron variant now makes up almost all infections in Colorado, accounting for about 87% of all statewide cases as of July 17, according to the latest data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Even though the sublineage is more adept at evading immunity conferred by vaccination or prior infection, there is no evidence that BA.5 causes more severe disease than other omicron variants, the modeling team wrote, adding reinfection with this sublineage has likely led to high levels of immunity against severe disease and infection across the state – though it’s unclear how long that immunity will last.
Hospitalizations for the disease, which stand at 184 as of Aug. 23, are projected to decrease to about 100 by mid-October, despite a potential increase in transmission as kids go back to school.
“All curves indicate a decline in COVID-19 hospital demand for the next two months, heading towards hospitalization counts around 100, close to recent low values achieved in April of this year,” the modeling team wrote.
The projections stop there, however, as no one knows what will happen with the emergence of future variants in the fall and winter. Already, the head of Denver’s Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE) has warned there will be another spike in the fall, according to our partners at The Denver Post.
In closing remarks, the modeling team said it is monitoring two emerging variants, both belonging to the omicron family: BA.4.6, which makes up 7.5% of all cases in the U.S. as of Aug. 27, and BA.2.75, which is 13% more transmissible than the already record-breaking BA.5, and which may have as much immune escape as BA.5 or more.
It's unclear whether either of these two sublineages will displace BA.5 in Colorado, the modelers wrote.