COLORADO SPRINGS – The order to close down dine-in restaurants, gyms and beauty shops is one the public health departments really thought would work to slow the spread of the COVID–19 pandemic. It’s a strong theory with evidence behind it but no one ever really knew when the order was put in place if it was going to work or how well it would work.
This week, Colorado’s Public Health leaders got the data from their decisions and it looks like they were right.
“This is what we’ve been talking about theoretically, but it isn’t theoretical anymore, it’s happening,” said Deputy Medical Director for El Paso County Public Health Dr. Leon Kelly.
Statewide, the daily increase of hospitalizations is decreasing. Dr. Kelly says hospitalizations are the more consistent numbers to watch because of the variability in the availability of testing.
On Friday, 113 new COVID–19 patients were admitted to a hospital in Colorado. Saturday there were 52 new patients, 49 patients Sunday and 52 Monday.
In El Paso County, Dr. Kelly said they’re testing more people than at any point during the pandemic and still, increases of new cases are flattening mirroring the statewide trend.
“Our hospitalizations, which even on our worst days we’re jumping 12 people each day are now down to one or two new people are coming into the hospital. That is incredibly positive news for where we’re going in this thing,” Dr. Kelly said. “What we are starting to see for the first time over the last week or so are fairly dramatic alterations in that curve from where we started.”
To Kelly, the reason for a slower spread of COVID–19 in Colorado is unequivocal: it’s due to the physical distancing set by limits on gatherings, closing of certain businesses and people working from home.
“‘ Flattening the curve’ does mean lengthening how long the virus circulates in society but, that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” Dr. Kelly says, for a few reasons.
First, data from the CDPHE estimates 200,000 fewer deaths from the virus if there is 80 percent social distancing, than if there is zero.
Second, it avoids overloading the health care system by spreading out the patient load and also gives hospitals the ability to build incapacity in the way of equipment, beds, and staff.
“It’s not that we are trying to prevent anyone from getting this virus, that’s impossible, it hasn’t happened it’s not going to happen,” said Dr. Kelly. “It’s that, as we do that we want to spread those people out over time and by the time this is all over many of us are going to have this and that’s alright, because most people are going to do fine with it. As long as we keep it out of those at-risk populations as much as we can.”
This data might not quite be the light at the end of the tunnel, more data will come in the next week or two painting how effective the stay-at-home order is in flattening the curve. Dr. Kelly thinks the end of April is a much better time to judge how the summer will look in Colorado.
But the data does say that staying away from other people is working, closing some public places is working, and our efforts are not for nothing.
“It doesn’t mean that it’s time to let up,” Kelly said. “Now is the time you say look, what you guys are doing is working. Let’s stay on this thing, let’s give it everything we have over the next few weeks and I think by the end of April we’ll have a really good idea of where we’re going in this thing.”