DENVER — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment hosted a COVID-19 pandemic update today, informing the public that COVID-19 infection rates are in slow decline across the state and headed in the right direction.

So far, the organization announced that over 2.5 million masks have been distributed from 409 distribution locations such as libraries, fire departments and others.

36.4% of all Coloradan children ages five to 11 have received their first vaccine dose, and 27.7% are fully vaccinated at this time.

Despite this, many schools across the state have reported that they are unable to keep up with contact tracing, and that nurses are concerned about protocols as it is difficult to track asymptomatic infections.

Although Omicron variant infections are rising in Colorado, the population is on its way toward herd immunity status by February. State health officials claim that they believe around 75% of the population is already immune to its variant infection.

In southwest Colorado, infection rates are up by nearly 30%. Rural areas are continuing to struggle with positivity rates with high hospitalization rates.

Hospitals throughout Colorado are continuing to delay procedures in order to keep staff from becoming overworked as well as maintaining available beds for those who have been infected by COVID-19.

With regard to specific numbers are data, much of the numbers are not able to be made available in real time as some individuals who may be hospitalized for other reasons additionally have COVID-19. This, combined with other factors, results in a delay in numbers reported to the CDPHE.

The question on many minds across Colorado regards the expiration of Denver’s mask mandate. Given that it expires next week, should it be extended for indoor areas as transmission rates are still high?

CDPHE says that it is still encouraging all individuals who have been vaccinated to get the booster shot in order to prevent a potential omicron variant infection. The long-term benefits of the booster shot are still being investigated as well as the probability of a re-infection of COVID-19 in those who have already had the virus. Death rates continue to be higher amongst the unvaccinated.

Regarding the new variant called BA2, only one case has been found in Colorado, although other states are reporting cases as well.