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The spread of COVID-19 may be slowing across Colorado, while hospitals in El Paso County and elsewhere are getting stretched thin by demands. 

State data shows the seven-day average of new cases has fallen from 1,985 on Sept. 16 to 1,441 on Sunday. 

“We seem to be in a plateau to slight decline,” Gov. Jared Polis said during a news conference Tuesday.

The state also has the sixth lowest rate of COVID-19 in the country, in part because of its high rate of vaccinations, he said. About 70% of those eligible across the state are vaccinated.

“It is largely a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” he said.

Colorado School of Public Health Dean Jonathan Samet noted that the case numbers are not clearly going down. But the school’s more recent models suggest a decline, although the models are not looking out to the winter, he said. 

Those who are getting sick during this wave of the pandemic are likely to be immune for a while, possibly a year or more, and so the combination of rising vaccination rates and naturally acquired immunity will slow the spread, Samet said. 

Across the state, the number of people in hospital care has plateaued in recent days, and there were 866 COVID-19 patients in hospital care on Tuesday, Polis said. Of those in hospital care, only 164 people were vaccinated.

The total number of COVID-19 patients is down from a recent peak of more than 1,000 of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients on Sept. 14. 

If the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to fall, the number of hospitalizations could follow in the coming weeks. 

“Hospitals are hopeful that we may have reached the peak of our Delta variant hospitalizations,” said Cara Welch, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Hospital Association.

However, a decline of COVID-19 hospitalizations will likely not solve all the concerns hospitals are facing, she said. 

“There are still a number of uncertainties — like what type of flu season we may be facing or how we will handle ongoing staffing shortages — that will make it difficult for hospitals in the weeks and months ahead,” she said. 

El Paso County, the state’s largest county by population, has also seen a decline in the spread of COVID-19 over the last week, although it remains highly prevalent, with 1,753 cases over the last week. The seven-day average of new cases has fallen from over 300 on Sept. 16 to 250 on Monday, El Paso County Public Health data showed. The percentage of people testing positive has also fallen down from about 10% to 8.29%.

“We are encouraged by seven consecutive days of declining incidence and percent positivity. We may have already hit the peak for this current wave … and we should know more if this trend continues for another week,” El Paso County Spokeswoman Michelle Hewitt said. 

The trend could be reversed as more people start gathering indoors where ventilation is poor and the virus as more opportunities to spread, she said. 

El Paso County hospitals remained strained Tuesday, the county’s dashboard showed. Both UCHealth and Centura have delayed medical procedures to preserve capacity to serve COVID-19 patients.

In northern Colorado, only 3% of intensive care unit beds were available in a region that includes Larimer and Weld counties. Last week Banner Health said it was running at or over normal capacity in its three hospitals in Northern Colorado and seeing very few patients from out of state. 

Polis encouraged residents to get tested to help slow the spread of the virus Tuesday and encouraged schools to participate in a state program that can provide tests and staff to schools and serve 10 times as many students than are enrolled.

Weekly testing through the program can quickly detect cases, and minimize its spread through schools, the state health department said last week. 

The state’s at-home testing program that will ship eight tests to residents for free has conversely been extremely popular. The state has already shipped more than 70,000 tests since it was announced last week, and demand is currently exceeding capacity, said Emily Travanty, scientific director, Laboratory Services Division at the state health department. 

Residents who order tests through the program can expect to receive them in seven to 14 days, Polis said. 

Those interested in at-home COVID-19 tests or community-based testing sites can get more information at

This content was originally published here.