Since March 2020, the Colorado COVID-19 Modeling Group has tracked the COVID-19 pandemic in the state and provided projections on its course. Because the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 has so quickly moved into the United States and Colorado, the Modeling Group – led by the Colorado School of Public Health with additional members from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Colorado Denver, and Colorado State University – has issued a statement based on its tracking of the pandemic and the scientific evidence.
“While we are working to generate future model projections, we are releasing this statement now to provide a current summary of this rapidly moving and concerning variant in Colorado,” said Jonathan Samet, MD, MS, professor and dean of the Colorado School of Public Health and lead for the Colorado COVID-19 Modeling Group.
The statement from the Modeling Group is as follows:
The Omicron variant is causing a new wave of SARS-CoV-2 in Colorado. The Omicron variant has arrived explosively in Colorado and is currently responsible for most cases in Colorado. Because of its high transmissibility, it is causing rapid growth in reported cases. Based on data from other regions and early data from Colorado, we expect COVID-19 hospital demand to increase sharply in the days ahead.
Cases are rising faster than observed during previous waves of the pandemic. Seven-day average reported cases have been rising sharply statewide over the last two weeks. Case growth is particularly rapid in select mountain communities and the Denver Metro area. We expect SARS-CoV-2 infections with the Omicron variant to rapidly increase in the days ahead. Given Omicron’s very high infectiousness, we expect all regions of the state to experience rapid case growth within the week and reported case numbers will likely exceed prior peaks within two weeks.
We expect COVID-19 hospital demand to continue to increase in the days ahead. COVID-19 hospital admissions have been increasing in Colorado since Dec. 21. In other regions of the world, Omicron has caused a growth in cases followed by a growth in hospital demand. Even though infection from the Omicron variant appears to result in lower risk of hospitalization than the Delta variant, hospital demand could exceed prior peaks based on high number of cases caused by Omicron and its ability to cause infection among previously vaccinated or infected individuals.
The highly infectious nature of this variant means that this wave could be shorter but also more severe than prior waves. We are most concerned about unvaccinated and immunocompromised individuals, who face the greatest risk of severe COVID-19 due to Omicron infection. We believe it is important for Coloradans to know that there is a high probability of coming into contact with someone with SARS-CoV-2 in the days ahead. Along with following vaccination recommendations, masking in public spaces, staying home if sick, and limiting contact in indoor spaces, especially where people are not wearing masks, can reduce the risk of infection during this Omicron wave based on its highly infectious nature.