COVID-19 hospitalizations in Colorado fell this week after nearly two months of plateauing, and state health officials are urging adoption of treatments to prevent serious illness.
Despite the recent dominance of a new, transmissible version of the virus, Colorado’s COVID-19 numbers have not increased over the past month, according to state data. Hospitalizations began to drop and the average positivity rate dropped. The number of cases – a less useful tool now with the availability of home testing – fell slightly for almost a month.
This is good news, especially as cases are increasing elsewhere in the country and around the world over the past six weeks, thanks to the dominance of the BA.5 subvariant of the omicron strain. Meanwhile, state health officials on Friday announced the confirmed arrival of a new subvariant, BA.2.75, which they say may have “some degree of greater immune evasion than other subvariants.” -variants of omicron in circulation”. In other words, this latest strain — part of the larger omicron variant family — might be more transmissible than what’s currently circulating.
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It’s unclear what impact BA.2.75 will have on Colorado or elsewhere. On Thursday, Eric France, the state’s chief medical officer, urged Coloradans to continue using available COVID-19 treatments — regardless of the circulating strain — to avoid hospital stays.
“There’s a lot of COVID out there right now. We’re seeing a lot of BA.5 cases of the co-variant spreading through the community, and it’s been that way since June,” he said. “So we just need to remind people that COVID exists, you can be exposed, you can get sick with COVID, and if you do, remember to use these treatments so your risk of hospitalization is reduced. almost 90%.”
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Treatments are especially important for at-risk Coloradans, such as those over 60 or who have comorbidities like immune disorders, asthma, a history of smoking, or obesity. Treatments available include Paxlovid, a pill taken twice a day for five days. Paxlovid must be prescribed by a health care provider.
To better facilitate access to providers who can prescribe the drug or others like it, state officials expanded its website to list pharmacies dispensing the drugs and private telehealth providers who, for a fee, will write prescriptions for eligible patients. France said the state does not endorse any particular supplier.
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He also noted the “rebound effect” associated with Paxlovid: Some patients, including President Joe Biden, used Paxlovid and tested negative, only to test positive once they finished the drug. France said this is because the drug stops the virus from growing, but if there is something left in your system when you finish the drug, it can start growing again.
“You might still have symptoms or test positive again,” he said, “but you don’t end up in the hospital, which is why you were taking it at the time.”