County’s COVID incidence rates on the decline

Case numbers decreasing, but no declaration of a downward trend from health officials

City of Aspen consumer health protection specialist Mike Sear checks the mask zone signs on a parking department pole in downtown Aspen on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. The hope is to remove all of the mask zone signs on the sidewalk as theyre now getting ruined during the winter. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Pitkin County’s COVID-19 incidence rates have been on a steady decline for nearly a week, according to the county’s online data dashboard and daily epidemiological reports issued by Pitkin County Public Health.

In the past seven days, the incidence rate dropped from a 14-day running total of nearly 3,000 cases per 100,000 people to half that: a Jan. 24 report indicates an incidence rate of 1,536.

Positivity rates have likewise decreased. The percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 (out of all who get tested over a 14-day period) is back in the single digits, with a 9.5% positivity rate reported Sunday.

That rate was 10.2% the Sunday prior; the threshold between Yellow level and Orange levels of COVID concern is 10%.

But that doesn’t mean the county is out of the weeds just yet.

Notes from the Jan. 22 epidemiological report indicate that though case counts had decreased 88% from the previous week, county health officials are “awaiting more information to ensure these trends hold,” the report states.

Backlogs of test results have retroactively changed COVID-19 data before; earlier in January, Pitkin County Public Health received an “influx” of more than 100 positive test results from one lab that led to increases in the previously reported case counts for the dates those tests were collected.

And although the incidence rate is much lower than it was when the Pitkin County Board of Health voted Jan. 11 to voluntarily enter Red level restrictions starting Jan. 17, the county has a long way to go before meeting the metrics to return to the Orange or Yellow level on the COVID dial.

The county’s incidence rate remains the highest in the state, though Baca County in southwest Colorado is close behind; according to the state’s data dashboard, that county has an incidence rate of 1,518.6 cases per 100,000 people.

Pitkin County can return to Orange level restrictions when the incidence rate dips below 700 and has been declining for 14 days, according to new metrics the Board of Health approved Jan. 11. The previous threshold between Red and Orange level restrictions was 350, a metric established by the state.

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