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Coronavirus peak in Colorado "slightly delayed," Polis says, but more social distancing needed

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Posted at 1:45 PM, Mar 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-30 21:49:24-04

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Gov. Jared Polis on Monday said new data showed that "we have successfully slightly delayed the peak" of known coronavirus cases in Colorado but that enacting more social distancing measures — including last week's statewide stay-at-home order — was crucial to slowing the spread of COVID-19 even further.

The data released by the governor Monday showed the spread of the virus appears to be approaching a doubling rate of every five days, compared to recent doubling rates of every two days. The data likely reflected the initial social distancing measures across the state earlier this month, including bans on gatherings of 250 or more people, school closures and the shutdown of dining at bars and restaurants.

The impact of prohibitions on gatherings of 10 or more people is expected to be reflected in data in coming days.

Polis emphasized that a doubling rate of every five days is still a very infectious spread of the virus — and that there are still likely thousands more unknown cases in state — and that data likely won't reflect the impact of last week's stay-at-home order for another week or more. The data on how new social distancing measures impact the spread of the virus lags behind by about 12 days, Polis said.

"We hope [additional social distancing] has a bigger effect" on the slowing of coronavirus in the state, Polis said.

Slowing the doubling rate of cases in the state will be crucial for hospitals to handle the surge of coronavirus patients. Last week, Polis released that showed how Colorado would need thousands of additional intensive care beds, if social distancing wasn't taken.

MORE | "It's real and it's scary": UCHealth doctor describes COVID-19 effects inside hospitals, on patients

The number of known coronavirus cases in Colorado rose to 2,627 by Monday. The total number of deaths rose to 51. More case data was expected to be released later Monday afternoon.

The data on social distancing's impact lags behind because of how the virus is identified, Polis explained. The average time from exposure to symptoms is 4-5 days, and, in some cases, longer. After that, it often takes several more days from a patient being symptomatic to testing positive and then later being hospitalized.

The state is also using real-time data, such as traffic volume, to measure the amount of social distancing, Polis said. While traffic numbers don't take into account residents walking outside, traffic volume has been reduced by 60%, compared to levels three weeks ago. The traffic volume reduction needs to be in the 70%-80% range, Polis said, but the major drop over the last three weeks was "a positive indicator" of social distancing.

"The more people stay at home, the sooner we can squash the virus," Polis said.