Denver coronavirus cases leveling off, but please keep wearing face masks (and wash your hands), says Hancock

While cases are plateauing, the mayor says more work needs to be done to make sure case numbers steadily decline.
2 min. read
An RTD driver in a face mask waits at RTD’s Central Park Station Thursday morning, April 9, 2020. The Regional Transportation District could lose a quarter of a billion dollars in revenue, and potentially more, because of fallout over work, jobs and the economy because of coronavirus.
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

On Friday, Mayor Michael Hancock said coronavirus cases are starting to level off in Denver, but he urged residents and visitors to keep wearing face coverings, avoiding large groups and practicing social distancing.

Hancock said he would still like to see a steady decline in cases. Figures from Denver Public Health show the seven-day average for case rates in Denver sits at 89.7 as of Thursday, down from 115.1 on July 25. Two-week cumulative cases per 100,000 are hovering near levels seen in mid-May, weeks after cases peaked.

Thursday's seven-day average is higher than the average for July 17 (72.3), but Hancock said there are signs the increase -- which led the city to hit pause on some reopening efforts -- is leveling off. The city's positivity rate sits at 4.5 percent. Hancock said staying below 5 percent is "an extremely good sign." The WHO recommends having a 5 percent or lower rate for at least 14 days before governments reopen.

The city currently has 9,497 COVID-19 cases and has seen 411 deaths, according to Denver Public Health.

The city has four "caution metrics" it will use to monitor the disease's spread and to determine whether more actions, like potentially issuing another shutdown, will be needed. The metrics include looking at case numbers, the positivity and hospitalization rates and ICU hospitalization capacity. An increase in all these categories would trigger a "rollback" in the city, Hancock said.

A 100 percent increase in cases or a 20 percent or more increase in hospitalization, for example, are labeled "concerning" and would trigger what City Public Health Executive Director Bob McDonald characterized as "serious conversations" about shutting things down again. Hancock said hospitalization rates so far have decreased, while ICU bed capacity "remains strong."

He said the city has issued citations to residents who don't follow the face-covering order.

"I know this isn't easy, particularly how we typically want to spend our summer months, but the alternative is far worse," Hancock said.

The city's free testing site will continue to operate for the foreseeable feature. Hancock said the city is working with the state to figure out how it will keep the site open. It's currently paying for the site out of an emergency fund, though Denver is seeking reimbursement from the federal government and using other federal money to cover its operating costs.

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