Skip to content

Breaking News

Health |
Colorado’s COVID-19 death toll likely to remain “grim” for few weeks as new cases, hospitalizations fall

A quarter of state's nearly 4,000 coronavirus-related deaths came in last month


A quarter of Colorado’s nearly 4,000 coronavirus-related deaths came in just three weeks between mid-November and early December, and the remnants of this fall’s record surge of infections may not be gone yet.

As the first Colorado health care workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine got their shots Monday, the state’s data both showed the stark toll of the virus’ fall wave and hinted at better days ahead. Hospitalizations and new infections both were down, even as deaths continued to rise.

Colorado has reported 3,969 coronavirus-related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Of those, 999, or just over one in four, happened in the three-week span between Nov. 16 and Dec. 6. In the worst three weeks of the spring wave, 698 people were counted in the state’s coronavirus toll. During the best weeks of summer, 15 to 25 people died.

The week ending Dec. 6 was the deadliest of the pandemic, as Colorado recorded the deaths of 382 people who had COVID-19.

Previously, death totals didn’t tend to change much after about two weeks. In recent weeks, they’ve continued to grow for longer. As more deaths needed to be reported, some of the data has been delayed longer, according to a statement from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Death-certificate data also takes longer to get to the state, which is why Colorado’s count of people whose deaths ultimately are directly attributed to the virus — currently 3,086 — has fallen much further behind the overall number of people who died after being infected with the virus.

On Monday, 1,585 people were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, a decrease of more than 400 patients from the peak on Dec. 2. Still, the number of hospitalized patients was still well above the spring peak.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recorded 24,733 new cases in the week ending Sunday. The numbers had seesawed over the previous three weeks between about 29,000 and 35,000 weekly cases.

The rate of people testing positive for the virus also fell, suggesting the state is doing a better job locating cases, though it remained nearly double the goal of 5%.

Gatherings are still risky because the virus is widespread in much of the state, but it appears the peak of the fall wave has passed, said Beth Carlton, an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at the Colorado School of Public Health.

That suggests some combination of people’s individual choices and policy changes, like moving counties into Level Red on the state’s dial framework, helped avoid a Thanksgiving spike, she said.

“There’s a lot of good news this week,” she said.

Still, the death toll likely will remain “grim” for a few weeks as we see the aftermath of the fall wave, Carlton said.

“As infections rise, hospitalizations rise, and as hospitalizations rise, so too do deaths,” she said.

Since March, 291,104 Coloradans have tested positive for the virus, and 16,174 have been hospitalized for it.

Subscribe to bi-weekly newsletter to get health news sent straight to your inbox.