COVID-19 Forecast for El Paso County — July 5
Plus, our resident microbiologist on the new CC mask mandate
Good morning, and happy Monday. On this pandemic date last year, the CC COVID-19 Reporting Project ended its first week as a newsletter. (This year, the reporting project is well past its 100th newsletter and putting them out every other week.)
Today, Phoebe Lostroh returns to give her weekly COVID-19 forecast for El Paso County and to explain the similarities between the symptoms of the common cold and the Delta variant. Lostroh is a professor of molecular biology at Colorado College on scholarly leave who is serving as the program director in Genetic Mechanisms, Molecular and Cellular Biosciences at the National Science Foundation.
➡️ICYMI: On Monday, Phoebe Lostroh returned to give her weekly forecast and to explain COVID-19 antiviral pills.
✉️In Your Inbox:
On Thursday, June 24, in an email from CC Communications, it was announced that Rochelle T. Dickey ’83 was promoted to the permanent role of Dean of students and Vice President for Student Life at CC. Congratulations Dean Dickey!
On Friday, June 25, CC announced that the on-campus indoor mask requirement would change on June 28, the first day of Block B. Wearing a mask indoors on campus is now optional for fully vaccinated CC community members and masks are “strongly recommended” for people who are unvaccinated, the email said.
On Wednesday, June 30, former Acting Co-Presidents Mike Edmonds and Robert G. Moore sent out a message thanking the CC community for the support during their time as co-presidents.
NOTES: These forecasts represent her own opinion and not necessarily those of the National Science Foundation or Colorado College. She used the public El Paso County dashboard for all data. Lostroh prepared these forecasts on July 3.
⚖️ How her predictions last week shaped up: July 3 is the last day of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report week 26 in the national public health calendar. It is the 69th week since the first case was detected in El Paso County. Since March 13, 877 El Paso County residents have died of COVID-19. Last week, Lostroh predicted between 633 and 987 new cases in El Paso County for the week ending July 1. There were actually 837 cases.
Predicted cumulative reported cases in El Paso County
🗝️ Key points: Reported cases are in black circles while the red, grey, and light blue symbols provide estimates based on curve-fitting for the most recent 21, 14, and seven days. For the week ending July 15, Lostroh predicts 798-905 new cases in El Paso County.
Rolling seven-day cumulative incidence in El Paso County with predictions
🗝️ Key points: The actual calculated incidence is in black Xs, while the red, gray, and light blue symbols provide estimates based on curve-fitting for the most recent 21, 14, and seven days, respectively. The green, yellow, and red-dotted lines show the CDC’s thresholds for risk categories. As of July 4, the incidence per 100,000 people in El Paso County over the last seven days was 54.1.
Seven-day rolling percent positivity compared with daily percent positivity in El Paso County
🗝️ Key points: The seven-day rolling percent positivity for nasopharyngeal tests for viral nucleic acids is plotted in dark blue diamonds, while the daily percent positivity is plotted in open light blue diamonds. The green, yellow, and red-dotted lines show the thresholds for the CDC’s risk categories. As of July 4, the percent positivity in El Paso County was 3.07%.
New COVID-19 hospitalizations compared with the regional census of hospitalized COVID-19 patients
🗝️ Key points: Daily hospitalizations are plotted in blue using the left-hand axis, while the census of regional hospitalized COVID-19 patients is plotted in red on the right-hand axis. As of July 4, the seven-day average daily hospital admissions in El Paso County was at 3.57 admissions.
COVID-19 vaccinations in El Paso County
🗝️ Key points: The El Paso County vaccine dashboard tracks county vaccine distribution. The number of people who have been fully vaccinated in El Paso County is indicated with purple symbols. El Paso County has administered a total of 581,035 doses. Some of those doses were the first shot someone received, while others were the second shot to complete the vaccine series. As of July 4, 283,150 people have received both shots and thus have completed the immunization series.
Q-and-A with Lostroh: Our resident microbiologist on the new CC mask mandate
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
CC COVID-19 Reporting Project: CC Communications sent out an email saying vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks indoors. To what extent do you think this is a safe idea with the Delta variant becoming more prevalent in Colorado and the United States?
Lostroh: I think on campus, where everybody has been vaccinated, it’s a relatively safe idea. It’s safer than it is when I’m out in the community. I’ve decided to start putting my mask back on to go grocery shopping and things like that because I think the Delta variant is at least 75% of the viruses in Colorado right now. It can definitely infect you, make you sick, and you can spread it to other people, even if you’ve been vaccinated. I would guess that the college picked a threshold somewhere around 80% to 90% vaccinated based on estimated herd immunity for the college. So, I bet they consulted with public health and they probably consulted with the science team on campus before lifting the rule. I think that it’ll be safe to not wear a mask on campus with almost everybody vaccinated, and if there is an outbreak that somehow the virus evolves to escape immunity, which could happen, then the President will change their mind and Colorado College will take more precautions. I trust our community to do that. We’ve been taking the advice of experts and it’s really worked.
Lostroh: It means that respiratory viruses are circulating, which means that COVID is circulating. This is really tricky, and I have allergies too and sometimes that makes me cough or sneeze, and I think we’re kind of all in the same boat like “oh my gosh do I have COVID or not?” I’m hoping that there still will be testing available on campus if anybody has any suspicions and, certainly, we should go get tested if we have suspicions. There’s an emerging suggestion that the delta variant causes slightly different symptoms from the ancestor and that it is more likely to cause symptoms that are more like a cold. Those are provisional results that haven’t really been peer reviewed yet, so I don’t know if that’s really going to turn out, but if it does, it’s going to be hard to distinguish between a cold and COVID.
CCRP: The Delta variant is spreading throughout the state and Colorado officials have kept the same ruling, along with the CDC, that masks are not required. Yet, a large number of the state’s population is still unvaccinated. What do you think CC will do if concerns for the Delta variant go up and what do you think about the mixed mask messaging being sent from officials?
Lostroh: I think if that happens then CC will probably go back to wearing masks in public spaces at least. This inconsistent messaging about mask wearing is really bad. We already have a whole bunch of people who hate masks and who think that it’s a conspiracy that masks can be effective at all. Now we’ve got this blanket: if you’re vaccinated, you don’t have to wear a mask. So that means anybody who wasn’t wearing a mask before, can avoid wearing a mask without anybody noticing because they’re just blending in like everybody else. So I think this is not a great policy. I imagine that what they’re trying to do is set up a situation where the desire to not wear a mask is so strong that people who are reluctant to get vaccinated will get vaccinated in order to not wear a mask. I don’t think that’s actually what’s happening. I think at this point if you’re not vaccinated, it’s because you don’t have access, you’re really worried about getting side effects and then missing a pay day of work, or you just don’t believe in the vaccine or you’re politically opposed to getting the vaccine.
About the CC COVID-19 Reporting Project
The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project is created by Colorado College student journalists Cameron Howell, Will Taylor, and Ellie Gober in partnership with The Catalyst, Colorado College’s student newspaper. Work by Phoebe Lostroh, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at CC and National Science Foundation Program Director in Genetic Mechanisms, Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, will appear from time to time.
The project seeks to provide frequent updates about CC and other higher education institutions during the pandemic by providing original reporting, analysis, interviews with campus leaders, and context about what state and national headlines mean for the CC community.