Hospitalizations continued to rise as Colorado passed 500,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began — and the numbers suggest the virus isn’t slowing down yet.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported 500,675 total cases of COVID-19 as of Saturday. It took from March 2020 to late October to reach the first 100,000, with subsequent milestones falling faster. The state had passed 400,000 cases in early February.

Since the pandemic began, 27,391 people in Colorado have been hospitalized with COVID-19 and 6,403 have died. The death total includes people who aren’t residents, but were in Colorado when they died.

As of Monday afternoon, 663 people were hospitalized statewide with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, which is the highest total since late January, as well as just over half of the April 2020 peak and about one-third of hospitalizations at the worst point in early December.

It’s difficult to pinpoint one cause for the rise, but Coloradans are moving around more, on average, than they have at any time since the pandemic began, said Talia Quandelacy, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health. Mobility data can’t tell if the people gathering are vaccinated or observing other precautions like wearing masks, though.

“It’s hard to know how much of this is people being out and being in closer contact,” she said.

The available vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe cases of COVID-19, but more than 4 million Coloradans aren’t fully immunized, meaning a significant percentage of the state is still vulnerable. Some people are ineligible to receive the vaccines, which aren’t authorized for children under 16.

More-contagious variants of the virus now account for the majority of infections, which could also be a factor in increasing spread, Quandelacy said. Coronaviruses generally fair better in cold, dry conditions, but there’s no sign that warming weather is hampering the virus, she said.

“If seasonality was going to help, I think we would have started to see that,” she said.

Cases rose last week, with 11,169 new infections recorded, and that number may continue to go up. In the previous week, ending April 18, cases appeared to have dropped by 600, but reports that were delayed up to a week narrowed that gap to three — meaning there was essentially no improvement over the previous week.

The positivity rate as of Monday was 6.32%, which is higher than a week earlier. When the percentage of tests coming back positive is increasing, that indicates the state isn’t finding more cases because of increased testing.

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