The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Colorado has been trending downward. Meanwhile, other states in the region are on the uptick.
Within the last week, Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho have all reported either beating or matching their previous records for single-day confirmations of COVID-19. Montana recently had its second-highest day.
Utah's surge in cases has the state epidemiologist warning that, "We are quickly getting to a point where the only viable option to manage spread and deaths will be a complete shutdown."
Christine Porter, a public health expert at the University of Wyoming, said the surges seen in the region are frightening.
"I'm also unfortunately not surprised by them," she said, "because in most places that are reopening, they are doing so with almost nothing substantially different from when we were open before the shutdown."
It's hard to say exactly why Colorado's the exception, Porter said, but testing's probably a factor.
"Almost nobody is doing enough testing and tracing, but they're ahead of Wyoming, and ahead of the other states on that front in terms of the ratios of both how much testing they're doing, as well as how well they're doing the tracing," she explained.
It could also simply be that Colorado had a higher case count to begin with, Porter said.
"They also had much more of a scare," she said. "It's easier to get people to do the right thing when they saw their neighbors dying."
Coloradans may be doing a better job about not being in indoor public spaces together, and following other individual behavioral guidelines, like wearing a mask, Porter said. But she added: "This isn't the kind of thing you leave to individual citizens to figure out and make individual decisions about. A pandemic is not that kind of decision."
Porter said officials in charge of deciding how or when to further reopen should be closely watching what percentage of test results come back positive, with 1% being the target.
At least one county in the Mountain West has had to revert back to a previous stage of re-opening. Ada County in Idaho, where Boise is located, returned to Stage 3, after a fivefold increase in cases.
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This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.