By Alan Gionet

DENVER (CBS4) – “No sorry we don’t have any,” said the worker at a pharmacy CBS4 called, looking for a COVID rapid test. They’re hard to find. People are still coming for tests at places like Denver’s All City Stadium, a site run by COVID Check Colorado.

“We had a friend whose daughter was exposed. We had dinner with her afterwards and she told us about that,” said Dale Schellenger, who came for testing along with his wife, Fran.

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While cases again surged at the end of August in Colorado and into September, numbers are leveling off and even declining slightly.

“There’s about 900 people in the hospital with COVID-19,” said Dr. Elizabeth Carlton. “Today it’s 884.”

(credit: CBS)

That’s after reaching 2,466 cases on Sept. 10.

Carlton is an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz. She and her colleagues have modeled COVID data through the pandemic to assist health officials in determining where we might go and what steps to take.

They weigh in different factors and create different scenarios.

“We’re on a high plateau and hopefully starting to slowly wind our way down,” said Carlton. “But we’re in this somewhat uncertain position, in that there’s a few things pulling us in different directions.”

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Among the unknowns are whether vaccines will be approved for children. Last week, Pfizer-BioNTech said testing showed its vaccine was safe and highly effective for children 5-11. That sets the stage for a possible authorization for vaccination for those children before October ends.

“It will be a game changer in terms of protecting a vulnerable portion of our population,” said Carlton.

Researchers who advise the CDC says in its modeling that the most likely scenario is children get approved for vaccination and a new more infectious variant does not emerge. In that case, our case rate will likely head for steady decline and the new case rate will be about one-fifteenth what it is today by next March.

Other modeling calls for scenarios like, no vaccine for children and a new dangerous variant. That would be much worse, but cases under that scenario in their modeling too would decline.

The largest peaks in Colorado and around the country came last November as weather turned colder and people headed indoors. Gatherings around Halloween were partly to blame. This year, people are already gathering far more.

“There are probably still more high risk attractions happening now than any time in a pandemic… We are interacting more, and I think you know some of those interactions we found ways to do safely.”

Carlton says she intends to get her own child vaccinated when it’s available. Success in cutting the number of COVID cases will depend on more vaccinations.

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“Quite frankly, there is a subset of our population that’s not getting vaccinated can pull us to an increase and so I think a lot hinges on vaccine uptake and masking and weeks and months ahead.”

Alan Gionet