Coloradans are moving around at nearly pre-pandemic levels. Will a second coronavirus wave follow? |

Coloradans are moving around at nearly pre-pandemic levels. Will a second coronavirus wave follow?

Among states that reopened the earliest after COVID-19 lockdowns, Colorado has defied the trend and so far not had a resurgence of cases

John Ingold / Colorado Sun
Shoppers maintain one-way traffic patterns at the Palisade Farmers’ Market in Palisade, Colo., Sunday, June 14, 2020. The weekly market runs every Sunday through Sept. 20.
Photo by Barton Glasser

In Larimer County, as June barrels into July and Colorado nears the end of its fourth month mired in the coronavirus pandemic, Colorado State University professor Jude Bayham has noticed a trend: There are a lot more people visiting restaurants than there were in April and May.

This observation comes not so much from his personal life as from his professional one. Bayham is an economist who studies “avoidance behavior” — how people respond to known risks. During the pandemic, he has become one of the experts looking at mobility data for the state’s epidemiological modeling team, the group that is creating predictions about how the virus will spread so that policymakers like Gov. Jared Polis can decide how to respond. Bayham charts these mobility numbers on graphs comparing them to mobility patterns from 2019.

And what he has seen in the last couple of weeks is clear. Coloradans across much of the state are almost back to moving around at pre-pandemic levels. At restaurants, salons and clothing stores, Coloradans in many counties are approaching near-normal levels of activity.

“There is clearly an increase in these mobility measures, however you want to cut it,” Bayham said. “People are spending more time out in public.”

The trend comes as Colorado increasingly allows the reopening of businesses seen as among the riskiest for spread of the coronavirus — places like casinos and bars, both of which are now able to operate at limited capacity.

And it also comes as states that began reopening their economies around the same time as Colorado are seeing worrying spikes in COVID-19 cases. In a recent Twitter thread, Andy Slavitt, the former Obama administration health official who has become a wonky celebrity for his nightly pandemic summaries, lumped Colorado with 13 other states in a group he called “the rabbits” — the states that reopened first. Through mid-June, the rabbits had seen a 26% increase in case growth, he wrote. Only two states in the group — Colorado and Indiana — had defied the trend and seen their daily case numbers decline.

To read the rest of the Colorado Sun article, click here.

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