The overall numbers of new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are falling in Colorado, but public health officials cautioned Friday that the state is seeing “quite a bit of variability” as those downward trends aren’t uniform statewide or across all age groups.

New cases have been declining statewide, and in recent days the number of people hospitalized in Colorado with the virus has fallen as well. But Scott Bookman, the state’s COVID-19 incident commander, noted in a news briefing that the number of people hospitalized remains near the peak of the first wave in spring 2020.

As of Friday, 917 people with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 were hospitalized statewide, down from the fifth wave’s high point of 1,021 in mid-September. Seventy-eight percent of Colorado’s hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated, according to state data.

“While we are seeing a pretty steady decrease now in our hospitalizations, we are still at an incredibly high rate of hospitalizations compared to where we want to be,” he said. “And so while we are on the beginning of a downward trend here, we really need to see these hospitalizations go down significantly before we’re going to feel comfortable with the hospital capacity that we have as we start going into the colder weather season and people start moving indoors.”

When it comes to transmission of the virus, most Colorado counties are seeing a decline in new cases, Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state epidemiologist, said during the briefing. But there are expectations, including Moffat, Grand and Mesa counties, she said.

“Some transmission is higher on the Eastern Plains,” Herlihy said. “The San Luis Valley is certainly standing out here, that’s a place now where we are seeing actually increasing rates where most of the state is seeing declining rates.”

Likewise, while most age groups are experiencing a drop in COVID-19 cases, new infections are rising in children too young to be vaccinated. Colorado’s highest rates of new infection in recent days were among children between 6 and 11, Herlihy said. New cases are falling in adults and in children between 12 and 17, a group that more recently became eligible to receive the vaccine.

“We’re probably starting to see a clear benefit of vaccination in that age group,” Herlihy said.

Since the onset of the pandemic, Colorado has recorded 673,517 cases of COVID-19 and 7,887 deaths due to the virus, according to state data.

More than 70% of eligible Coloradans were fully vaccinated as of Friday.

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