Colorado hospital bed capacity at all-time low due to COVID surge

New modeling shows COVID-19 hospital admissions in Colorado will exceed available hospital beds by the end of December.

DENVER – Governor Jared Polis said Wednesday that the state will take new steps, such as:

This update came at a meeting of the Governor’s Expert Epidemic Response Committee (GEEERC) that state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said COVID-19 cases have been increasing rapidly in the past few days.

“Right now, I think we’ll see an increase in cases in the coming weeks,” she said.

There are 759 hospital beds available in Colorado and 1,426 COVID-19 patients are currently being hospitalized, Herlihy said. As people have returned to normal lives, hospitals are seeing higher patient rates for other reasons such as trauma and illness, she said.

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“We are at an all-time low in the number of available hospital beds in the state,” Herlihy said.

Of those currently hospitalized, 79% are unvaccinated, she said, adding that unvaccinated patients are 8.9 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19.

The maximum number of COVID-19 patients Colorado hospitals can accept is around 2,000, and current models show the state will exceed that number by the end of next month, she said.

Vaccine booster shots are an important strategy to flatten the curve, she said. The state has opened booster vaccinations to anyone over the age of 18.

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Based on models presented by Herlihy:

  • If the current rate of adults receiving booster vaccinations remains unchanged, the state will hit 2,258 COVID-19 hospital admissions on Jan. 1.
  • If the state doubles the refresher rate, hospital admissions will peak at 2,156 on December 24th.
  • If 75% of people 18 and older get a booster dose the next month, hospital admissions will peak on December 20 at 2,082.

Polis said increasing the refresher rate is one of five steps the state will take in the coming weeks to minimize the spike in hospital admissions numbers.

He said he plans to soon have an executive order listing Colorado as a high-risk facility, meaning anyone living in the state is considered to be at high risk for COVID-19 and anyone over the age of 18 can get a booster vaccination if eligible.

According to the governor, the other steps are:

  • Expansion of hospital capacity with the aim of 500 new beds by the height of hospital stays, achieved by activating floors that have been closed or converting other areas,
  • Make indoor events safer,
  • Strengthening the health care workforce by recruiting retired and foreign nurses and expanding the practice temporarily without sacrificing care, and
  • Expansion of the use of monoclonal treatment.

“This is the playbook to make sure we don’t exceed hospital capacity,” Polis said.

He named the Ball Arena as an example of increasing security at indoor events. Event attendees at the venue who are not fully vaccinated must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to an event. In addition, everyone over 2 years of age must wear a mask at all times, regardless of their vaccination status.

RELATED: 2 Places in Denver That Require Proof of Vaccination

“We can’t afford super-spreader events,” Polis said, adding that the state is working with cities and venues to expand indoor security protocols.

Polis said he plans to elaborate on expanding the use of monoclonal antibody treatments at his news conference on Friday.

The state could see 200 to 400 fewer hospitalizations over the next few weeks if aggressive monoclonal treatments are used in the first week of infection, Herlihy said.

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