Alternate care sites could be up and running within two weeks if needed


DENVER (KDVR) — Governor Jared Polis calls the hospitalization of more than 1,000 Coloradans extremely alarming. Thirty-seven more people have been hospitalized, bringing the total of COVID-19 patients in the hospital to 1,060 as of Monday. The state’s alternate care sites are still ready, should hospitals reach capacity.

The state has three medical shelters set up: the Colorado Convention Center, the old St. Anthony’s North, and St. Mary-Corwin Medical center in Pueblo.

“We haven’t squandered the time we were given over the summer, we’ve come a long way in maturing our activation procedures and patient care procedures if we do have to activate. All three are fully equipped in dormant stages.

“It’s important to be good stewards of the taxpayers money, so they don’t have a staff. That would be the next step. To activate the medical staff that would run these facilities, run them through one more rehearsal and then bring in the pharmaceuticals,” Colorado Emergency Management Director, Mike Willis said.

State Emergency Management officials have daily conversations about the need to open the alternate care sites. “We watch that data in real time every day,” Polis said.

“There are a lot of factors that go into making the decision to open one of the alternate care sites. We really want to make sure the hospitals do everything they can to increase their capacity. They all have surge capacity protocols. We really need to exercise those before we open an alternate care site because the level of care is just better in a hospital.

“Second, we are doing careful evaluations of long term care facilities. COVID can be very tough on residents of those facilities, if they become too stressed to properly care for them, that could lead to the decision to open one or more of the alternate care sites,” Willis said.

The state reports 84% of hospital ICU beds are in use, and some models predict we will exceed hospital capacity by the end of the year. Polis said, “This is going to get worse before it gets better. The virus is most prevalent it’s ever been before.”

“If we can’t turn around the trends we see right now, I have a really bad feeling we will end up using some alternate care capacity,” Willis said. “We’ve been here before, it’s so important to take personal responsibility to look out for each other and take the right steps.”

Ideally, they would take three to four weeks to get up and running, but they said they can do it faster if needed. “We can probably do it in two weeks and be ready to receive COVID patients,” Willis said.

It took two months and $20 million to set up the convention center. It has 1,000 beds and could expand to 2,000 if needed. They plan to open incrementally if possible, to relieve stress on the health care system. But they are hoping they don’t ever get to that point.

“I would just ask people to do their very best to make sure I never have to open one. That’s what I would ask,” Willis said. “While I’m prepared, I feel like the team’s prepared, I just ask all Coloradans to do their part to make sure I never open. That’s the best thing that could happen for our state.”

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