As Colorado coronavirus case count rises, concerns grow over number of hospital beds

Coronavirus

DENVER (KDVR) — The number of Colorado residents hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms jumped to 147 on Wednesday from 84 the day before.

In all, there are 1,086 coronavirus cases statewide, according to state health officials.

Colorado ranks 44th in the nation for hospital beds, with a per capita ranking of 1.92 beds per 1,000 residents.

“We did find that Colorado had the seventh-lowest rate of beds per person,” said Adam Johnson, a research analyst for Quote Wizard who analyzed data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Of particular note, the study found many rural counties with a large population of residents over the age of 60 had few intensive care unit beds, often zero in many counties.

“Those small, rural counties have the lowest number of hospital beds but likely the most at-risk patients,” said Johnson.

As of 2018, the Colorado Hospital Association said the state had 12,558 licensed beds.

About 1,400 are considered critical care beds and half of those are currently occupied, according to Kathryn Colburn, a research director for surgical outcomes at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

“The idea is to buy us time right now with the social distancing measures so that we can expand bed capacity across the state,” said Colburn.

At the current rate of transmission, Colburn said the state could hit bed capacity sometime in June. By then, she said Colorado hospitals hope to convert an additional 700 beds into ICU beds.

“We assume 50% of people who need a critical care bed and have access to a bed will die,” said Colburn, explaining that once Colorado hits bed capacity, the death rate for patients who need an ICU bed and can’t get one will likely be 100%.

Even if the state is able to increase its bed capacity, Colburn said she worries even more about a lack of ventilators and critical care staff.

“I think that is even more of a challenge than the critical care beds,” she said.

Earlier this week, Gov. Jared Polis acknowledged Colorado could face a shortfall of 7,000 ventilators at the peak of the outbreak.

A website called “COVID Act Now” tracks hospital bed capacity state-by-state and predicts Colorado could run out of bed space by April 28 if the state only relies on social distancing measures to slow the transmission rate of the coronavirus.

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