CENTENNIAL, Colo. — Gov. Jared Polis put it in simple terms, saying Wednesday, “We simply don’t have the medical capacity… to treat everybody who might get sick and has the potential to get better.”
A primary concern for Colorado leaders is drastically increasing the number of hospital beds to deal with the inevitable spike in COVID-19 patients that will need care.
“Models are telling us that we will see a surge that will overwhelm our hospitals between April and July of 2020,” said Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Incident Commander Scott Bookman.
CDPHE is dividing the amount of beds into four different tiers. The first are beds dedicated to the most critical patients in intensive care units across the state’s biggest hospitals. Currently, the state has 1,849 hospital beds and wants to bring that up to 5,000 by April 18.
In the same time frame, CDPHE is also identifying sites between arenas, convention centers and stadiums to create 2,000 brand-new beds for patients that are less severe, but still need monitoring. The state hopes to open 10,000 beds in places like hotels and dorms for patients that are asymptomatic, but still need to be quarantined as they phase out of the health care system.
“It’s a big lift,” Bookman said. “We have a lot of work to do, and we have a lot of work to do quickly. The more people stay home, the more we slow the spread of this, the more time we have to prepare.”
The Army Corps of Engineers and the National Guard will play a big role in making these makeshift hospitals operational. The state is banking on volunteers stepping up to help staff the extra capacity.
“Colorado was able to get some emergency nurses to come into the state,” Polis said. “We’ve relaxed licensure requirements, automatically renewed people. Over 2,300 people with some kind of medical credential — paramedic, nurse — have volunteered.”
The governor encouraged Coloradans with medical training to help bolster medical staff by signing up to volunteer at HelpColoradoNow.org.