Colorado breakthrough hospitalizations increase, patients less ill

COVID-19 Vaccine

DENVER (KDVR) — Breakthrough cases of COVID-19 are on the rise.

More people who have been vaccinated are testing positive and being admitted to Colorado hospitals. But experts say the vaccine is effective at preventing serious illness and death. Statewide, more than 16% of all COVID-19 hospitalizations are people who are vaccinated, according to the state health department.

Colorado has regressed to the same number of COVID-19 hospitalizations the state experienced last May and toward the end of January.

“The delta variant that is highly circulating right now is more transmissible and can cause more breakthrough infections,” said Dr. Jaya Kumar, chief medical officer at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood.

While the vaccines are highly effective, about 4% of vaccinated people can still be infected, Kumar said. There are 680 confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state, according to state statistics analyzed by the FOX31 Data Desk and Problem Solvers.

Doctors believe waning immunity from the vaccines is playing a role.

“We are seeing that the COVID-19 antibody levels do diminish,” Kumar explained.

From Aug. 8-14, the rate of breakthrough cases hit 27%, meaning more than a quarter of all cases are currently classified as breakthrough cases in Colorado.

For those hospitalized with COVID-19 in Colorado, more than 16% have been vaccinated. Health experts warn the trend should not dissuade people from getting vaccinated.

“The vaccines are highly effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalizations and death,” Kumar said.

Kumar said it’s rare for a breakthrough case to result in an ICU stay. And, as more people are vaccinated, there’s less likelihood of a nastier future variant.

“[The] unvaccinated population is essentially a pool for different variants to emerge,” Kumar said.

As the pandemic evolves, hospitals have changed visitation policies. HealthONE updated its policy this week to keep visitors out of its emergency rooms.

Some hospital systems are more strict than others by limiting visitation to only end-of-life moments. Others are working on a case-by-case basis by recognizing, when appropriate, visitation that can boost mental health and strengthen a patient’s will to fight on.

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