Governor, state epidemiologist warn of hospital system strain if cases continue to mount


DENVER (KDVR) — State leaders say they are concerned about the steadily rising number of hospitalizations due to COVID. With more than 1,600 people currently hospitalized with the disease statewide, Gov. Jared Polis is warning everyone that health care systems are getting stressed and running out of spaces in intensive care units.

With many planning to gather despite guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying otherwise, Polis asked people to think of the ones spending the holiday on the frontlines battling the pandemic.

“We all thank our health care workers who — I would add in addition to working long hours in stressful conditions — are absolutely putting themselves at risk,” Polis said. 

Health care workers are being pushed to the brink ahead of Thanksgiving as facilities across Colorado run out of space to treat ill patients.

“Hospital load, which is now at a very critical phase with only 25 ICU beds in Denver, three in Weld, five in Pueblo, 14 in Colorado Springs; down to very low numbers of ICU beds available. Also, there is a crunch in some of these areas of the non-ICU beds too,” Polis said.

The state health department says 80 percent of the state’s ICU beds are occupied. With more patients comes more staff members being exposed to the illness and fewer people on the frontline.

“Thirty-one hospitals are anticipating staff shortages right now, which means many nurses are working double shifts. We are starting to approach double the daily number of hospitalizations we did in spring,” said Polis.

With people still choosing to meet up for the holidays, the state’s top disease specialist said Colorado could get run out of capacity soon without a change in behavior.

“If we are able to increase our transmission control in the state, we can follow that green trajectory and stay well below our ICU bed capacity in the state. Unfortunately, if we see that transmission control decrease, potentially a decrease associated with gatherings, less social distancing around the holidays, that’s when we have the potential to really significantly exceed our ICU capacity in the state. That could happen as soon as December,” said State Epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy.

Leaders said one in every 41 Coloradans is contagious right now. They urged people to reduce their daily interactions to keep people out of hospitals.

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