DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado’s hospitals are cautioning the state not to get too comfortable with the COVID lull just yet.
Colorado is seeing its lowest-ever COVID numbers, with daily caseloads and deaths matching numbers from before the national emergency was declared, but hospital representatives say they expect another wave at some point.
Joshua Ewing is the vice president of legislative affairs for the Colorado Hospital Association. He said another wave would be a burden.
“What we’re seeing now, as we hopefully make that transition from pandemic to endemic, is that we’ve already lost, some estimates say, as many as 20% of our healthcare workforce,” Ewing said. “That’s not just hospitals, that’s the entire healthcare workforce.”
The problem isn’t so much that hospitals are still overloaded with COVID patients. In fact, Colorado’s daily COVID cases have never been lower than they are now since the pandemic started.
The number of patients admitted to hospitals with COVID is down to 16 per day. Even during that lull in the summer of 2020, Colorado did not see that low of a daily hospital intake number. Statewide hospitals only have 80 COVID-positive patients.
Still, hospital worker attrition collides with other COVID-borne problems, Ewing said.
“We’ve seen extraordinary amounts of delayed and deferred care throughout the pandemic for a variety of reasons,” he said. “But one of the primary drivers was that folks were scared to go to the hospital for fear of catching COVID. They put off seeking the longer-term preventative care they were seeking, so now when they show up to the hospital they’re sicker, needing higher levels of care, and we’re seeing that play out in the average length of stay for our patients.”
As a result, hospitals fear staffing trouble. In Colorado, 39% of hospitals are reporting they anticipate a staff shortage in the next week, according to the Colorado health department’s COVID dial.