September 17, 2021 | NEWS | By Isaac Yee | Photo by Rickki Held

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Colorado reached its highest levels since last December as the Delta variant continues to rapidly spread across the United States.

As of Sept. 15, there are a total of 984 COVID hospitalizations, of which 898 are confirmed cases and 86 are persons under investigation. These represent the highest case numbers since the December 2020 peak, the Colorado Joint State Information Center told The Catalyst. 

“Some hospitals are reaching very close to their capacity limits,” Gov. Polis said at a press conference on Sept. 10. Currently, 44% of adult critical care ventilators are in use while 17% of facilities are anticipating ICU bed shortages in the coming week, according to data released by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE).  

“We actually have the lowest ICU availability rate since the start of this [COVID-19] crisis, in part due to the unvaccinated with COVID-19, and just other types of trauma that goes up seasonally,” Polis said. 

Dr. Scott Bookman, Colorado’s COVID-19 Incident Commander, echoed Polis’ comments. “Our hospitals are beginning to put into place their surge plans, many are opening up additional ICU beds. As of Sept. 15, 89% of ICU beds are currently in use,” Bookman said.

Polis pointed to data showing that over 80% of people receiving hospital-level care for their COVID-19 infections are not vaccinated. Currently, 25% of Coloradans have not been vaccinated. 

“We would not be anything close to hospital capacity or crisis or ICU limits if everybody was vaccinated,” Polis said. “You should get vaccinated because it will protect you and your family.” 

The Colorado Joint State Information Center told The Catalyst that unvaccinated Coloradans are four times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 and six times more likely to die compared to vaccinated Coloradans. 

The rapid rise in cases and hospitalizations comes after Gov. Polis announced that over 75% of Coloradans over the age of 12 have received one dose of the vaccine, but he added that “we need to get more Coloradans vaccinated in order to effectively beat this virus.” 

Looking at El Paso County and Colorado College

In the past week, El Paso County has seen 80 COVID-19 hospitalizations and 16 deaths. 

The hospitalization rates in El Paso County are one of the factors Colorado College is monitoring to see if new COVID-19 protection measures will need to be implemented across campus. 

“We take a range of factors into account, including but not limited to the number of infections among CC community members on campus and off campus, how well traceable infections are and where transmission occurs, positivity rates from testing, county incidence, county positivity rates, county hospitalization rates, and hospital bed availability,” said Dr. Andrea Bruder, Colorado College’s Chief Public Health Advisor to the President. 

As transmission rates remain high in El Paso County, Dr. Bruder told The Catalyst that people “can lower [their] risk of infection by choosing safer options such as outdoor activities and, for example, restaurants with take-out options and outdoor seating.” She added that “data shows that transmission occurs more frequently off campus than on campus.”

“We are still in the midst of a global pandemic, and the easiest way to protect our communities and our hospital capacity [is] for all Coloradans ages 12 and up to get vaccinated,” the Colorado Joint Information Center told The Catalyst. This will “slow disease transmission and protect those under the age of 12 who cannot be vaccinated.”

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