The number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 remains high, but the number is below its peak from this fall.
Colorado registered 1,379 hospitalized patients on Monday with confirmed cases. That’s about 200 less than the peak of the most recent increase just before Thanksgiving. That is five times more than in the middle of summer. On November 23, state hospitals reported 1,576 confirmed cases of coronavirus, the highest figure since December last year.
“I think we’re still seeing a significant amount of admissions every day,” says Dr. Abbey Lara, a pulmonary intensive care physician at UCHealth in Aurora.
She said the hospital now has two surgery teams dealing with COVID-19 patients.
“I think only time will tell whether that dip is going to be a dip or a dip in general,” Lara said.
Of those currently hospitalized with confirmed coronavirus cases, 82 percent have not been vaccinated.
More than half of hospitals say they expect staff shortages in the coming week and more than a third expect a shortage of ICU beds.
An important metric for transmission seems to be improving. The seven-day positivity rate is 8.62 percent, after being above 9 percent for a month. That’s still well above the 5 percent threshold that public health officials say points to problems.
The trends unfold two weeks after public health officials in several metropolitan cities reinstated the mandate for public indoor masks, despite protests from some residents.
When asked whether the metro area masking mandate is having an effect, Dr. John Douglas, who heads the Tri-County Health Department, said that “the fairest thing to say is it’s too early to say.”
Last week, Douglas took note via email of estimates of mask use assessed by a national Facebook county survey, analyzed by Carnegie-Mellon University. They showed an increase in the self-described regular use of masks in public places in the metropolitan regions. He said those mask-wearing rates are up 12 percent in Adams County and 21 percent in Arapahoe County.
Testing data, case rates and hospitalizations can be affected by a long holiday like Thanksgiving, by things like delayed testing, treatment and reporting, he said, “so I think it’s wise to wait a few more days before drawing preliminary conclusions.” .”
Douglas said a series of prevention measures will still be needed with the introduction of the new omicron variant and hoped it would lead to greater mask order compliance and better vaccination.
Despite calls from hospitals, physician and nurse groups and public health officials for a statewide mask mandate, Governor Jared Polis has chosen not to take that step.
Other statewide data is a clear sign of how devastating this fall’s wave has been. For four consecutive weeks, more than 200 people died from COVID-19 cases each week, peaking at 253 the week of November 7. Those numbers are lower than last year’s brutal drop, when at least 400 coronavirus patients died for three weeks in a row in November and December.
The latest numbers come after the state saw transmission, cases, hospitalizations and deaths soar for weeks this fall.
On Nov. 3, Colorado’s hospitals and health systems took the extraordinary step of activating the state’s top-level patient transfer system — a sign that the state’s hospitals are at risk of being overwhelmed. They moved to the Combined Hospital Transfer Center (CHTC) Tier 3 operation, the highest level available, to manage patient transfers at the state level.
On November 9, Dr. Eric France, the State’s Chief Medical Officer, Personnel Crisis Standards of Care. It is another important emergency measure to deal with the crisis by giving hospitals more leeway in making staff adjustments.
Last week, the state’s highest pandemic response committee amended the state’s hospital crisis care plan. The changes describe how a hospital can and should deal with times when the sheer number of patients and the severity of care they require outstrips available resources.