Colorado had fewer than 200 intensive care beds available as of Friday morning, meaning hospitals in the state have little capacity to take on new patients at any time during the pandemic.
While the virus is part of the problem, hospitals are also seeing people become seriously ill out of care in the past year, and the number of patients with injuries has returned to normal levels, according to the state’s COVID-19 incidence. Commander Scott Bookman said.
“The difference between this wave and all previous waves is that Coloradans have returned to live their normal lives,” he said at a news conference on Friday.
Buchman said there were 197 beds in intensive care units in the state that were not in use as of Friday morning. He said hospitals have begun converting rooms to serve ICU patients, canceling elective procedures and closing non-emergency clinics to move staff to overcrowded units.
Buchman said that statewide, 902 people were hospitalized for confirmed cases of COVID-19, which is higher than the peak of the early spring 2020 wave. In the worst of last year, in early December, the state recorded 1,847 confirmed hospitalizations from the virus.
About 81% of people hospitalized for COVID-19 have not been fully vaccinated, as have 85% of those who have died from the virus in recent weeks.
Governor Jared Polis called on non-vaccinated people and all Coloradans to wear masks in indoor public places, but indicated he would not reinstate any of last year’s restrictions, such as mask mandates or capacity limits in businesses .
He has repeatedly cited the avoidance of overcrowding hospitals as the state’s “North Star” and the reason for previous regulations.
“The numbers show that it is the unconnected who suffer the most,” he said. “We are seeing unnecessary hospitalizations. We are seeing unnecessary deaths.”
Colorado ranks better than most states in terms of cases and hospitalizations, which are growing at a slower rate than most of the country, state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Hurley said.
“It doesn’t mean we’re immune,” she said. “It is certainly a tragedy that we are seeing an increase in these deaths.”