The growth in cases is being felt throughout the state. Mesa County in far western Colorado routinely reported weekly case counts in the single digits in April and May while much of the rest of the state reported much higher numbers and fears about hospital capacity. But as September gave way to October, even Mesa was feeling the coronavirus, with new weekly cases in triple digits, and more than 500 cases recently recorded over two weeks.
Hospitalizations for patients with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 are also growing, though not yet anywhere near the peak hospitalization numbers recorded at the height of the pandemic in Colorado. More of a concern is the percentage of ICU beds the state is using, which is actually higher than at the peak of the pandemic in April.
Back then, about 65 percent of ICU beds were in use for all illnesses statewide, and the state moved to create overflow temporary hospitals in case the numbers continued to rise, though they ultimately weren’t needed. Today, about 79 percent of available ICU beds are in use, with many patients who have illnesses other than COVID-19.
That adds to officials’ concerns that as winter approaches, and ski tourists arrive, more people move indoors and cases of COVID-19 rise along with other illnesses, ICUs in the state could be overwhelmed.
Denver Health “selectively” postponed some elective surgeries that required a hospital bed that were scheduled for Tuesday and is closely monitoring the use of hospital and ICU bed space. The city warned residents Monday that a new stay-at-home order was possible if the positivity rate and hospitalizations did not turn around.
“What we are doing isn’t working,” the city tweeted to residents.
The state’s data on cases was increased over the weekend by the addition of about 16,000 test results – negative and positive – from Kaiser centers that, due to a technical glitch, had not been recorded since the start of the month. But those were apportioned to the days on which the tests were reported to Kaiser, and should not have played a role in the record-setting case reports from the weekend.
The Colorado Hospital Association’s Julie Lonborg said hospitals are worried that if the ICU beds continue to fill, there won’t be enough specially-trained staff to work in them.
She said one reason more people suffering from other illnesses are now in the ICU than earlier, is that in March and April, officials began telling people to avoid hospitals to reduce the spread of the virus.
Officials have admitted that the message may have gone too far as patients with severe illnesses like heart attacks and strokes avoided care.