As winter approaches, hospitals across Colorado are dealing with a resurgence of COVID-19, with an influx of patients flooding into health-care facilities. Front-line workers are still bearing the brunt of the state’s latest wave, with staffing shortages exacerbating existing problems.
According to federal data, there are now more than 1,500 COVID-19 patients receiving care in Colorado, the highest number in nearly a year.
Every day, nearly 230 residents are admitted to the hospital, with state data showing that more than 94 percent of intensive care beds are currently in use statewide. According to a modeling report released earlier this month by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Colorado School of Public Health, the number of people currently infected is approaching pandemic levels, with 1 in 48 people in the state estimated to be infectious.
Breyer, who currently cares for some of the sickest patients at three UCHealth hospitals in northern Colorado, expressed concern about the significant increase in the number of patients she is seeing.
“With this surge, we’re seeing younger patients in our intensive care units.” “Throughout this pandemic, we’ve seen patients of all ages,” Breyer said, adding that the vast majority of these patients are unvaccinated. “We are seeing people become very ill and die as a result of this disease, and these people do not need to die right now.”
Colorado health workers, like many other front-line workers across the country, are overworked and exhausted, resulting in critical staffing shortages.
Colorado health officials announced late Tuesday that the state had reactivated crisis standards of care for staffing health care systems to help manage the influx of patients in need of care across the state.
“We want Coloradans to understand that they can and should continue to receive necessary health care. If you’re sick and in need of medical attention, please go get it “The Colorado Department of Health’s chief medical officer, Dr. Eric France, issued a statement. “By activating staffing crisis standards of care, health care systems can maximize the amount of care they can provide in their communities with the staff they have available.”
Dr. Matt Mendenhall, chief medical officer at Centura Littleton Adventist Hospital, told reporters that staff are exhausted and stretched thin, and that the work is “only getting harder.”
“When our hospitals are overcrowded with patients, everyone will receive care in a different way than we usually provide it, which can lead to delays and, I’m afraid, worse outcomes,” Breyer said.
Concerns that the pandemic will worsen in Colorado in the coming weeks prompted Gov. Jared Polis to issue an executive order allowing all residents over the age of 18 to receive a booster shot six months after their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two months after their Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Boosters are currently only permitted for the elderly, those with underlying health conditions, and those deemed at high risk of infection, according to federal guidelines. In an executive order issued on Thursday, Polis declared “the entire State of Colorado high risk for exposure or transmission of COVID-19.”
Colorado officials also announced this week that FEMA medical surge teams had been requested for understaffed medical facilities.
Polis signed a “urgent” executive order earlier this month that would allow the state’s health department to order hospitals to transfer or stop admitting patients once they reached or were on the verge of capacity.
Health experts continue to urge Americans to get vaccinated, and to have their immunizations boosted if they are eligible, in order to help stop the pandemic and prevent severe disease and deaths. Currently, approximately 62.3 percent of Colorado’s total population is fully vaccinated, placing the state 14th among states.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Breyer said. “When I see people, I can tell they’re at the end of their rope. They’re nervous and scared, and some of them will die if they’re not put on a ventilator. And I just wish we could figure out how to persuade more people of the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. It truly is the most effective treatment for preventing people from ending up here.”