Colorado battles drop COVID-19 resurgence, with highest hospitalization rate since December

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(DENVER) – As parts of the country cautiously celebrate the drop in COVID-19 cases, hoping the drop could signal a return to a long-awaited sense of normalcy, some states continue to struggle as Americans prepare for the ‘winter.

Colorado health officials are increasingly concerned as the rate of COVID-19 infections reaches levels not seen in more than 10 months.

There is “a marked increase in cases statewide,” state epidemiologist Dr Rachel Herlihy said in a COVID-19 briefing on Thursday.

In the last month alone, the state’s daily average of cases has nearly doubled – increasing 91.5% since the end of September, according to federal data, and state data shows the average positivity rate of the state. Colorado fell from just under 7% last week to nearly 8.5. % this week.

“Colorado is heading in the wrong direction is a clear signal that we are not yet out of this pandemic, especially in under-vaccinated states. Colorado has yet to reach 70% with a first dose and if you layer cooler temperatures and a relaxed mask, history might repeat itself, ”said John Brownstein, epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and contributor to ABC News.

While southern states in particular are seeing a significant drop in their infection rates, several states with colder climates, such as Colorado, are starting to see a slight increase in cases, as people increasingly begin to fall victim to the disease. make it inside.

“Coronaviruses tend to thrive during the winter months and in colder weather,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky said during a COVID-19 White House briefing last week . “Right now is not the time, as cases decline, to get complacent because we know colder weather is ahead.”

Five states – Alaska, Colorado, Maine, New Hampshire and New Mexico – all saw a percentage increase in hospital admissions of about 15% or more in the past two weeks.

“We continue to move in the wrong direction,” Colorado COVID-19 chief Scott Bookman said in a briefing on Wednesday.

According to state officials, the highest rate of coronavirus cases is in the 5 to 17 age group.

Coronavirus-related hospitalizations have also increased in the state, a trend of particular concern to health officials.

About 90% of the beds in the state’s surgical and intensive care units are currently in use, state officials say. There are currently nearly 1,300 hospital patients with COVID-19 – the highest number of patients receiving care since December, and on average, federal data shows nearly 200 residents are admitted to hospital with COVID – 19 every day.

“With the percentage of positivity increasing and the fear of an increase in the number of cases in the coming weeks, we are all very concerned at this point about what we are seeing in our hospitals,” Bookman said.

And as more patients flock to emergency rooms in need of care, the average number of available beds is rapidly decreasing.

Thirty percent of hospitals predict a shortage of intensive care beds next week. State health officials told ABC News that hospitals in El Paso County have had days when they have had to deny transfer requests.

The majority of these COVID-19 positive patients – 77% – are unvaccinated individuals.

To date, 61% of Colorado’s total population has been fully vaccinated, leaving a significant number of residents still unvaccinated. People who have not been fully vaccinated are 6.1 times more likely to be positive for the virus and 11.3 times more likely to die from it, compared to people who have been vaccinated, according to the CDC.

The notable gap between vaccinated and unvaccinated is evident in counties across the state.

In Crowley County, home to just over 6,000 residents, less than 49% of the eligible population has been vaccinated with at least one injection, according to state data. High transmission across the county remains endemic. In El Paso County, which currently has one of the highest hospitalization rates in the state, about 65% of the county’s population over the age of 12 have been fully immunized.

In total, 15 counties in Colorado are lagging behind, partially vaccinating 50% or less of their eligible population.

In comparison, 11 counties vaccinated at least 80% of their total population with at least one injection. San Miguel County, with a population of over 8,100, has 74% of its population fully vaccinated and its infection rate has remained steadily low, despite increasing numbers in the rest of the state.

If the situation in Colorado does not improve in the coming days, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Thursday he was ready to take some steps to deal with the rise, including bringing in teams. emergency medical services to help local hospitals in need of additional support, stopping elective surgeries, expanding the use of monoclonal antibody therapy, and possibly reactivating crisis care standards, which determine how to use it most effectively medical resources, such as ventilators or intensive care beds.

“A new wave is once again placing a difficult burden on our already tired healthcare professionals while also postponing important hospital procedures. This should really send a message to those who are still about to do their part, ”Brownstein said. “The remaining unvaccinated populations still represent opportunities for the spread of this virus. This surge in Colorado should serve as an important warning to other states as we head into the winter months. “

Jeff Cook of ABC News contributed to this report.

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