Fewer than 100 ICU beds available across Colorado

Colorado hit a new low for hospital beds this week, with about 800 general beds and fewer than 100 intensive-care beds available.

Even at the worst point of the fall 2020 wave, the state had about 1,800 general beds available, but now hospitals are coping with an increase in the virus at the same time that overall patient volumes are up, said Scott Bookman, the state’s COVID-19 incident commander.

“I think we’re all disappointed that we’re here today,” he said during a news conference Friday.

Colorado hospitals have about 8,800 general beds and 1,600 beds in intensive-care units, which have specialized equipment and staff to treat critically ill patients.

As of Friday afternoon, hospitalizations were at their highest level since Dec. 19, with 1,296 people receiving care statewide for confirmed COVID-19. At the peak on Dec. 1, the state had 1,847 COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Cases also have continued to trend up, Bookman said. Hospitalizations tend to follow cases by roughly a week, so the continued upward trajectory of new infections suggests hospitals won’t get any relief in the coming days.

“Obviously these are incredibly concerning numbers,” he said.

About 80% of those who are hospitalized are unvaccinated, so getting the shot is the most important way to keep hospitals from being overrun, Bookman said. Everyone should wear masks in public indoor places, stay home and get tested if they don’t feel well, and get a booster shot if they’re eligible, he said.

He rejected the possibility of reinstating a mask mandate, though.

State health officials also announced the first large-scale vaccination clinics for children younger than 12 will begin taking patients Friday evening. Those clinics are at Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Aurora and Colorado Springs locations, though children can also receive the shot from their pediatricians, county health departments and some retail pharmacies.

Pop-up clinics at child-friendly locations, like the Denver Zoo, will start this weekend, said Heather Roth, immunization branch chief for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Some of the locations will host a follow-up clinic three weeks later for kids to get their second shots, but in some cases, parents may need to find another provider, she said.

The state has received about 128,000 doses of the child-sized vaccination, which is enough to immunize about one-quarter of Colorado’s 5- to 11-year-old population, Roth said. A list of locations providing the smaller doses authorized for children is available on the state health department’s website.

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