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COVID-19 hospitalizations hit highest level since January, Polis says

The state has just 149 ICU beds due in large part to COVID-19, but other health issues are also contributing to that low number, Polis said.

COLORADO, USA — Hospitalizations are at the highest level since January and there are just 149 intensive care unit (ICU) beds available across the state, Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) said in an update Wednesday afternoon.

Polis said the number of ICU beds available is among the lowest that the state has seen since the pandemic began.

"It's the lowest we've had in some time," Polis said. "Now that's a function largely of the COVID increases but also of the seasonal non-COVID increases."

Polis was joined at Wednesday's briefing by Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera who discussed her experience getting the COVID-19 booster shot and Aurora Public Schools Superintendent (APS) Rico Munn who provided data about vaccination within the district.

In the last day, there were 1,838 new cases of COVID-19 according to Polis. Cases had been on the rise since early August but appeared to peak or plateau in mid-September at a high level.

As of Wednesday, 922 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, Polis said.

"That is the highest number we have had since January," he said. "Now last week we had 921 but before that, we didn't have these kinds of numbers since last January."

RELATED: Less than half of Colorado schools have enrolled in weekly COVID testing with CDPHE

On Friday the state's COVID-19 incident commander Scott Bookman said they'd like to see hospitalizations "significantly decline" ahead of the cold weather season.

>> Watch the full presser below 

Polis reiterated Wednesday, as he had in most recent briefings, that the majority of those who are in the hospital due to COVID-19 have not been vaccinated.

"If everybody was vaccinated we simply wouldn't be here," Polis said. "Of the 922 people hospitalized, 710 are not vaccinated."

RELATED: COVID-19 hospitalizations going down but remain 'incredibly high' as we head into colder months

Seventeen of the patients hospitalized are between 0 and 11 years old and are not yet eligible for a vaccine. Nine patients are between 12 and 17.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will meet on Oct. 26 to discuss potential emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine for kids between 5 and 11.

Next week the FDA will also formally discuss boosters for those who received the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines.

Currently, a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine is recommended for more vulnerable people and that includes Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera. She is a cancer survivor who is in her 70s and got her booster on Tuesday.

"It was really painless to get the shot," she said. "Today I'm experiencing a little lethargy, I'm low energy."

Polis said about 4.8% of Coloradans who are eligible for the booster have received it, which is slightly above the national average.

Munn said as the pandemic went on it became clear they didn't do everything possible to protect in-person learning and that included a vaccine requirement.

Once a vaccine was fully approved, Munn said staff members had 45 days to either become vaccinated or provide an approved exemption. That deadline is Thursday, Oct. 7.

"We don't yet have final numbers, but what we know is 96% of our licensed employees, our frontline educators, our teachers, our principals, are fully vaccinated," Munn said.

He said they expect that number to go as they reach the final deadline and because they know some staff members are partially vaccinated.

Student-athletes in APS are also required to be vaccinated or undergo frequent testing, according to Munn.

APS is participating in the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) COVID-19 weekly surveillance testing program which offers free and voluntary tests each week to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

RELATED: Rural hospital may have to turn patients away if too many employees leave because of vaccine mandate

State leaders said last week that they're able to test about 40,000 people per day but were only testing about 8,000 people. They said that is good news ahead of the winter months when increased demand for testing is expected.

RELATED: Q&A: 'If I've had COVID, should I still get a vaccination?'

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