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

As of Friday, 829 people were in the hospital which is near the peak of the first wave, according to state health leaders.

COLORADO, USA — State health leaders provided an update Friday afternoon about COVID-19 in Colorado as cases in the state trended downward overall in recent weeks.

"There are some exceptions in some counties where we continue to see high rates of disease transmission," said state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy. "Some of the counties where we're seeing increased transmission right now is Moffat Count, Grand County, Mesa, some transmission is higher on eastern plains. The San Luis Valley is standing out here."

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Highest transmission continues to be among the 6-11 age group, which consists of school-age children who are not eligible for a vaccine, Herlihy said.

As of Friday, there were 829 people in the hospital due to COVID-19 and about 78% of them have not been vaccinated, according to COVID-19 Incident Commander Scott Bookman said.

"While we are seeing a pretty steady decrease here now in hospitalizations we are still at an incredibly high rate of hospitalizations compared to where we want to be," said Bookman. "While we are on the beginning of a downward trend, we really need to see these hospitalizations go down significantly before we're going to feel comfortable with the hospital capacity we have as we start going into the colder weather season and people start moving indoors."

The state had reopened several mass vaccination sites to accommodate an anticipated increase in vaccine demand due to boosters shots but in large part that demand has not materialized. That's in part because a government advisory panel overwhelmingly rejected a plan to give Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots across the board.

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They instead endorsed the extra vaccine dose only for those who are 65 or older or run a high risk of severe disease. Booster shots have not yet been recommended for those who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

The Dick’s Sporting Goods Park parking lot in Commerce City will offer vaccines through Oct. 5. The large vaccine sites at the Aurora Municipal Center in Aurora, Southwest Plaza Mall in Littleton, and Chapel Hills Mall in Colorado Springs will each offer up to 1,000 doses per day through Oct. 3 and will then remain open with a 250-dose-per-day capacity.

State health leaders also noted that the  Board of Health Rule which requires that health care providers who have contact with patients must be vaccinated went into effect on Sept. 30.

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Bookman said enforcement work began Friday to make sure that workers are vaccinated or have a valid exemption. Health care systems are require to report that information to the state twice weekly.