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'Our health care system is beginning to feel the stress': CDPHE provides COVID-19 update

CDPHE provided an update on COVID-19 as the state grapples with the highest case counts and hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic.

DENVER — In the last week, Colorado has reported more than 4,000 new cases each day, which is more than double the number of cases the state was seeing just two weeks ago, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) State Epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy said in a media availability Wednesday.

The virtual conference, conducted by the Colorado State Joint Information Center (JIC), held the availability to provide an update on COVID-19 and exposure notifications as more counties prepare to tighten restrictions. 

Colorado is also dealing with a surge in hospitalizations related to the novel coronavirus. COVID-19 Incident Commander Scott Bookman said more hospital staff have gotten sick with the virus over the last month than ever before over the course of the pandemic, creating staffing issues at some hospitals. 

"Our health care system is beginning to feel the stress," Bookman said. "We are urging all Coloradans to take all of the efforts necessary to stop this trend from continuing." 

>Video below: Full COVID-19 briefing with CDPHE

Bookman called on Coloradans to do three important things during the month of November to help slow the spread of the virus: 

  • Interact with only those inside your household.
  • Keep 6 feet or more of social distancing away from others.
  • Wear a mask.

CDPHE special COVID-19 advisor Sarah Tuneberg provided an update on Colorado Exposure Notifications, a phone app aimed at alerting Coloradans when they may have been exposed to COVID-19.  

As of Wednesday, more than one million Coloradans have already installed the app and opted in – making up roughly 17% of the state’s population, Tuneberg said. Learn more about how the app works here.

More than 3,400 Coloradans have shared their positive result, using an anonymous, one-time code within the app, to notify others of exposure to the virus, according to Tuneberg. Starting Nov. 19, text notifications will also share instructions for isolation, contact notifications and other infection prevention strategies. 

On Tuesday, Gov. Polis announced a new "level red" for the state's COVID-19 dial. 15 counties are moving to level red with further restrictions on indoor activities starting on Friday, Nov. 20.

RELATED: 15 counties moving to 'severe risk' level on state's COVID-19 dial

As of Nov. 17, there were 1,378 patients hospitalized in Colorado, and the seven-day, moving average positivity rate increased to 12.59%, according to the latest data from CDPHE. 

Positivity is an important indicator of the status of COVID-19 in the state. The World Health Organization (WHO) in May 2020 recommended that the positivity rate be at or below 5% to contain the virus.

Current hospitalization data are also a key metric because they can be an indicator of whether Colorado’s hospital system is being overwhelmed by the virus.  

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