DENVER — First and foremost Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) on Friday urged everyone to get vaccinated as a way to curb COVID-19 infections, but he also touted monoclonal antibody treatment to reduce hospitalizations if someone does become infected.
"If you're at higher risk of hospitalization, meaning you're in your 60s, 70s, have a pre-existing condition that puts you at risk, even in your 50s -- get monoclonal antibodies. It can reduce hospitalizations by about 70%," he said.
And that, he said, is key not just for patients but also for hospitals where bed availability is at an all-time low and there's the potential to exceed capacity if trends don't change.
There are currently 1,476 people hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state, according to Polis, and only about 19% of them are vaccinated.
"One of the really unfortunate trends that we've seen in the last week, is a rapid increase in hospitalizations," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy.
Based on that trend, Herlihy said they've run new models which show the state could reach maximum capacity for hospitalizations. That information was shared with state leaders and they're working on two main ways to combat that trend: boosters and monoclonal antibody treatments.
Polis this week signed an executive order essentially making everyone over 18 eligible for a booster if they're six months out from their Pfizer or Moderna shots or two months out from the Johnson & Johnson shot.
That is at odds with federal guidelines and Polis said they're working with providers to make sure they're on board with providing the booster to anyone, not just those who meet the federal criteria.
Monoclonal antibody treatments
The current number of patients receiving monoclonal antibody treatments is low, according to Herlihy who said if 50% of those eligible received the treatment it would be a "significant increase."
"If you're able to substantially increase monoclonal therapy use in Colorado, we estimate that we could decrease peak hospitalizations here in Colorado by 150 to 300," she said.
That could also reduce the risk of exceeding hospital capacity by 30%, she said.
Part of the problem is awareness about the treatment option, according to state leaders.
"Our family physician wasn't familiar with how to get monoclonal antibody treatment," said Jill Lestor, who was treated with the antibodies along with her husband in July. "But fortunately for both of us, I had been advised by a UCHealth emergency room doctor with whom I work occasionally, that if we or any of our peers contract COVID to contact UCHealth about MAB a monoclonal antibody treatment."
Lestor and her husband were fully vaccinated but still became sick and feared they might need to be hospitalized.
"The treatment was efficient and uneventful for us. We were able to recover faster and reduced our risk of complications," she said.
Another issue regarding the treatment is referrals and Polis said they've issued a standing order to allow the treatment without needing one.
The treatment works best for those who are symptomatic but in the early stages of the virus so the state is also working to increase access to the treatment with mobile units.
There are currently 161 enrolled monoclonal antibody providers across Colorado, according to Polis.
The governor was repeatedly pressed Friday on whether there were other options being considered by the state to help reduce hospitalizations but he refused to commit.
Polis did mention that some venues such as Ball Arena had added vaccine requirements and that they're working with cities to have more larger venues implement similar policies and that there would be "more news" on that in the coming days.
> Top stories curated daily just for you! Sign up for the 9NEWSLETTER to get can’t-miss stories, Next and Broncos content, weather and more delivered right to your inbox.
SUGGESTED VIDEOS: COVID-19 Coronavirus
MORE WAYS TO GET 9NEWS
Subscribe to our daily 9NEWSLETTER
HOW TO ADD THE 9NEWS APP TO YOUR STREAMING DEVICE
ROKU: add the channel from the ROKU store or by searching for KUSA.
For both Apple TV and Fire TV, search for "9news" to find the free app to add to your account. Another option for Fire TV is to have the app delivered directly to your Fire TV through Amazon.