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Fewer than 100 ICU beds available in Colorado as COVID-19 hospitalizations increase

Health officials said increased hospitalizations during the latest wave are causing concerns about hospital capacity.

DENVER — In a Friday afternoon update, Colorado health officials said there has been an upward trend in COVID cases over the past few weeks, and the trajectory indicates the current wave will continue to worsen. 

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) COVID-19 Incident Commander Scott Bookman said that there has been an upward trend in cases over 10 of the last 14 days.

There were 1,267 patients hospitalized in Colorado with COVID-19 as of Thursday, which is below the peak of 1,847 in the winter of 2020, but Bookman said the current hospitalizations are rapidly increasing.

Over the last seven days, the average number of hospital beds available is down to 815 and decreasing, which Bookman said is causing concern. 

9NEWS has confirmed the state currently has less than 100 ICU beds currently available as of Friday. 

"As of today, looking at the data that is reported by the hospitals, we are at the lowest number of beds we've had available. And we do have less than 100 ICU beds at the moment. That number fluctuates. We know that people move in and out of beds, but that downward trend does continue," Bookman said.

Bed capacity and adequate staffing go hand and hand. If there's not enough staff to care for an individual patient, then there's no bed available. 

"And when we talk about beds, those are beds that are staffed. It's not just an empty bed. It comes with a nurse, a doctor, a respiratory therapist, and all of the support services that ensure care can be delivered," Bookman said. 

Of the hospitalized patients, Bookman said 1,009 were unvaccinated--about 80%. He reiterated that the state is experiencing a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

“The vast majority of our ICU beds are along the I-25 corridor. What you see in healthcare is that the highest-acuity beds are in the areas where there are the most people," Bookman said. 

WATCH: CDPHE says there's no evidence vaccine mandates are to blame for health care staffing concerns

Bookman said part of the increasing hospitalizations are a result of delayed care and medical procedures throughout the course of the pandemic.

CDPHE Immunization Branch Chief Heather Roth said the state has been working to create partnerships over the past few months in anticipation of an Emergency Use Authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

Now that has been granted, and Children's Hospital Colorado will have four reoccurring clinics to get vaccinations to that age group at the following locations:

  • Children's Hospital Anschutz: Friday through Sunday
  • Children's Hospital Colorado Springs: Friday through Sunday
  • Children's Hospital Broomfield: Three times a week on various dates 
  • Children's Hospital Highlands Ranch: Three times a week on various dates 

There will also be many other clinics throughout November and December specifically for children ages 5 to 11, and more details can be found on the state's website.

Office of Information Technology Digital Transformation Director Russell Castagnaro said that the state has updated the myColorado app.

>> Video below: Full presser from CDHPE officials on COVID-19

SMART Health Card is a free, voluntary service that allows access to digital vaccination records stored in the Colorado Immunization Information System through a QR code.

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RELATED: Colorado raises transfer center to highest level due to hospital capacity concerns

For the first time since the pandemic began, Colorado patients can be transferred to any hospital in the state without their consent if deemed necessary by the Combined Hospital Transfer Center (CHTC).

Colorado Hospital Association (CHA) said Wednesday that CHTC is being raised to Tier 3, its highest level of operation, by the state's hospitals and health systems due to capacity concerns.

The move is being considered 'unprecedented.' CHA said that when they first established the idea of a transfer center, three tiers were set up, but they had never imagined they would reach the highest level. 

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