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Modeling shows COVID-19 hospitalizations could peak soon in Colorado

State leaders are also closely following possible recommendations of medical-grade masks from the CDC.

DENVER — While cases of COVID-19 remain on an upward trend in the state, modeling shows that hospitalizations could peak soon, health officials said Wednesday.

As of Wednesday, there were 1577 people hospitalized with COVID-19, which is one more than the most recent peak the state saw in November, state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said. 

There had been an average of 13,083 new virus cases per day over the past seven days, but state modeling shows that hospitalizations could peak soon.

"If we look at that modeling data or, look at that data where we kind of fit the Colorado curve to other locations, you know, it does look like that time to the peak number of hospitalizations could be sometime around in the next week or so," Herlihy said.

The number of ICU beds available also remains steady, according to COVID-19 Incident Commander Scott Bookman.

A larger percentage of people hospitalized with COVID-19 are in the hospital for something else rather than just COVID-19, health officials said.

Out of the total number of COVID-19 associated hospitalizations, typically about 80 to 90% of them were individuals who had a primary diagnosis of COVID-19. In other words, the main reason for their hospitalization was COVID-19.

"That remaining percentage of 10 to 20% are in the hospital with something else potentially being the main cause and COVID-19 may be contributing or maybe an incidental finding," said Herlihy.

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However, in the last week, Herlihy said, the percentage of patients having COVID-19 as a primary diagnosis fell to about 65%. Herlihy said for the remaining patients, COVID-19 still complicates their care and recovery.

"In many cases, COVID-19 is continuing to complicate their hospitalization, extend their hospitalization and even for those that may have something else causing their hospitalization and mild COVID-19 infection that is still complicating their hospitalization because those individuals need to be in isolation," she said. 

"And so that does continue to put a significant strain on our healthcare system and caring for those individuals who are actively infectious with the COVID-19."

Herlihy said there were similar findings across the country.

This week the Washington Post reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering updating its mask guidance to recommend that people opt for the highly protective N95 or KN95 masks worn by healthcare personnel.

RELATED: Yes, surgical masks offer better protection against COVID-19 than cloth masks

"We are carefully looking at the updated recommendations at the federal level about moving away from cloth masks to medical-grade masks," Bookman said when asked about the possibility of the state supplying those masks, which can be expensive.

He said they're "having conversations," and that would be "more to come" on that issue. Colorado residents can already sign up to receive free at-home COVID-19 testing kits through the state.

As of Jan. 11, 72.6% of Colorado's population had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 65.4% was fully vaccinated, according to the latest data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

Since vaccines have become widely available, doctors have said the vast majority of new COVID-19 hospitalizations are people who have not received a vaccination shot.

RELATED: Colorado likely weeks away from omicron peak, health officials say

RELATED: Denver's COVID case rate highest since pandemic began

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