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ICU capacity could be exceeded next month if COVID-19 trends continue, state says

Hospitalizations related to COVID-19 are at an all-time high in the state, according to the data.

DENVER — Hospitalizations related to COVID-19 have reached an all-time in Colorado, surpassing the peak from April, Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) said during an update Thursday afternoon about the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and new modeling.

"Colorado, I love you, this is an intervention," Polis said. "Cancel your social plans the next few weeks, avoid interacting with others, wear a mask, keep your distance, let's get through this."

Right now 894 people are in the hospital, above the previous high of 888 set in April.

"I really hope and trust that that's a wake up call," Polis said. "Our attention might have been distracted by the election or dealing with the horrific fires, now it's time to refocus on what we know we need to do to reduce this pandemic toll here in Colorado."

Credit: KUSA

He said that people need to assume that everyone they interact with is contagious with the virus and to take precautions accordingly. 

"You're going to encounter someone every week, if not more than one person who is contagious with coronavirus and they don't know," he said. "Treat everyone you encounter like they are that person because some of them will be and you don't know which ones they are."

He outlined three things that everyone should do in November to help the state reverse course.

  1. Interact with only members of your own household.
  2. Keep your distance.
  3. Wear a mask.

Polis was joined by State of Colorado Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy at a 12:30 p.m. briefing. She said in the last week the state has "routinely" seen 2,000 new cases each day, but there were more than 3,000 on Wednesday. 

That number is higher than it was in the spring, mostly because there is more testing now to identify cases than there was back then.

"I want to emphasize we believe there is more COVID-19 right now circulating in the community than there has been since the beginning of the pandemic," Herlihy said. 

Herlihy said if we continue at the current pace, the state's ICU capacity could be surpassed in late-December, but that could happen even sooner with less social distancing she said.

"When we reach that level, our hospitals need to surge, or operate at crisis levels of care," Herlihy said.

Credit: KUSA

That could mean that the state will have to open and use overflow hospitals at places like the convention center, but Polis said, "we're not there yet."

Doctors say it is busy inside hospitals right now.

"For UCHealth, across our system, we have almost 220 hospitalized patients," said Dr. Richard Zane, the chief of emergency medicine for UCHealth. "It essentially means, we're busy."

Zane, who is also the UCHealth chief innovation officer and chair of emergency medicine at the CU School of Medicine, said months into the pandemic, health care workers have learned more about what to expect, how to plan and how to treat COVID patients.

"We're being exceptionally deliberate about every single thing we do. Looking at capacity on a day to day basis, making sure we have the appropriate resources for Coloradans," he said.

As cases continue to rise, Zane said he's worried about COVID fatigue.

"And what keeps me up at night is hoping people can just make it through, make it through the next few months," he said. "Continue to be diligent. Wear masks, wash hands, stay apart. Those are the only tools we have in our toolbox until we have a vaccine or a therapeutic. What gives me peace is that we got this. This is what we're here for. We've got you."

Polis urged people to cancel their plans and said everyone should plan to celebrate Thanksgiving with only their immediate household and to bring in friends and family members virtually or to choose to celebrate Thanksgiving at another time when it's safer to gather together.

"I think that the normal way that we have Thanksgiving, multi-generational folks gathering indoors, is very dangerous," Polis said. 

RELATED: Colorado health officials warn of a steep rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations

Credit: KUSA

Colorado’s positivity rate has more than doubled in recent weeks and continues to increase day-over-day, CDPHE said. The state has also routinely seen more than 2,000 new cases per day, the most since the beginning of the pandemic in March. 

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.

According to the latest outbreak data from CDPHE, released Wednesday, Nov. 4, there are 587 active COVID-19 outbreaks in Colorado that have happened everywhere from schools to offices to child care centers to a group bunco night.

Two cases of the novel coronavirus constitute an outbreak, and the numbers are cumulative, meaning if an entity has a certain number of cases, that doesn't mean all those people were sick at once.

"Each of us has a responsibility to do our part," Polis said. "It might be the life of a stranger you save, maybe an aunt an uncle or a cousin or spouse, a friend. It might even be your own life you save."

Also on Thursday, both the University of Colorado-Boulder and Cherry Creek School District announced students would be shifting to remote learning. The City of Boulder said it is suspending jury trials.

RELATED: University of Colorado-Boulder shifts to remote learning for the rest of the semester

RELATED: Cherry Creek schools moving to fully remote learning

RELATED: Active COVID-19 outbreaks at Colorado social gatherings, restaurants, schools and more

RELATED: Colorado coronavirus latest numbers, Nov. 5

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