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Doctor shares advice for lowering COVID transmission amid rise in hospitalizations

The state is advising people to take some extra precautions again for upcoming holidays like Thanksgiving.

DENVER — While hospital bed availability is at an all-time low, the state is continuing to try to take steps to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Vaccinations have long been one way the state has taken action. That includes an executive order signed Thursday by Gov. Jared Polis that declared Colorado a high-risk area for exposure or transmission of COVID-19, making every Coloradan 18 and older and six months past their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two months past their Johnson & Johnson vaccine, eligible for a COVID-19 booster. 

RELATED: Polis signs executive order declaring Colorado as 'high risk' for COVID-19 exposure or transmission

The state's health department is sending out warnings about the holidays this year. They're advising people to plan a gathering where everyone over the age of 5 has been vaccinated, ask guests to test for COVID beforehand, and keep a list of guests and their contact information in the event of a COVID exposure, among other things.

State epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said earlier this week that if the current rate of adults receiving booster shots remains unchanged, the state will hit 2,258 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Jan. 1.

RELATED: Polis to implement next steps as state hospital bed capacity hits all-time low

"I think the long-term solution is really to get that vaccination rate higher, more of our citizens getting vaccinated," said Dr. Scott Joy, an internal medicine physician and Chief Medical Officer for HealthONE Physician Services Group. 

He also said it's smart to take precautions during the upcoming holidays. 

"I think if you are going to gather for the holidays, make that group as small as you can," he said. "Make sure that all of your attendees are vaccinated. Maybe if you're the host, make that a requirement. I think that we need to be thoughtful about watching our distance, being outdoors as much as possible."

He said eventually, it all comes down to how many people you're around, and how many of those people have been vaccinated.

"The virus is relentless. It is going to find a way unless we put up barriers to that," he said. 

Some of those barriers include going back to the basics, like wearing a mask more often. 

"Just like wearing a seatbelt, it's a good idea when you're driving 60 miles an hour down the road. Just a mask is a very important safety device in a raging--in an increasing pandemic state with high positivity rate and high infectivity," he said. 

Some counties have taken other steps to try and stop the spread of COVID, like implementing mask mandates indoors for Boulder and Larimer counties. 

"When I think about a mandate, I just think about good health practices. And I think just wearing a mask is a good health practice when you've got an acute respiratory pandemic going on," Joy said.

RELATED: As hospitals in Colorado are stretched thin, some counties still have mask mandates

A spokesperson for the Larimer County health department said Thursday that while they’re constantly monitoring this surge, they are not currently discussing any capacity restrictions on businesses. 

"We are optimistic that as people wear masks indoors, get booster doses, as parents take their children to get the pediatric COVID vaccine, as well as easier access to monoclonal antibody treatments coming soon, that we will see some decompression in our hospitals in the coming weeks," the spokesperson said via email. 

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A spokesperson for the Colorado Hospital Association (CHA) said in an email Thursday that CHA urges all Coloradans to wear their masks, "in addition to washing their hands and watching their distance again."

"We know that it may be frustrating to return to these infection prevention strategies, but if we all those things, it could have an immediate impact on spread of not just the COVID-19 virus spread in our communities but other respiratory viruses and the flu," the association said in an email. "Our hospitals and health systems continue to work each day within their organizations to try to sustain their available capacity."

A spokesperson for Banner Health said in a statement:

Hospital capacity including ICU capacity changes throughout the day. We report that information to Larimer and Weld County health departments which can give you a better picture of capacity across all the hospitals in the counties.

High volumes of patients and staff shortages continue to be a concern. To improve this situation community members have several steps they can take: Get the COVID-19 vaccine or booster to reduce your risk of severe illness requiring hospitalization and ICU level care. Wear a mask when you are around others. Practice social distancing or avoid large gatherings where the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 is high.

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